The American Food and Drug Administration agency (FDA) note products containing AHAs are used in anti aging skin care cosmetics because they cause exfoliation of surface skin. The effect depends on the concentration of AHAs in the products in combination with the effects of other ingredients (1).

It Does what It Says On The Tin. What does that do for mature skin?


AHAs work in the pores once absorbed and begin to cause the skin to shed the topmost layer of dead skin cells. This assists in accelerating cell ‘turnover’. As the dead cells at the ‘top’ of skin are removed, healthy new cells from deeper layers come to the surface. This aims to:

  • Enhance the skin’s texture
  • Enhance the skin’s colour (‘glow’)
  • Unclog pores
  • Increase penetration by moisturising products (2).

The concentration of AHAs within the products is important. Low concentrations (say 5-10%) are usually the staple of the (heavily marketed) over the counter creams and commonly contain glycolic acid, one of the 5 types of AHAs.


Professional Treatments

Higher concentrations may be used  a procedure using much higher concentrations of AHAs, dubbed ‘the chemical peel’. The British Association of Cosmetic Doctors advise this should be a strictly professionally administered treatment. It states the treatment can definitely help rejuvenate skin, but will still not give a 50 year old the skin of a 25 year old.   The treatment produces temporary redness and can have side effects such as cold-sore flare-ups (3).


The FDA notes that there is a lack of robust research into the long-term effects of AHAs on the skin from everyday consumer products containing them (4).

Giselle Mir goes one step further with criticism of the mechanism of AHAs on the skin. Mir states she qualified as Cosmetic Scientist before founding her own cosmetic company, having become “disillusioned” with misleading cosmetic industry product claims. She has stated to the press she believes the creams actions simply irritate the skin, resulting eventually in moisture loss from the top layer and premature aging (5).

Here’s some further advice from Paula Begouin, seen earlier extoling the virtues of AHAS – this time she explains the damaging effects of irritation on any skin – clearly she isn’t lumping AHAs into this category but its makes for thought provoking material…

IMPORTANT DISCLAIMER: NONE of the above advice can be a substitute for medical or professional skin care advice – please only consult qualified general medical and/ or dermatology physicians for serious skin complaints. The information here may reflect manufacturer’s claims and this site cannot be held responsible for such claims made.

RS Brown


1. American Food and Drug Administration. (2009). Alpha Hydroxy Acids in Cosmetics. [online] Washington: Department of Health and Human Services. Available at:

2. Begoiun, P. (2004). The Complete Beauty Bible: The Ultimate Guide To Smart Beauty. Rodale. P.99.

3. British Association of Cosmetic Doctors (2009). Chemical peels (Glycolic peels). [online]. BACD. Available at:

4. American Food and Drug Administration. (2009). The Office of Women’s Health Scientific Research Program: Abstracts. [online] Washington: Department of Health and Human Services. Available at:

5. Mir, G. Anti Ageing and Sun Care. [online] Hertfordshire, UK: Mir. Available at:

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