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A Dermatologist Guide to Alpha Hydroxyl Acid (AHA) Facial Treatments

May 31, 2018

 

Alpha Hydroxyl Acid (AHA) Facial Treatments

Alpha hydroxy acids (AHA) are naturally-occurring compounds possessing unparalleled benefits to the skin and extensively used in a dermatologist’s office. Most AHAs are non-toxic and are often present in food and fruits, thus also known as fruit acids.

The types of AHA used commonly for cosmetic purposes are glycolic acid and lactic acid. Glycolic acid, found in sugar cane, has the smallest molecule of all the AHAs and is the most widely used acid in skincare. Lactic acid is present in sour milk and tomato juice and can be found in our bodies as a byproduct of metabolic processes.

Certain types of AHA have lipophilic (ability to dissolve in lipids/fats) side groups in its chemical structure such as mandelic acid and benzylic acid. Such acids are more soluble in lipids over the conventional water-soluble AHAs, thus are often used for oily and acne-prone skin.

Uses as a peeling agent

AHAs are commonly used in peeling procedures as a short intense exposure to the acid produces benefits to the skin. A chemical peel is the application of one or more chemical exfoliating agents to the skin, and by exerting a controlled epidermal injury, it allows regeneration of new epidermal and dermal tissue. Such treatments are often used to treat skin disorders and conditions for aesthetic improvement.

Using controlled higher concentrations of AHAs, application to the skin for short times can achieve substantial desquamation (skin peeling). This renewal of skin cells is useful in anti-ageing, reducing hyperpigmentation and improving radiance. It is important to have a chemical peel conducted by an accredited dermatologist, to prevent uneven peeling and dermal wounding.

In contrast to other peeling agents, such as phenol or salicylic acid, most of the AHAs are nutritive and physiologic.

Pre-peeling preparation

According to Dr Teo Wan Lin, an accredited dermatologist at TWL Specialist Skin and Laser Centre, to prepare the skin for a regeneration phase, pre-treatment is necessary. The cosmetic conditions most suitable for a chemical peel would be features of photo ageing, such as solar lentigines, sallowed complexions, rough and textured skin, fine lines or wrinkles, acne scarring or hyperpigmentation. Whilst most skin types can opt for an AHA chemical peel, it is imperative to first seek assessment by an accredited dermatologist who will cater the peel, such as the acid type, strength, frequency and duration, for variability of individual skin conditions. Performed properly by a trained dermatologist, risk of scarring from a chemical peel is drastically reduced. The level of expertise in administering peels ensures a good outcome.

Prior to the actual application of the chemical peel substance, the skin will need to be thoroughly cleansed to remove oil and debris before being rinsed and dried.

Treatment with Chemical Peel

The peeling agent (AHAs) will be applied on the skin using an applicator or a brush. The duration of allowing the peeling agent to be in contact with the skin varies according to the skin’s conditions as assessed by the dermatologist. With superficial peels, some sensation of heat and stinging may be experienced, before the peeling agent is neutralized (where applicable) and thoroughly cleansed off after the duration of contact recommended by the dermatologist. The chemical peel treatment is completed at our clinic with application of a hydrating Amino Acid Masque to soothe and calm the skin post-peel. Additional post peel care requires the use of sunscreens and other photoprotective agents, due to sun sensitivity post-treatment. It should be noted that regular application of sunscreen is advocated as it can reduce sun damage and aggravating of skin conditions.

How does a chemical peel work?

For superficial peels, the acid causes breakdown and decreases cohesiveness of corneocytes, that are found at the outermost part of the epidermis. Desquamation occurs, allowing renewal from lower epidermal layers. By weakening and ‘ungluing’ the cells in the inner stratum layer, it leads to uniform exfoliation of the outermost stratum layers.

With a low PH, most acid peels need to be properly neutralized to prevent acidification of the skin. To avoid burning, AHA peels are neutralized with basic salts such as sodium bicarbonate or sodium hydroxide.

A chemical peel does not compromise the barrier structure or integrity of the skin, as the mechanism of action of AHAs on the skin is a more targeted action for epidermal skin renewal.

Conclusion

As a treatment that improves skin texture and counters the effects of ageing, chemical peels continue to be relied on for various skin conditions. It is also safe for the skin and human health in general, as extensively tried and tested by dermatologist’s. A range of AHA formulations and concentrations are available for the dermatologist to administer therapy according to the patient’s requirements.

Speak to your dermatologist today for a tailored experience.

© 2018 TWL Specialist Skin and Laser Centre. All rights reserved.

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Meet with Dr. Teo Wan Lin, an accredited dermatologist at TWL Specialist Skin & Laser Centre, for a thorough consultation to determine the most suitable treatment for your skin.

To book an appointment with Dr. Teo, call us at +65 6355 0522, or email appt@twlskin.com. Alternatively, you may fill up our contact form here.

 

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