What is alpha hydroxy acid?
This is a group of naturally occurring mild acids, which are found in food products. They include lactic acid (milk derivative), citric acid (citrus fruit derivative), and glycolic acid (sugar cane derivative). Alpha hydroxy acids, particularly glycolic acid, can be used to improve or maintain the skin. This is a versatile product, as the results of treatment depend on the acid concentration, other ingredients in the formula, and the way it is used.
Daily skin care
Commercially available skin care products often contain low concentration glycolic acid, usually about five to ten percent. At these concentrations, it acts on the top layer of skin, promoting exfoliation by discouraging the adhesion of skin cells. These products may be used alone, or as part of a comprehensive therapeutic regimen for managing skin conditions such as melasma, acne, wrinkles, or photo damage. It is important that you take care to avoid irritation, which can exacerbate pigmentary problems such as melasma.
Recently, some manufacturers have begun including amino acids in their glycolic acid formulas, causing a time-release action, which reduces irritation without diminishing the effectiveness of the product. Incorporating allantoin or a similar anti-irritant into your skin care regimen may also be helpful. Glycolic acid in concentrations below ten percent is safe for daily use in most situations. However, individuals with extremely sensitive skin may find these products too harsh. It is advisable to ask your dermatologist before trying new products or altering you skin care regimen.
Formulas containing high concentrations of glycolic acid (35 to 70 percent) are used under a physician’s supervision for chemical peels. The solution is applied to the skin, and allowed to set for three to eight minutes. Glycolic acid peels promote slitting between the skin cells, and they are used for the treatment of conditions such as fine wrinkles, melasma, mottled pigmentation, and acne. The effect of the treatment depends on the strength of the formula, and the length of time it remains in contact with your skin. The procedure is customized to your individual needs and unique skin type.
One application of glycolic acid will be beneficial; however, several sessions are usually required to achieve optimal results. Appointments are typically scheduled between two and four weeks apart. It is important to note that, although generally very safe, a glycolic acid peel is a type of chemical peel, and includes similar side effects and risks as other chemical peels.
Glycolic acid combination treatments
Moderate concentrations of glycolic acid, ranging from ten to fifty percent, are beneficial for smoothing the skin, but the results are temporary. However, these formulas are frequently used to prepare skin for other treatments, such as TCA (trichloroacetic acid) peels or higher concentrations of glycolic acid.
Glycolic acid or other chemical peels may be used as part of a multi-phase treatment plan to address all of your cosmetic and medical skin concerns. For anti-aging, Botox and dermal fillers may be used to improve the facial contours and reduce deep wrinkles, while chemical peels or other resurfacing treatments improve the skin tone and texture.
Join our Skin Fit Medical program for treatment packages and special savings. If you have any questions, or you are ready to schedule an appointment, call Dr. W. Dermatology at (281) 771-0494. We have a convenient location in Houston.