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Encyclopedia > Alpha hydroxy acid

α-Hydroxy Acids (AHA's) are naturally occurring carboxylic acids which are well-known for their use in the cosmetics industry. They are often found in products claiming to reduce wrinkles, the signs of aging, and improve the overall look and feel of the skin. They are also used as chemical peels available in a dermatologist's office, beauty and health spas and home kits, which usually contain a lower concentration. Their effectiveness are documented[1].

Glycolic acid is the most widely used of out of the group and is usually manufactured from sugar cane. It is fairly well-known and considered the most effective of the AHA's. Glycolic acid (or hydroxyacetic acid) is the smallest α-hydroxy acid (AHA). ...

Lactic acid, derived primarilly from milk is considered to be milder and less irritating than glycolic acid, and is therefore considered ideal for those with sensitive skin. It's origins can be traced back to Cleopatra, who purportedly used sour milk on her skin. Lactic acid, also known as milk acid or 2-hydroxypropanoic acid, is a chemical compound that plays a role in several biochemical processes. ... This is a disambiguation page — a navigational aid which lists other pages that might otherwise share the same title. ...

Citric acid from citrus fruits, tartaric acid from apples and pears and malic acid from grapes are not as common and their effectiveness is still not clear. Citric acid is a weak organic acid found in citrus fruits. ... Tartaric acid is a white crystalline organic acid. ... Malic acid is a tart-tasting organic acid that plays a role in many sour or tart foods. ...


Chemical Structure

AHA's class name origionates from their structural similarity in having a hydroxyl group α(alpha) to the acidic carboxyl group.


AHAs are generally safe, when used on the skin as a cosmetic agent using the recommended dosage. The most common side-effects are mild skin irritations, redness and flaking. The severity usually depends on the pH and the concentration of the acid used. Chemical peels tend to have more severe side-effects including blistering, burning and skin discoloration, although they are usually mild and goes away after a day or two after treatment. The correct title of this article is pH. The initial letter is capitalized due to technical restrictions. ...

The FDA has also warned consumers that care should be taken when using AHAs after an industry sponsored study found that they can increase photosensitivity to the sun[2].

See also

  • Beta Hydroxy Acid


  1. ^ An evaluation of the effect of an alpha hydroxy acid-blend skin cream in the cosmetic improvement of symptoms of moderate to severe xerosis, epidermolytic hyperkeratosis, and ichthyosis. Cutis. 1998 Jun;61(6):347-50
  2. ^ Alpha Hydroxy Acids for Skin Care by Paula Kurtzweil, FDA Consumer March-April 1998, Revised May 1999



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