Do you know what is AHA and what is it for in the skin care industry? You might have been seeing this ingredient in many products including brands like The Ordinary and Drunk Elephant but what exactly is it there for? With many new products coming out with AHA acids, it’s important to know why they are there.

There are many different ingredients that can be found in cosmetics and skin care products. Now, it doesn’t always mean that the ingredients are safe, natural or even cruelty-free. It all depends of the values of the brand and their goal but many have moved on from harsh chemicals and have started eliminating ingredients that may affect our skin. Also, many brands are incorporating useful ingredients that actually help us reach our skin goals. Now, let’s provide a some information about AHA.

What is AHA and it’s uses

First, let’s start with what AHA stands for. AHA is short for Alpha Hydroxy Acids which are chemical compounds that can occur naturally or can be synthetic. It’s often used in cosmetics as an aid to reduce wrinkles and improve the look of the skin. They are typically preferred for dry skin due to it’s exfoliating properties.

The Alpha Hydroxy Acids are actually derived from different components such as:

  • Glycolic Acid – derived from sugar cane
  • Citric Acid – found in citrus fruits
  • Lactic acid – found in sour milk
  • Malic Acid – found in apples
  • Tartaric Acid – found in grape wine
  • Mandelic Acid – derived from bitter almonds


What are AHAs for – The breakdown

  • Glycolic Acid
    • From all the different AHAs, glycolic acid is usually on the top. This is the most research and has had impressive results on the skin. It’s able to penetrate the skin and exfoliate, leaving the skin to be smooth. Additionally, it has a natural ability to hydrate the skin.
    • It’s even said that it might have antibacterial properties, helping prevent future breakouts.
    • The botanical properties of the glycolic acid may help treat skin conditions
    • This is safe to use on sensitive skin but over using may cause redness. Try using a low percentage first to see how your skin will react
  • Citric Acid
    • This acid may be derived from many citrus fruits but can also be synthetic. It’s purpose is to even out rough patches of skin. It can be used as a toner before applying your moisturizer
    • Another benefit is that it can promote skin growth. This can alleviate the appearance of acne scars and age spots.
  • Lactic Acid
    • Lactic Acid pretty much does the same thing as Glycolic Acid but only slower. It can be used as an exfoliant at 5-10%
    • This AHA can cause sensitivity. It’s not common and can be minimized by using it together with soothing ingredients.
    • Has anti-aging benefits
  • Malic Acid
    • This can also be used as an exfoliant but it also delivers antioxidant benefits.
    • It’s typically used alone since it’s not as strong/effective as the glycolic acid.
  • Tartaric Acid
    • Made from grape extracts, it may help alleviate sun damage and acne
    • Not as well researched as the glycolic acid
  • Mandelic Acid
    • When paired with other acids, it aides ceramides stimulation
    • Used alone, it may improve texture

Some skin care products – With AHA as ingredients

The Ordinary Mandelic Acid 10% + HA with AHA and Hyaluronic Acid (30ml)


The Ordinary Lactic Acid 5% + Ha 2% 30ml


The Ordinary Glycolic Acid 7% Toning Solution 240ml



What is AHA and the negative effects

As a recap, AHA stands for Alpha Hydroxy Acids and there are a few different acids that you can fond in different types of skin care products. Many of them have great benefits but it’s important to remember that they all have specific uses and everything overused can potentially cause damage. If you aren’t sure about the products, it’s always best to contact your dermatologist.

Additionally, some of these products may lead your skin to become prone to sun damage when overused. It’s important to follow the guidelines and also moisturize and apply sunscreen if you are going to be under the sun. Sun damage is one of the leading causes of premature aging skin. Protect your skin with a good sunscreen and stay hydrated my friends!


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  1. What a nice post you wrote! It’s very useful and can definitely be used as a great source for everyone who is interested in skincare. I personally use AHA acids and I love The Ordinary brand. They are excellent and the price is unbeatable.


  2. Hi, Ami thanks for the post. I work in the desert so it’s important for me to use a good sunscreen with moisturizer. And because I work outside most of the time and because it is the desert and I sweat a lot. Which products would you recommend for someone like my self to use on a daily bases? Do you apply AHA before or after the moisturizer? And when do you apply the sunscreen? lol sorry for all the questions I need help.

    I don’t want to be older than my age. Plus get my skin sun damage.

    1. admin

      Hi there! You can try the skin perfecting 8% AHA lotion exfoliant. It works great for dry skin and it can be used daily. I do recommend using a great moisturizer with broad-spectrum sunscreen after you apply the AHA. Specially since you’re under outside most of the time. Hope that helps 🙂

  3. Thank you for this information. As I’m getting older you can see the ageing of my skin….I’m gonna look into better skin care products as I’ve been a bit lazy in finding something that works better for me. I’ve nbeen using the same skin care products for the last 10 years…..Will definitely look into the brands you suggest. Thankjs.

  4. What product should I choose if my skin is dry? Does it make a difference between skin types? Example, my girlfriend has oily skin while mine is dry. Can we use the same product or we should each have different? Which one would you recommend for us?

    1. admin

      Hi, products work differently for everyone, specially when we have different skin types. Now, both The Ordinary Mandelic and the Glycolic acids can be used for all skin types. Keep in mind that they might give you both different result since the skin types are different and we all react differently. From either of those, I believe the Glycolic acid one might work best. Hope that helps 🙂

  5. I’ve been using products containing AHAs for years as I’ve had spots of some kind or other since I was 11 and natural acids are an excellent way to promote exfoliation and keep my skin as unclogged as possible and now that I’m approaching 40 and still get some spots they also help with the signs of aging.
    Thank you for this great post.

  6. Thanks for posting this information about AHA. It’s interesting to read about the pros and cons.
    For example, I didn’t realise it can cause sun damage over time. I do have very fair skin so I try to stay out of the sun or use sunscreen, but I will be extra careful from now on.
    I hope that one day they will invent a cream that’s totally safe and gets rid of ALL wrinkles lol.
    I love your site and look forward to reading more articles.

  7. Hey,

    Really interesting article. I specialise in helping people to naturally increase their testosterone production and advise on avoiding endocrine disruptors. That means I’ve looked at cosmetics products as a lot of them contain toxic endocrine disrupting chemicals. I can’t say I’ve heard of AHA before, do you think it’s something I should be checking is an ingredient in the products I use and recommend to others?

    1. admin

      Hi, as all products, there are side effects and with AHAs it’s mostly irritation when not used properly or even some sun damaged when over used but I have not found any relation with AHA being a disrupting chemical. I hope that helps.

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