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Alpha-hydroxy acids, also known as AHAs, may be older than you are (at least if you’re under the age of 30)—but these exfoliators are key for youthful-looking skin. AHAs help reveal and maintain radiant skin, boost hydration and enhance firmness when used in your daily skincare regimen or in a chemical peel at your dermatologist’s office—without the side effects of more aggressive treatments.
As with many skincare ingredients, acid-based exfoliation can get a little confusing, so it’s important to know the basics. AHAs can be synthetic or naturally derived from fruit, sugar cane, milk and a variety of other sources, however they all work by loosening the bonds that hold dead skin cells on the skin’s surface. AHAs are not to be confused with their beta-hydroxy acid (BHA) cousins. BHAs like salicylic acid also provide exfoliating benefits, but they are oil-soluble which makes them great for acne-prone skin and clearing clogged pores. If you really read your labels, you may notice that some companies have their own “proprietary” acids (such as SkinCeuticals’ and La-Roche Posay’s lipo-hydroxy acid or NeoStrata’s poly-hydroxy acid), or utilize a blend of AHAs and BHAs for optimal benefits.
Just in time to get your skin in tip-top shape for summer, here are our top five picks…
NeoStrata was born after its founders discovered the myriad benefits AHAs provide for the skin, so this ingredient takes center stage in a majority of its formulations. With offerings for all skin types and concerns, we like the Smooth Surface Daily Peel because it smoothes skin texture as it improves the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.
A perennial dermatologist favorite (and for good reason), this AHA-enhanced line utilizes ultra-pure crystallized glycolic acid formulated at the ideal pH for maximum results with minimal irritation. The addition of antioxidants like green tea, Co-Q10 and vitamins A, C and E provide environmental protection, and with a full range of cleansers, moisturizers, exfoliating pads, eye serum, sunscreen and body cream you can have smooth, glowing skin from head to toe.
ZO Skin Health Exfoliation Accelerator
Used once or twice a week or more for oily skin, this physician-dispensed at-home exfoliator features glycolic acid, lactic acid, and antioxidants to slough dead skin surface skin cells, yet it leaves the skin feeling pampered with a soothing aloe, green tea, and chamomile blend. We love the fact that there’s no need to rinse it off, and the improvement in texture, radiance and uneven tone enhances the results of any at-home regimen or in-office treatment. According to New York City plastic surgeon Bryan G. Forley, “ZO Skin Health is our go-to brand for all skin types. The newly reformulated Exfoliation Accelerator helps reduce discoloration, sun spots and freckles with consistent use and works as a great complement to in-office peel treatments for acne-prone skin and photodamaged skin.”
Ole Henriksen Power Peel Transforming Facial System
Combining the chemical exfoliating power of AHAs and the physical skin-smoothing only microdermabrasion can provide, this easy-to-use three-step at-home system was inspired by the most popular service at the Ole Henriksen spa. First, the Almond Polish Facial Scrub lifts and loosens dead skin cells before the Instant Transformation Lemon Facial Peel further smoothes the skin and improves the appearance of fine lines, wrinkles and uneven skin tone. The calming Chamomile Comfort Mask then completes the regimen, so you can put your most radiant face forward.
Dr. Dennis Gross Alpha Beta Universal Daily Peel
Get the skin-smoothing, radiance-enhancing results of a professional chemical peel by incorporating this two-minute daily treatment into your skincare routine. An oldie but goodie, step one delivers a safe yet potent dose of exfoliating AHAs and BHAs while step two acts as a neutralizer enhanced with anti-aging ingredients. Together they deliver healthier- and younger-looking skin, and this at-home skin-resurfacer is available in concentrations ranging from gentle to extra-strength, so all skin types can reap the benefits.
NOTE: ZO SkinHealth product was provided for review, all other products were sampled or tested in store. Opinions are my own.