Are AHAs suitable for all skin tones? The answer is: it depends on your skin—there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to skincare. Read on for more.
Alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs) can provide a chemical exfoliation that helps remove dead surface skin cells, smooth skin texture, and even out skin tone, and they can also help promote faster skin cell turnover. Something we all want, right? However, the skincare community has speculated whether or not AHAs are a suitable method of exfoliation for all skin tones, especially for individuals with higher levels of melanin—specifically, eumelanin. The good news is, AHAs can be suitable for all skin tones, but it all depends on the product you are using, the frequency of application, and your specific skin needs Just keep in mind that when it comes to incorporating them into your skincare routine, there’s no one-size-fits-all approach that works.
Before introducing any new step or product into your routine, you should consider your skin’s unique qualities before determining what products and usage are best for you. And, as always, it’s recommended to patch-test new products before first use. You can conduct a patch test by placing a small amount of product onto clean skin on the inside of your forearm, allowing the product to fully absorb, and monitoring any reaction on the skin—if any—for 24 hours. If you see redness or feel sensations such as burning or stinging, do not use the product or product combination patch-tested. Should you have any concerns about adding new formulas to your skincare routine, please consult your dermatologist prior to use. For questions you have about products from YTTP, schedule a free 15-minute Skin Session with one of YTTP’s education experts to find out more.
There are several types of AHAs available in skincare products across the market: glycolic, lactic, citric, mandelic, tartaric, and malic acids. While they can help address many of the same skin concerns, they differ in molecular size and weight, which impacts how well they can absorb into the skin surface layers, as well as their activity and potency. Concentration, pH, and application duration all impact product efficacy.
Board-certified dermatologist Dr. Marisa Garshick explains why it is important to consider one’s skin tone when deciding how to incorporate AHAs into your routine:
“Because those with darker skin [tend to be] more susceptible to post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation, it is especially important to avoid irritating the skin or over-exfoliation,” says Dr. Garshick. All AHAs can be suitable for darker skin tones, but there’s no one-size-fits-all and it all depends on several factors, including the product in use, how often you’re applying it, and your skin’s specific needs.
“It’s important to be mindful of the risk of exfoliating too much or too often, regardless of which one is used,” says Dr. Garshick.
The bottom line? AHAs have the potential to provide benefits for all skin tones, but it’s crucial to avoid over-exfoliation, which can be especially damaging for deeper complexions that are more prone to hyperpigmentation. Always start slow and let your skin acclimate over time when using chemical exfoliants.
Which AHA is right for me?
Youth To The People offers a range of exfoliants powered by various acids, enzymes, and physical exfoliants.
If you’re looking for gentle exfoliation, check out YTTP’s Mandelic Acid + Superfood Unity Exfoliant, which is formulated with gentle but effective percentages of alpha, beta, and poly hydroxy acids. It can be used daily followed by a moisturizer (just always remember the SPF!).
The Kombucha + 10% AHA Power Exfoliant has been newly reformulated to minimize the appearance of dark spots over time and smooth the feel of skin texture. Containing 7% lactic acid and 3% glycolic acid, this formula helps exfoliate the skin without leaving a sticky residue behind. It is best to start off using this product once per week and gradually work up to using 2-3 nights a week, followed by the Superberry Hydrate + Glow Dream Mask.
A final note
Remember that regardless of what exfoliation method you use, or even if you decide that exfoliation is not for you, always always always apply a broad spectrum sunscreen with SPF 30 or higher daily to protect your skin.
Written by Katy McGray for Youth to the People