alfa hydroxy acid facial treatments

alfa hydroxy acids or AHAs rejuvenate the skin by encouraging the shedding of old, sun-damaged surface skin cells. Glycolic acid is a fruit acid most frequently used for facial treatments but lactic and citric acid are also useful. Lactic acid is not strictly a fruit acid, as it is found in meat, cheese, yogurt, however it's also in pickled vegetables.

Who should use AHA treatments?

AHA preparations are recommended for those whose skin is showing signs of ageingFine linesbrown marks and dry spots (actinic keratoses) can improve with regular applications or peels. Glycolic acid may also prove helpful for those prone to acne.

How do they work?

With time and sun exposure there is a gradual but slow-down in the rate at which old cells leave the surface of the skin and are replaced by newer cells. This results in a surface layer of dead skin cells that are responsible for the appearance of aged skin.

AHAs loosen the glue-like substances that hold the surface skin cells to each other, therefore allowing the dead skin to peel off. The skin underneath has a fresher, healthier look with a more even colour and texture.

With high concentration and long-term use, AHAs may also affect the deeper layers of the skin. Collagen and elastin regenerate making fine lines less obvious.

What do AHA peels involve?

An ideal treatment for busy people who are unable to take time off work for a deeper peel or laser resurfacing, AHA facial peels gently retexture the skin over a period of a few months. The treatments are also helpful in stabilising oily or acne-prone skin and improving skin tone.

A glycolic acid peel takes about 15 - 20 minutes. It is usually repeated at one to two weekly intervals as it is superficial so recovery is rapid. It The strength of each peel ranges from 20 - 70%, depending on skin sensitivity and starting gently.

The face is cleansed thoroughly and then the peel solution is applied for three minutes. It stings mildly. The solution is then washed off.

Treated skin may be a little pink immediately after treatment. A little peeling may occur over the next few days. It can be disguised with moisturizer or normal make-up.

AHA skin care products

There are many products with varying concentrations of various AHAs in differing bases. For the best results, leave-on preparations should be applied at night, if necessary twice daily. They can be alternated with other anti-aging preparations including retinoid creams and vitamin C.

There are specific preparations for dry, normal and oily skin. Those available from medical practitioners are stronger than those at pharmacies and beauty therapists.

Don't forget the most important skin care tip - Always protect your skin from the sun!

What Are the Overall Benefits of a Glycolic (AHA) Peel?

After your glycolic peel, you will notice improved skin texture. Your face will be softer and smoother, both to the touch and in appearance. You may notice a reduction in fine lines and wrinkles. Your skin tone will appear more even and your complexion may be brighter, with less blotchiness and discoloration.

Discover how Windsor Dermatology can help you turn back time and improve your appearance with glycolic (AHA) peels, performed by our staff aesthetician. Glycolic peels are a non-invasive alternative to traditional surgical methods. They have been shown to be effective in treating/eliminating the following skin conditions:

  • Sun-damaged skin
  • Fine lines and wrinkles
  • Tired or old-looking skin
  • Skin discoloration
  • Dull skin that has lost its luster

What is a Glycolic (AHA) Peel?

Glycolic peels use alfa-hydroxy acid (AHA) to freshen and rejuvenate your skin by removing dead and damaged skin cells from the top layer. They are especially effective for skin that is showing visible signs of aging and sun damage, and for those who want to liven up their appearance with skin renewal and healthy glow.

At Windsor Dermatology, patients experience minimal discomfort and downtime associated with this procedure and quick results are clearly visible after only one treatment. They report smoother, healthier looking skin, with a more even skin tone and a reduction in fine lines and discolorations.

How Does a Glycolic (AHA) Peel Work?

The aging process and years of sun exposure slow the rate of cell replacement, leaving old, dead or damaged cells on the top layer of skin. These dead cells bond together and inhibit the generation of new healthy cells to replace them. This makes your skin look dull, uneven and older than it should.

Our aesthetician applies a 30-70% glycolic acid solution that loosens the bond that holds these dead skin cells together, revealing a new layer of skin that is fresher, smother and more youthful in appearance. Glycolic acid also helps to stimulate your body’s production of collagen and elastin—these also help to reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.

Made from naturally occurring acids found in fruits and other foods, alfa hydroxy acid (AHA) peels–or, at least, the main ingredients in them–have been popular for removing dead cells on the surface of the skin (thus smoothing and rejuvenating the skin) for a very long time. In fact, more than 2,000 years ago Egypt’s last pharaoh, Queen Cleopatra, is said to have regularly bathed in sour goat’s milk to improve her skin. She was on to something. The lactic acid from sour milk is one of the acids used in modern AHA peels. Other popular AHA peels used citric acid (from citrus fruit) and glycolic acid (from sugar cane).

You can buy AHA products in drugstores and department stores, but these products are not permitted to contain AHA concentrations of more than 10 percent–too low, really, to have much effect on the skin. Also, over-the-counter products usually have a high pH, or acidity, level, which further dampens their effectiveness.

Stronger concentrations of up to 30 percent can be used only by trained professionals, including aestheticians–preferably in a physician-supervised setting. And physicians alone are permitted to use drugs with the highest AHA concentrations–up to 70 percent.

How AHA Peels Work

AHA peels essentially work by exfoliating the skin. They loosen and remove the layer of dead cells (keratinocytes) on the skin’s surface (the stratum corneum), thus revealing the smoother, healthier-looking layer below.

Regular treatments can help with fine lines, brown marks and dry spots (solar keratoses). They also can help minimize acne scarring–and even help with the treatment of acne by stripping away the plugs where acne bumps can form.

AHA peels can be done not only on the face, but on the neck, chest, arms and hands. They’re often combined with microdermabrasion for even greater results.

What is a treatment like?

These "lunchtime peels" generally take 15 to 20 minutes. Your skin will be cleansed with acetone or isopropyl alcohol, and then the peel will be applied and removed. During the application of the peel you may experience a numbing and/or stinging sensation, but this effect is usually very mild. No anesthesia is needed.

For a day or two afterwards, your skin will appear slightly red and some flaking may occur–effects similar to those of a mild sunburn. But you can return to your usual daily activities immediately. You should use a sunblock for several days after treatment, for your skin will be more sensitive to the sun–and thus more susceptible than usual to sunburn.

Side Effects

Too-frequent use of alfa hydroxy acid peels can cause skin to become irritated and inflamed, particularly when the concentration of the acid is too high or left on the skin too long. And some people should not have AHA peels. These include people who are using the acne medication Accutane or who have active cold sores, as well as women who are pregnant.

For these reasons, it’s important to received AHA peels in a physician-supervised setting, where you’ll receive care from trained professionals who know what questions to ask and how to perform the treatment safely and effectively.

alfa Hydroxy Acid (AHA)

When considering using glycolic acid on your skin it’s essential to understand what alfa hydroxy acids are and how they work.

What are alfa hydroxy acids?

alfa hydroxy acids (or AHAs) essentially originate from milk and fruit sugars. The most common alfa hydroxyl acids are lactic acid and glycolic acid. These two acids in particular penetrate the skin very well and are often used in skin care products. As well, there is a good deal of scientific data on both acids, both on their effectiveness (how well they actually penetrate the skin to give the desired result) and their relevant side effects.

While you have likely heard of lactic acid and glycolic acid, there are three others: Malic acid, citric acid and tartaric acid.

How do alfa hydroxy acids work?

The main benefit of an alfa hydroxy acid is its ability to exfoliate the skin. They essentially remove the “glue” from the upper layer of skin that holds onto the old, dead skin cells. By effectively removing that top layer of skin, the alfa hydroxy acids serve to help new skin grow.

alfa hydroxy acids reduce the look of wrinkles, help to reduce the likelihood that winkles will develop, make skin smoother and (with months of daily use) can help skin that’s uneven and hyper pigmented become smoother and more even.

It’s also believed that in addition to helping new (younger looking and fresh) skin to grow, alfa hydroxy acids also stimulate the growth of elastin and collagen, both of which become depleted with age.

Though some people with very sensitive skin might have a hard time using alfa hydroxy acids with any regularity, most people can use them once they discover what the right concentration is for their particular skin. alfa hydroxy acids seem to work best for most people in a concentration of 5% to 7%, and that’s the concentration found in most products that contain the AHAs.


Though AHAs are safe to use on skin, there are some guidelines set forth by the Food and Drug Administration for its use. They include the stipulation that the product containing AHAs contain a concentration of 10% or less of the AHA.

When you use an alfa hydroxy acid product, you make your skin more vulnerable to damage from the sun. It’s recommended that if you use an AHA product, you also use a high-quality sunscreen to protect your skin from the sun. To that end, the FDA also recommends that products containing AHAs either contain sunscreen, or a warning telling users to use sunscreen while using the product.

What are the side effects?

There are two major side effects to using AHA products: sun sensitivity and irritation.

Though we have already discussed sun sensitivity, it’s important to reiterate that point. AHA products can increase your sensitivity to the sun by as much as 50%, so it’s essential that a good sunscreen is used.

Irritation is another possible side effect of alfa Hydroxy Acid use. Some of these symptoms might include redness, burning and itching. If the symptoms continue after you have used the product for some time and your skin has had a chance to adapt, try using a product that contains less of the AHA concentration.

Why choose a Glycolic Acid Peel, Orlando?

Glycolic Acid is a very popular skin peeling treatment. It is gentle and has little to no downtime compared to other stronger peels such as Jessner and TCA. The exfoliating effect of the AHAs promotes healthy skin regeneration and yields increased skin tissue hydration as a result of the new exfoliated skins' capacity to bind water. Glycolic Acid works against a number of typical skin ailments such as fine lines and wrinkles, irregular skin pigmentation and clogged pores (which can lead to acne breakouts). It has the ability to safely, yet effectively break down dead, mature layers of pore-clogging proteins and lipids to reveal a more youthful and healthier complexion. It also helps reduce and dislodge ingrown hairs.

How is this Procedure Conducted?

First, a skincare specialist will choose a glycolic acid peeling solution's potency or strength ranging from light (20%-30%) to medium (40%-500%) to deep (60%-70%). The peeling solution is gently applied then left on the skin for a few minutes depending on the desired results and your tolerance and reaction to the AHAs. You'll likely experience a slight tingling or itching for 2-3 minutes, but the process should not cause any pain or discomfort. A temporary stinging and itching effect has been noted upon initial contact as well as redness and minor skin sensitivity. Once the peel is neutralized the skin may appear a little bit red and shiny, but don't fret. This will fade within a couple of hours. STEPPIE MD® Antioxidant Sunscreen Spray SPF 25 is then applied. Not only chemical free, this UVA/UVB daily sun protection provides moisture while protecting your skin from the sun, which is very important after a chemical peel. You will need to follow the post-treatment instructions provided by your paramedical clinical esthetician to assure safety and best results.

After the Peel?

Mild flaking could last from 5-7 days on average and may take longer depending on the strength/potency used.

Sunburn Alert: This product contains alfa Hydroxy Acid (AHA) that may increase your skin's sensitivity to the sun and the possibility of sunburn. We recommend using STEPPIE MD® Antioxidant Sunscreen  Spray SPF 25, which provides broad-spectrum protection from both UVA and UVB rays with no chemical sun filters. It contains the FDA-approved physical blocker, Zinc Oxide to reflect light away from the skin. Apply 30 minutes before exposure and reapply often when exposed to the sun.

How often should I do a Glycolic Peel?

A Glycolic Peel is a progressive treatment that will not provide a final result with one peel. Our Orlando skincare specialists recommend you undergo a glycolic peel every 2-4 weeks initially, then once a month, depending on the condition of your skin, to maintain best results.