Many chemical peels are made of AHAs or alpha hydroxyacids. AHAs have the smallest molecules of any type of chemical peel, which allow for deeper penetration of the product. Alpha hydroxyacids work by dissolving the intercellular cement, allowing the dead skin cells to be shed. Dissolution of this intercellular cement damages existing cells, prompting new skin cells to be formed. This process reveals a more youthful, healthy appearance. Some of the acids that fall under the AHA umbrella are glycolic, lactic, malic, and citric acids.
Many people fear that chemical peels are a cocktail of chemicals applied to the skin, but they are actually made up of naturally occurring acids found in food. Known for its ability to resurface and retexture the skin, the glycolic peel is a very popular peel. The glycolic acid utilized in these peels is derived from sugarcane. Lactic acid is another frequently used acid and it is known for increasing the skin’s ability to store water. While the lactic acid used in peels is derived from sources such as sour milk, beer, pickles, and tomato juice, it is also found in the blood and muscle tissue of the human body.
Malic acid is derived from apples and is more often utilized in body creams than peels. The reason for this is that the majority of the body has smaller pores than the face and a very small molecule is needed to penetrate these tight pores. Since malic acid is the third smallest alpha hydroxyacid, it is perfect for body application. Known for its astringent and antioxidant properties, citric acid is frequently utilized in facial creams. It is found in lemons, oranges, pineapples, and other fruits.
A little known fact is that chemical peels that use alpha hydroxyacids actually hydrate the skin. They do this by increasing the production of hyaluronic acid, an acid that naturally occurs in skin and holds a thousand times its weight in water. Because of the activation of hyaluronic acid, the skin is able to retain greater amounts of moisture. While each AHA is slightly different, they all work to lighten hyperpigmentation, soften skin, reduce fine lines and wrinkles, and hydrate all with naturally derived acids!