What are AHAs?
Alpha Hydroxy Acids or AHAs are nature’s acids, found in plants or milk products like; citrus fruits (citric acid), sugar cane (glycolic acid), apples (malic acid), grapes (tartaric acid) and sour milk (lactic acid). AHA is powerful stuff with the ability to loosen layers of dead skin cells lingering on the surface. It’s no surprise that beauty products are choc full of them these days!
By removing old skin, AHAs help to clear blemishes, lighten pigmentation, reduce acne scarring, firm, smooth and open the skin to deeper, better hydration. Skin looks healthier, and younger as a result. They work by dissolving lipids, the glue-like substance that hold our skin cells together, and by exfoliation of dead cells. AHAs also increase the thickness of deeper layers of skin, promoting firmness and reducing those pesky lines.
Of all the AHAs, glycolic acid has the smallest molecular structure which allows it to penetrate the skin more deeply and which is why it’s so popular and our recommended product of choice.
How To Use AHAs?
Now AHA are more accessible than ever before with loads of products contain glycolic acid it’s hard to know which ones to choose from cleansers, washes and toners to serums, creams and moisturizers. They can all be used together or as stand alone treatments, but it’s best not to overdo it. One product is enough to see the benefits and if we had to choose it would definitely be a serum. Unlike other AHA products, serums stay on the skin and don’t need to be washed off, prolonging the positive effects on your skin.
If you’ve never used products containing AHAs, or if you have sensitive skin, it might be best to ease into a new regime by starting off applying only one product every other evening for 2 weeks. Nightime is the best time for skin repair when it isn’t exposed to sunlight. Then, after two weeks of trying this approach, you can build up to one application every night for a further two weeks. Once the skin has acclimatized, you can start applying twice daily.
What Are The Benefits?
Nature’s exfoliant, AHAs can literally slough off the skin’s top layer, revealing younger, fresher and firmer skin underneath. They help balance the skin‘s PH and control acne. In the past, anyone wanting to try the benefits of AHAs had to book a facial peel or similar treatment at a clinic with a registered physician but now they’re easily available to everyone.
They’re great for brightening dull skin and unclogging blocked pores, the strong hydration and exfoliation properties promote skin cell renewal without abrasion which is great news for people suffering with psoriasis, acne or prone to break-outs. Sun damaged skin, mild scarring and Melasma (pigmentation problems) all benefit from the ability of AHAs to repair and rejuvenate.
Are There Any Noticeable Side Effects?
There are a couple of minor cautions when using AHA products: sun sensitivity and irritation.
Some irritation is normal so don’t automatically discontinue using products if you experience a little redness or tingling as these effects should disappear quickly.
Ease yourself into a routine of using AHA by following the guidelines above
Some skincare experts recommend applying a thin layer of moisturizer on top of the serum. However, if symptoms like redness or burning continue after you have used the product for some time and your skin has had a chance to adapt, then try using a product with a reduced concentration of AHA.
With daily use of AHAs it’s important to also use a sunscreen as they can make your skin up to 50% more sensitive to the sun.
OK so you’ve been out partying a lot over the holiday season and, let’s face it, your skin has looked better. Mine is erring on gray, dehydrated and in need of a drink that’s not alcohol based. But, I’m not going to beat myself up over it, and nor should you. It was all totally worth it. Now the party’s over, it’s time to relax, Love Yourself and show your skin some kindness so here’s our top 5 tips for a New Year, new skin detox:
1. Blank canvas.
Get right back to basics and start out by treating your skin to a simple deep cleanse using only plant-based, natural ingredients.
Prepare a bowl of boiling water, adding a few drops of peppermint oil (or try tea tree for skin prone to breakouts), place a towel over your head and lower your face toward the water. Steam your pores for 10-15 minutes.
Follow up with a sweet sugar scrub; mix two tablespoons of granulated sugar (any kind will do), mixed with the juice of ½ a lemon and a little bit of water. Crush it all together in a thick paste and gently massage into your skin, before rinsing. Try adding honey to the recipe and you may not even need to moisturise!
For those who need that extra bit of help with hydration, use a simple base or carrier oil that’s suited suited to your individual skin type - Here are some suggestions:
2. Beauty sleep.
If you survive on less than 6 hours shut-eye per night it can affect your appearance. Go short on sleep and it can cause the corners of your mouth to droop, making you look sadder than you do after a good night’s rest. Aim to increase that length of time by 1 or 2 hours and you’ll really start to notice a difference.
People who regularly get 7-9 hours sleep boast fewer wrinkles, less-puffy eyes and a brighter complexion. All this, straight from the mouth of a board-certified sleep specialist, Michael Breus, PhD via WebMD.
When we’re tired, our cortisol (human stress hormone) levels are high and this can break down collagen. Start scheduling regular early nights and let your skin do the work, because as you dream it makes new collagen. So curl up and enjoy catching up on some Zs.
3. Say Hello to H2O
Drinking less booze and absorbing more water is obvious really, we all know the dehydrating effects alcohol has on the skin but who doesn’t love the odd glass of wine? However, with the party season officially over, it’s time to moderate. Water will will help rid the body and skin of toxins, aid digestion, circulation, absorption and excretion.
If cutting out alcohol altogether sounds too drastic, think about doing it for a short period of time, like a month. For further motivation, ask friends to sponsor you in raising money for your chosen charity while at the same time leading a healthier lifestyle. You’ll feel great in yourself and even better for having given something back. Take inspiration from Dryathlon in the UK which encourages people to abstain from alcohol in aid of cancer research.
Alternatively, skip your morning coffee and start the day with ¼ or ½ fresh lemon squeezed into water. Drink it hot or cold, adding honey to sweeten the taste if needed. Lemon water, rich in Vitamin C is known to tone the liver and purify the blood. Add some grated ginger to really give it some zip and you’ll be looking after your joints as well.
4. Food is Fuel
After so much indulgent consumption of rich food and treats it’s time to take a break from sweets, chocolate, processed convenience foods. Eat clean and lean, treat your body like the temple it is and only fuel it with the good stuff. Here one of my favourite low carb recipes to start the ball rolling Bacon, Poached Egg, Warm Stilton and Rocket Salad. Get into the habit of eating right and you’ll feel great in no time!
5. Get A Move On!
You don’t need to hit the gym hard, just make an effort to move more, take the stairs not the escalator, walk whenever you can, get on your bike, dance or do some yoga. Make it fun, do something you like to keep yourself motivated and you won’t give up.
Find loads more fantastic healthy eating and exercise tips from The Body Coach, Joe Wicks.