All You Need to Know About AHAs in Skincare

Tori Douglas

Global Digital

3 min read

Skincare Education

Discover the benefits of using AHAs in your skincare routine.

Alpha Hydroxy Acids Image 1

Alpha hydroxy acids, known as AHAs, deliver amazing exfoliating results when used in a skincare routine. These ingredients are hidden gems in many skincare products and help with evening skin tone and texture, leaving skin super soft and smooth. Below we highlight two AHAs—glycolic acid and citric acid—explaining the differences between them, how they work, and why you need both in your skincare routine.

What are AHAs?

Alpha hydroxy acids, also known as AHAs, are water-soluble acids made from sugarcane or other plant sources. These acids use chemical exfoliation (versus a scrub that uses physical exfoliation) to help remove dead skin cells from the surface so that new, healthier skin cells can take their place.

How exactly do AHAs work?

Our skin has a natural cell renewal process, shedding dead skin cells to replace new ones. It takes about 4 weeks to complete, but age can slow that process down. This is where AHAs come in: They work like a signal for the epidermis to stimulate the cell renewal process via chemical exfoliation, resulting in overall improved texture and tone. Using AHAs can also prevent a buildup of dead skin at the skin’s surface that can cause skin to appear dull and uneven with a rough texture.

Glycolic acid vs citric acid

There are six types of AHAs, but below we discuss the difference between glycolic and citric acids.

Glycolic acid has the smallest molecular size out of the six alpha hydroxy acids, allowing it to penetrate the deeper layers of the skin’s surface. This acid is known for helping break down the “glue” that keeps dead skin cells stuck together on the skin’s surface. Using formulas with glycolic acid results in smoother texture and a renewed look.

Citric acid is on the other spectrum of AHAs. It has the second-to-largest molecular size, which means that it exfoliates by helping detach dead skin cells from the top layer of the skin. And because of its antioxidant properties and ability to combat oxidative stress, it helps deliver more even skin tone in addition to smoothing texture.

What are the benefits of using AHAs?

AHAs in skincare products help reduce the look of dark spots, blemishes, and uneven texture so that your skin looks more even and smooth, all without visible peeling or shedding. Products with alpha hydroxy acids are typically used on cleansed skin so that they can work more effectively and easily. AHAs can also combat enlarged pores and pesky fine line and wrinkles.

Are AHAs suitable for sensitive skin?

AHAs in skincare products are suitable for all skin types. However, using AHAs can cause skin to feel more sensitive, especially when exposed to the sun. So, it’s best to work AHAs into your nighttime routine, always use sunscreen during the day, and limit sun exposure to protect from future damage.

Our go-to AHA serum

fresh’s Lotus Resurfacing Serum effectively exfoliates while being gentle on skin. It’s packed with glycolic and citric acids for multi-level exfoliation. So how is it gentle? The serum was formulated within a specific pH range so you still get that powerful performance while being gentle enough to use every night. And it works on all skin types* and tones** (including sensitive), so you can sleep soundly knowing that your skin will look smooth and radiant when you wake.

*normal, dry, oily, combination

**based on the Fitzpatrick scale

Author Profile
blog author tori

Tori Douglas

Global Digital

Written by Tori Douglas for Fresh. Tori is a NYC-based digital and brand strategist. Tori has worked for various publications and brands such as Kiehl's, The Body Shop, Deux Hommes Magazine, and Elite Daily with her expertise lying in the fashion & beauty space.