Alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs) are clinically proven to loosen the glue-like substances that hold skin cells together, thus shedding the top layer of dull, damaged skin. The most well-known was put on the anti-aging skin care map by Avon when it anointed glycolic acid as its signature ingredient. Naturally found in sugar cane, glycolic is the AHA with the smallest molecule. Other AHAs include mandelic acid (made from bitter almonds), citric acid, malic acid (from apples) and lactic acid. Read more on AHA and glycolic.
AHAs are really good at giving aging skin a revitalized appearance, and it is well worth having this ingredient in your arsenal. There are a couple of issues though — the mechanism by which AHAs work is not subtle (we are talking exfoliation, not repair) and can become addictive. Oh, and more is not always more — with the right formulation, you really don’t need to go for the strongest concentration of glycolic you can lay your hands on. This is why I try to find AHA products that are balanced formulas that feed and refine as well as exfoliate. Here are my Five Best with AHAs:
Lumavera Glycolic Night Cream
With 10% glycolic acid, some might say that Lumavera Glycolic Night Cream ($80 in the shop) already has them at hello. But there’s much more to this excellent and natural formula. We are talking plant stem cells, antioxidant pea extract (that is also supposed to prevent collagen degradation), two forms of vitamin C and Lumavera’s signature veggie blend.
Kat Burki Hibiscus Antioxidant Face Mask
A hibiscus face masks sounds like pure pampering, but Kat Burki Hibiscus Antioxidant Face Mask ($78 in the shop) means business. There are glycolic and lactic acids toward the top of the ingredients list. But a surprising fact is that hibiscus is a source of natural AHAs in its own right, with about 15 to 30 percent plant acids, including citric acid, malic acid, tartaric acid and allo-hydroxycitric acid lactone. Hibiscus is an antioxidant, as well. And with red wine polyphenols, ubiquinone, sea buckthorn, bushels of antioxidant berries and expression line inhibiting peptides, Kat Burki Hibiscus Antioxidant Face Mask has it all.
Sciote Omni Phyto-Cell Face Crème
With the Sciote Omni Phyto-Cell Face Crème ($110 in the shop), glycolic is one of the dominant ingredients coming near the top of a staggering list of 75. Plus, there’s also lactic acid and sugar cane. The heavy hitters include Matrixyl 3000, Resistem, Syn-ake, R lipoic acid and Hyalurosmooth — to stimulate collagen, protect against aging, fill lines and moisturize. The exfoliating ingredients are nicely balanced by nourishing squalane and shea butter and antioxidant botanical extracts.
Stemulation AHA Herbal Balancing Toner
Stemulation AHA Herbal Balancing Toner ($38) is a favorite toner of mine, partially for its detoxifying milk thistle. The AHAs are in the form of lactic acid and sodium lactate. Personally, I really like witch hazel, a useful antioxidant that always makes my skin feel refreshed as does cucumber and billberry. Antioxidant boosters include maritime pine, green tea and grape seed extracts. It’s a toner worthy of a serum.
Innarah Treatment Solution Daily Solution
Innarah Treatment Solution Daily Solution ($150 in the shop) is an unusual and highly effective product that had me splurging for a second bottle. It’s both hydrating and exfoliating with lecithin and glycolic acid in bases of apple cider vinegar and witch hazel. Alpine rose acts as a skin brightener, and there are other soothing and repairing botanicals, as well. I like using it with Innarah’s serum, but for overall radiance, it holds up on its own.