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Retinols and alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs) are chemicals that are under constant fire regarding their capabilities to treat acne. Despite doubts and criticism, acne treatment based on these chemicals still sell at quite a high price.
Retinol is a compound derived from Vitamin A. It’s popularity has been associated with skin rejuvenating cosmetics that claim to reduce aging lines and wrinkles by promoting the growth of new skin cells. Dermatologists agree that it does decrease wrinkles and increase collagen for skin elasticity. Its claim as an acne treatment is, however, still to be established.
Retinols are standalone components which can be used in combination with alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs). Retinols and AHAs are two different substances but they are used for the same cosmetic purpose – to peel off old skin and encourage the growth of new skin.
While retinol is a forerunner of Vitamin A, alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs) are derivatives from common everyday foods. Glycolic acid, the most commonly used AHA, is obtained from sugar, citric acids come from citrus fruits, and tartaric acids are derived from grapes. Lactic acid, on the other hand, is a milk derivative. Both retinols and AHAs are used as topical applications to hasten the growth of new skin cells and no adverse effect had been reported in their combined use.
Alpha hydroxy acids are sometimes referred to as “fruit acids” because they are most often obtained from fruits. Glycolic acid from sugar is the most commonly used AHA for facial treatments, followed by lactic and citric acid. As mentioned earlier, lactic acid is not obtained from fruit but is a milk derivative.
Less expensive over-the-counter acne treatments contain very low amount of alpha hydroxy acids. While retinols and AHAs were initially sold as mild skin exfoliants to reduce the signs of aging, they are now also being advertised as an effective way of fighting acne. No conclusive clinical test has been released yet to support their claim to treat acne.
Chemical peels are fast becoming the trend for people who want to restore youth on their faces and battle the signs of aging. They are, however, also being used to remove acne and its unsightly scars. Acne preparations now include strong acid components such as AHAs or, sometimes, BHAs (beta-hydroxy acids) which acts as exfoliants that shed off old skin and promotes the re-emergence of younger-looking skin.
Treatments involving the use of both retinols and AHAs depend on the type of skin you have and the extent of your acne’s condition. Higher concentrations of these two chemicals for treatment need a physician’s prescription as they are more potent than the ones being sold over-the-counter.
Retinols and AHAs are relatively safe used according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Bear in mind that alpha hydroxy acids are acids and should be used with caution to avoid extreme reactions. AHAs with higher strength should only be used after consulting with your physician.
While they are not the same, both retinols and AHAs have the same side effects, mainly skin irritation and sensitivity to sun exposure. To prevent skin irritation while using AHAs, dermatologists recommend starting with a lower strength AHA and build up the concentration once you have developed some tolerance for it. To gradually build your skin’s tolerance for AHAs, start by using the product every other day until you can work up to a daily regimen. Apply liberal amounts of moisturizer after each treatment.