AHAs (alpha hydroxy acids) 101: What Does it Do for MY Skin?

4 min readFeb 24, 2022


Experts in the field of skin dissect all you need to know about AHAs for the skin, including their advantages, adverse effects, and must-have solutions.

With over half of the population now required to wear a protective face mask when out in public, you may have noticed some undesirable changes in your skin. If you want brighter, more uniform toned, or decongested skin, Alpha Hydroxy Acids (AHAs) may assist if used properly. We interviewed board-certified dermatologists to decipher all you need to know about AHAs for the skin, including their advantages, side effects, recommended frequency of usage, and must-have items. Consider this your definitive guide to radiant skin in 2022.

What is AHA and how does it benefit the skin?

Alpha-Hydroxy Acids (AHAs) are a class of water-soluble acids found in fruits and plants. They are classified as a chemical exfoliator, which means they remove dead skin cells by the application of chemicals — dubbed acids or enzymes. AHAs, according to Dr. Sheau-Chung, a board-certified dermatologist and published clinical researcher, induce “controlled damage” to the skin, resulting in accelerated cell turnover. This technique results in less hyperpigmentation and more equal skin tone.

According to Dr. Sheau-Chung, AHAs “provide nearly rapid pleasure” and are ideal for those looking to “refresh” their skin. As is the case with the majority of skincare products, particularly exfoliants, AHAs can have certain drawbacks, including the possibility of sun sensitivity, peeling, and irritation. In general, this implies that you should be extremely vigilant about applying sunscreen regardless of the season or whether you’re indoors working from home or out on a socially distant stroll.

Which AHA is the most effective?

Since all AHAs may aid in the appearance of a smoother, more even-toned skin, not every AHAs will work for everyone. According to the independent practitioners we contacted, there are many different kinds of Alpha-Hydroxy Acids — determining which one is ideal for your skin type may help you achieve your beauty objectives.

The first ingredient is glycolic acid, which Dr. Sheau-Chung claims enters the skin easily and produces “glowing” benefits. Glycolic acid is colorless and is the smallest AHA.

Next, there’s lactic acid, another prominent AHA that “amazingly improves overall texture and tone,” according to Dr. Linter, a board-certified dermatologist and published author in the Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology, lactic acid may aid in the reduction of visible pores, age spots, and hyperpigmentation. According to Dr. Linter both glycolic and lactic acids should be administered under the supervision of a certified professional due to the possibility of sun sensitivity.

lastly, Mandelic acid which is less irritating than glycolic acid. Due to the fact that mandelic and lactic acids are less active than glycolic acids, they are more suited to treating hyperpigmentation or sensitive skin than to oily skin.

Prior to incorporating AHA products into your beauty regimen, take a look at your existing product selection, paying special attention to the ingredient list to prevent sensitivity from AHAs. Linter et al., (2020) suggests layering AHAs and Vitamin C together since they both operate at a comparable PH level. He advises against mixing AHAs and retinol since both are exfoliants and may cause irritation.

On the other side, Sheau-Chung asserts that she has never seen a product that did not work well with AHAs, including retinol. Rather than that, she explains, AHAs complement Beta Hydroxy Acids (BHAs), “particularly if you are acne-prone, since BHAs are more effective at regulating oiliness.”

Sheau-Chung is a proponent of glycolic acid, claiming that it helps minimize the appearance of pores, is “pregnancy-safe,” and may be used to treat melasma. She acknowledges it’s difficult for her to choose a favorite AHA type. However, she likes lactic acid over glycolic acid because it is “more flexible, more tolerated, and more moisturizing.”

At Kleer, we like glycolic acid-containing AHA products since the component produces the most dramatic effects. Due to the fact that it has the smallest molecular structure of all the acids, it may more readily penetrate the skin.

Now that you have a better grasp of AHAs, go out and experiment with AHA products from your favorite (Kleer “wink”) brand’s to see which ones work best for you.


Tang, S., & Yang, J. (2018). Dual effects of alpha-hydroxy acids on the skin. Molecules (Basel, Switzerland), 23(4), 863.

Lintner, K., Gerstein, F., & Solish, N. (2020). A serum containing vitamins C & E and a matrix‐repair tripeptide reduces facial signs of aging as evidenced by primos® analysis and frequently repeated auto‐perception. Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology, 19(12), 3262–3269.




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