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Complete guide to alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs) to use in the fall + retinol

Rosie Huntington-Whiteley attributes the merit of having freed her from the skin rashes that beset herActive Serum from iS Clinical as stated to harpersbazaar.com. It is a preparation with salicylic acid belonging to the family of alpha-hydroxy-acids (also called AHA acronym for Alpha Hydroxy Acids), protagonists together with the retinol of many peeling-effect preparations that crowd the shelves of perfumeries and pharmacies at this time of the year. «Contrary to what we are led to think, these categories of ingredients are not comparable. They effectively give a radiant complexion, promoting a gradual and progressive exfoliation, but they act in a decidedly different way “, he warns Corinna Rigoni, dermatologist and president of Donne Dermatologhe Italia. «These are safe and tested agents, but if used in a” clumsy “way they can affect the balance and well-being of the skin». Let’s find out, therefore, in what they differ, how they act and what are the precautions to follow to obtain the maximum benefit and avoid unpleasant surprises.

Different activities

The main difference between these two categories of cosmetic agents lies in their respective modes of action.

Alpha hydroxy acids are a group of substances of plant and animal origin. The most used in cosmetics derive from nature and are, for example, glycolic acid (made from sugar cane, beetroot, grapes), salicylic acid (obtained from the willow), thelactic acid (derived from the fermentation of special bacteria on sugar cane or beet) and themalic acid (obtained from apples). “They perform an essentially exfoliating action, because they dissolve the bonds of the devitalized superficial skin cells responsible for thickening and opacity, once broken down and dissolved they open the way to the formation of a new generation of fresh and vital skin cells, revealing a luminous complexion”, explains the expert. Due to the removal of thickening, they attenuate superficial lines and newly formed wrinkles, but do not act on the deep ones.

The retinol is a derived molecule of vitamin A, a precious element for well-being that acts as a sort of messenger that activates cell regeneration. It belongs to the group of retinoids and it has been calculated that there are 1,500 natural and synthetic forms. «Compared to AHAs it goes deeper: it always exfoliates but manages to neutralize the activity of free radicals, which favor the aging process, and gives a boost to the production of collagen and elastin. It thus creates a “plumping” effect, improves texture and tone of the skin tissue, makes fine lines and wrinkles less evident, reduces discoloration, narrows dilated pores and is also used to treat acne »stresses Corinna Rigoni.

Proper use

Burns, redness, itching, irritation, discoloration. These are the main inconveniences related to the incorrect use of cosmetics containing these substances. The first caution concerns the application. «These substances can make the skin more sensitive to UV rays, giving rise to the formation of spots. For this reason it is recommended to apply in the evening and above all it is good to start the treatments starting from autumn. Why exactly this season? “The explanation is simple: during the colder months there is less light, and the solar radiation is less intense than in summer. In any case, in the morning the skin must always be cleansed very carefully and the use of a treatment with a protection factor with a Spf of not less than 30 should not be neglected », warns Rigoni. «When it comes to cosmetics that favor exfoliation, do-it-yourself is always not recommended. Indicatively, it is always advisable to start with low concentrations and on alternate days. Subsequently, as the skin gets used to it, it is possible to move on to daily use. In case of problematic, sensitive, reactive or fragile skin, for example, or simply in case of doubts, the advice of the dermatologist is essential to build a tailor-made and safe cosmetic routine “.


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