The Best AHA (Alpha Hydroxy Acid) Serum for Your Skin Type – You’ve probably come across a ton of serums and creams that promises to give you that smooth, ageless Jennifer Lopez skin.
And I’d you’re like me, you’ve probably tried more than your fair share of fancy and expensive bottles.
If you’ve been on the hunt for a good serum that has anti-aging, skin rejuvenation, and spot lightening in its laundry list of benefits; chances are it has alpha hydroxy acids in its formulation.
If you can invest in only one skincare product, it should be your serum. The other steps in your routine like cleansing and moisturizing have functions that can be done effectively by products that won’t break the bank.
Serums however, are made to be packed with a multitude of active ingredients whose sole goal is to nourish and restore your skin. You only want to feed your skin the best ingredients if you want the best long-term results.
Your skin will thank you when you’re 40 and doesn’t look a year over 30. 🙂
In this article, you’ll get a brief on what alpha hydroxy acids are, how it can benefit your skin, and most importantly, how you can choose the best AHA serum for your skin type.
- 0.1 AHA Serum Benefits
- 0.2 What you should know before buying AHAs
- 0.3 How to incorporate the best AHA serums in your skincare routine
- 1 Editor’s Choice: The Best AHA Serums
AHA Serum Benefits
Alpha hydroxy acids are one of the most effective active ingredients used to fight the signs of photoaging. Studies have shown significant improvements in skin hydration, elasticity, tone, texture, and smoothing wrinkles.
When applied to the skin, AHAs stimulate exfoliation of dull, rough skin while promoting cell renewal.
It was initially used in dermatology to treat serious skin conditions. However, as AHAs was found to promote softer, smoother skin, lightened blemishes, faded wrinkles and age spots; it soon began to have a major role in skincare. Further studies have also shown improvements in the skin’s barrier function and restored firmness.
In one study, a twice daily application of 4% L-lactic acid formulations (pH 3.7-4.0) lead to significant improvement in protective barrier function and deduces sensitivity to common skincare irritants like sodium laureth sulphate (SLS) after 4 weeks.
Other benefits of AHAs to the skin include:
- helping diminish the appearance of fine lines and hyperpigmentation (acne spots)
- rejuvenates dull, lifeless skin
- smoothens out skin texture
- evens out skin tone
- combat mild acne, blackheads, and whiteheads
- maintain proper moisture levels in the skin
The higher the concentration of the acid and the lower the pH (measure of acidity) of the product, the more effective it will be. However, the strength of the formulation is also related to its ability to cause skin irritations.
One way to minimize this is by raising your skin’s tolerance to acids and lowering your skin’s pH levels through AHA toners.
Once the skin is conditioned enough, you can deliver higher concentrations of acids in the form of serums or chemical peels for more dramatic benefits.
What you should know before buying AHAs
Everyone’s skin is different. It’s affected by the type of skin we were born with, our hormones, the environment, the skincare and makeup we use on a daily basis–the list goes on.
However, having a good idea of what your skin needs and its current condition is crucial in picking the right products.
There are several things you should consider before delving into AHA serums.
When you’ve gone through these general guidelines, you’ll have a better chance of picking the right product for your skin and be able reap all the benefits AHA serums have to offer.
Here are the basic guidelines in choosing the right AHA for your skin:
- Choose the right type of AHAs for your skin type to maximize its benefits – Identify the skin issues you want to address and use the kind of AHA that would be most beneficial for your needs. The list of products below identify the AHAs active in each product, as well as outlines what type of skin issues it can address.
- Be aware of your skin’s sensitivity or resilience to active ingredients – AHAs and other active ingredients are generally more effective at higher concentrations. That said, you might be tempted to use AHAs on a daily basis right off the bat. This is one of the most common missteps in choosing AHAs. Acids can be highly irritating if applied to the skin without preparation. Our skin needs to be introduced to the acids slowly, starting from the lowest concentration possible, and worked all the way up. With this, you can avoid issues like irritation, redness, and other complications. As mentioned, this can be done through low concentration products like AHA toners.
- Incorporating it successfully into your skincare regime – knowing how to layer your skincare is crucial in getting the product to reach your skin and be fully effective. One basic rule of thumb is: products should be applied from the lightest to thickest consistency. So your serum should be layered sometime after cleansing and before your moisturizer. Another important point to remember is to wait until your serum is fully absorbed before layering on the next product. This should be around 5-15 minutes.
- Be wary of skin irritation vs. allergic reaction – Whenever you’re introducing a new product to your skin, especially if it has potentially irritating actives like acids, it’s important to check if you’re allergic to any of the ingredients. This is done by doing a patch test. This way, you’ll be able to differentiate between an allergic reaction and skin irritation. If it reacts in your patch test outside your face, you’re likely allergic. It’s best to take note and avoid the product overall. If it reacts within your face, it’s probably irritation. This isn’t a lost cause by far. One of the most common misconceptions people have is just because a product is irritating, it’s not working or you won’t be able to use the product anymore. You actually just need to start with a lower concentration of acids and work your way up.
- Observe precautions when starting to use acids if you have sensitized skin – If you have aggressively overused a product and currently have over-sensitized skin, it may be best for you to transition away from these harsh products to allow your skin to recover. Reset your skin’s natural barrier by going back to basics–a gentle cleanser, moisturizer, and sunscreen. Try going by this for a few weeks and slowly incorporate your products to better acclimatize your skin and avoid irritations. Generally, two weeks is sufficient for your skin to rebuild its compromised skin barrier.
How to incorporate the best AHA serums in your skincare routine
Below is a general skincare routine you can follow, applicable for all skin types. If you have several products that you layer, you can insert them between your serums and moisturizers.
One quick rule in layering products: apply them on from the thinnest to the thickest consistency. Make sure to also give them a few minutes to absorb. This technique will make sure that all your products are in full effect and work in synergy.
- Toners – You can use facial cottons to sweep of any excess dirt left by your cleanser. If you do a double cleanse or you’re confident with your cleansing routine, you can just gently tap the toner onto your skin to save product.
- Serums or other corrective products with active ingredients – start once every few days and work up to daily application
- Moisturizers – Or products with thicker consistencies and/or are oil-based.
- Sunscreen (AM) or Night Cream (PM) – Sunscreen is crucial if you have exfoliators in your regimen. They help protect your skin from any photosensitivity that AHAs bring.
Our recommendations for the best AHA serums are based on our comprehensive analysis of the product’s formulation, claims, value for money, and consumer reviews. We make an effort to be as objective as possible and give advice in good faith; however, our reviews may still contain conjectures and opinions based on our research and personal experiences.
It’s important to know that as with any product (especially cosmetics), what may be perfect for you may not be right for the next person. So as much as we want to guarantee that these will be everyone’s next holy grail, results can still be affected by individual factors like your current skin condition, the environment you’re in, use of the product, reaction to your other skincare, and so on. For best results, make sure to choose a product that is suited for your skin type and skin issues.
This website is for informational purposes and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.
Product or service details are collected directly from the manufacturer and other reputable sources during the time of this review, and cited in the Resources section. We try to keep on top of new formulations when we can, and update our data accordingly.
At the end of every review, there will be a link for you to check current discounts and other customer reviews on Amazon. These, along with some other links that redirect you to third party sites, are affiliate links where we earn a small commission if you do decide to make a purchase. This is at absolutely no extra cost to you and will help in maintaining the quality of the site.
This website is our passion project, and our editorial content is not influenced by advertisers or affiliate partnerships. The choices we make take extensive research (which we actually enjoy because we’re weird and nerdy like that), including data from credible academic papers and user sources available.
Bottom Line: We objectively review a laundry list of top performing products, pick the best ones based on our results, and present them to you with all the key info so you can choose the most suitable one for your skin. If you decide to buy something, we earn a commission that helps cover site costs like hosting, design, research materials, etc. You don’t have to of course, thank you for visiting us nonetheless. 🙂
Editor’s Choice: The Best AHA Serums
We’ve chosen the best AHA toners based on our analysis, product specifications, value for money, and consumer reviews.
Make sure to choose a product that is suited for your skin type and skin issues for best results.
DUFFY, D. (1998). Alpha Hydroxy Acids/Trichloroacetic Acids Risk/Benefit Strategies. A Photographic Review. Dermatologic Surgery, 24(2), pp.181-189.
Greive, K., Tran, D., Townley, J. and Barnes, T. (2014). An antiaging skin care system containing alpha hydroxy acids and vitamins improves the biomechanical parameters of facial skin. Clinical, Cosmetic and Investigational Dermatology, p.9.
Michalun, N. and Michalun, M. (2001). Milady’s skin care and cosmetic ingredients dictionary. 1st ed. Australia: Milady Thomson Learning.
SUEKI, H. (2001). Pharmacological Effects of Alpha-Hydroxy Acids (AHAs) on Human Skin. Nishi Nihon Hifuka, 63(3), pp.221-225.
VIDT, D. and BERGFELD, W. (1997). Cosmetic use of alpha-hydroxy acids. Cleveland Clinic Journal of Medicine, 64(6), pp.327-329.
VORARAT, S., AROMDEE, C. and PODOKMAI, Y. (2002). Determination of Alpha Hydroxy Acids in Fruits by Capillary Electrophoresis. Analytical Sciences, 18(8), pp.893-896.
WOLF, B., PASTER, A. and LEVY, S. (1996). An Alpha Hydroxy Acid Derivative Suitable for Sensitive Skin. Dermatologic Surgery, 22(5), pp.469-473.