What Are the Benefits of Hydroxy Acids in Skin Care?
Ever since dermatologist Eugene Van Scott patented hydroxy acids for the use in aged skin, they have been popular skin care ingredients. He went on to start the company NeoStrata and now licenses the use of hydroxy acids to many companies, such as Avon. Now, hydroxy acids are one of the most commonly used and most proven ingredients for aged skin (along with retinoids and sunscreen).
What Are Hydroxy Acids?
Hydroxy acids are naturally-occuring acids found in plants that speed up the cell cycle and exfoliation of the skin when applied topically. The type of hydroxy acid depends on the plant from which it is derived. For example, citric acid comes from citrus fruits; glycolic acid comes from sugar cane, grapes, and sugar beets; malic acid comes from fruits like cherries and apples; phytic acid from rice; and lactic acid from dairy and fermented fruits and vegetables. These ingredients can also be manufactured in the laboratory for use in skin care.
In the 1970s, hydroxy acids were found to treat dry skin, psoriasis, and other similar skin conditions. Then in the 1990s, Dr. Van Scott found that glycolic acid was able to improve the appearance of sun damaged skin and signs of aging. Now, we understand that hydroxy acids can treat a wide range of skin problems, such as actinic keratosis, melasma, warts, hyperpigmentation, acne, and rosacea.
At a glance: benefits of hydroxy acids for the skin
- Accelerated cell cycle
- Improved desquamation
- Increased collagen production
- Increased hyaluronic acid
- Improved skin tone and texture
- Improved skin hydration
Popular Hydroxy Acids
As mentioned above, there are many different types of hydroxy acids. Just a few of the most popular used in skin care include:
- Glycolic acid has been shown to increase the skin’s production of collagen and hyaluronic acid, as well as increase skin thickness and improve its texture and radiance.
- Lactic acid also provides anti-aging benefits to the skin, such as improving the appearance of wrinkles and sun damage.
- Gluconolactone is a polyhydroxy acid, which are milder and can be less irritating to the skin than hydroxy acids. Gluconolactone is one of the most popular polyhydroxy acids, thanks to its antioxidant properties.
- Phytic acid also has antioxidant properties and is commonly used to combat sun damage and brighten skin.
While the type of hydroxy acid used in a given formula does affect the outcome, there are other important factors that must be considered when choosing a hydroxy acid product. The strength of the acid is determined by several different factors, including the concentration of the hydroxy acid and the pH of the formula itself.
Hydroxy Acids in Cleansers and Moisturizers
Many cleansers and moisturizers contain hydroxy acids. These products play an important role in increasing the effectiveness of other products in your skin care regimen, so they need to be applied in the correct order. Hydroxy acid cleansers such as Essopi Glycolic 10% moisturizing cleanser, for instance, prep the skin by lowering its pH and causing dead, flaky skin cells to let go of each other, allowing for improved desquamation and increased penetration of the ingredients that follow.
Vitamin C, for example, is most effective when the skin’s pH is around a 2 or 2.5, so using the hydroxy acid cleanser first will help your skin get the most benefit out of the vitamin C serum that you apply after your cleanser.
Some hydroxy acids also act as humectants, meaning they pull water into the skin and hold onto it, making them beneficial ingredients in moisturizers as well.
Of course, your Baumann Skin Type® should be taken into consideration when choosing with cleansers and moisturizers are right for you. Visit an STS physician in your area to take the quiz and find out which Baumann Skin Type® you are, so you can properly customize your skin care regimen.
When used and formulated properly, hydroxy acids can be very beneficial ingredients for your skin, especially if you struggle with dryness, flaking, sun damage, wrinkles, and other common concerns. Hydroxy acid cleansers and moisturizers do need to be used in a particular order in your regimen, however, in order to maximize the effectiveness of all products in your regimen, as well as to help minimize any side effects.
Once you know your Baumann Skin Type®, your doctor can help you design a regimen with the proper use of hydroxy acids for healthy, beautiful skin.
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