Understanding AHA’s

Author Team Essentialist


  • They're water soluble
  • They act as surface level exfoliants
  • They help you shed dead skin cells

Alpha Hydroxy Acids (AHA’s) are water soluble acids derived from natural substances, think fruit, sugar cane, milk, etc. Glycolic and Lactic acids are the most widely used and researched AHA’s but, there are also Malic, Citric, and Tartaric Acids which can also be beneficial. They work at the surface level to exfoliate, assisting the skin’s natural shedding process by loosening the bonds between outer dead cells and the radiant new skin underneath. AHA’s are preferred for sun-damaged, dry skin, and aging skin because they improve skin’s moisture content, diminish the look of wrinkles, and improve overall texture, tone, and condition of the skin.

The benefits of AHA's go beyond exfoliation. They promote collagen production, treat hyperpigmentation and scarring, treat existing and prevent future breakouts, improve blood flow, brighten the complexion, and help increase the ability for you skin to absorb products.  There is no downside to making AHA's are part of your regular routine. 

Our tip, more intense does not mean better.  Research has shown that AHA exfoliants containing glycolic acid or lactic acid in concentrations between 5% and 10% and with a pH between 3 and 4 are ideal for optimal, non-irritating results.  

General rules:

  • Talk to your Doctor first if you use any prescriptions for Retinoids or Rosacea. 
  • Always follow products specific instructions as each varies, the key is to start slowly and test for irritation before you start regular use. Daily exfoliation is too much, we recommend 2x/week at most.
  • Apply after cleansing and toning, taking extra care around your eyes and avoiding application above the orbital bone. 
  • We always advocate for using sunscreen but a broad spectrum SPF during the day is an absolute must after using AHA’s as photosensitivity on fresh skin will be heightened. 

Interested in trying an AHA product? Check out our Fresh Faced Exfoliating Peel.