Join Our Mailing List

A-ha, that’s the difference…

Published: Thu November 14, 2013
Categories: The Myth Minx

We all want a vibrant and glowing skin and having a good skincare regime is a major step towards it. The key to smooth, glowing, clear skin includes having a healthy diet, daily cleansing and hydrating of the skin and of course regular gentle exfoliation. Exfoliation products come in many forms but the most popular and the most questioned are the use of hydroxy acids in skin care. With so many different types out there it is hard to know which is best for the skin.

Is it a myth that glycolic is better than lactic? The answer depends on many factors but the most important thing to know is that different skin types suit different types of hydroxy acids so what might be good for one person may not be so good for another. AHA’s or Alpha Hydroxy Acids have long been used as a skin rejuvenating product, even Cleopatra reportedly knew the benefits to her complexion of bathing in sour milk (Lactic Acid).


Hydroxy acids are generally used to improve skin conditions including photo-damaged, pigmented, aged, dry and breakout prone.   The AHA’s primary use is as an exfoliant, allowing dead skin cells to slide off the epidermis and making room for new skin regrowth.  Lifestyle factors such as poor diet, ageing, sun damage, lack of regular exfoliation can lead to an accumulation of dead skin cells leading to a dull devitalised and sometime congested skin. Regular use of hydroxyl acids can alleviate this problem and some studies on hydroxyl acids even support they may assist with production of collagen and elastin.   Naturally derived, AHA’s are found in plant matter and the human body but they can also be made synthetically in a laboratory.  The most commonly used AHAs in high quality skincare are Glycolic Acid and Lactic Acid because they both have special qualities allowing them to penetrate the skin due to their small molecular structure. Both also have the ability to exfoliate, hydrate and normalise the skin.  

Glycolic Acid (traditionally derived from sugar cane) has a smaller molecular structure than lactic, allowing it to penetrate the skin more readily. It is more commonly used to treat thicker, oily, scarred or wrinkling skin due to its superior ability to penetrate the skin.  Glycolic acid may also stimulate collagen production, which can help the skin appear hydrated and firmer. Glycolic Acid can often be considered too harsh for sensitive skins as it can cause redness and mild flaking of the skin when first used. This is due to the small molecular structure of the acid and as the skin becomes more tolerant and healthy this subsides.   For those with sensitive and very dry skins - That’s where Lactic Acid comes in…



Lactic Acid (traditionally derived from milk but most commonly produced synthetically in a laboratory for hygiene purposes) has the larger molecular structure of the two, making it perfect for more sensitive skins as it does not penetrate as deeply or quickly as Glycolic.  Lactic also has additional benefits, namely superior skin hydration, an ability to increase natural ceramides (improving the skin’s barrier function) and reduced irritation. Common misconception claims that regular use of AHAs can thin the skin. Considering the increases of hydration, collagen and elastin that both Glycolic and Lactic Acids create, such beliefs are far from the truth. AHA’s in fact can thicken and plump out an aged, dehydrated and environmentally affected skin. Care must be taken not to over use Alpha Hydroxy Acids. Aggressive exfoliation could possibly cause an impaired barrier function leading to skin irritation and superficial dehydration.   If you are not sure what products or which hydroxyl acids would be the best for treating your skin, a visit to a professional skincare therapist can determine your exact skincare needs. So there we have it, correctly used, high quality skincare with AHA’s are a must for every Cleopatra out there….

Experts in skin

Locate your nearest stockist

5 a-day

Follow us

Skinstitut - Experts in skin Skinstitut - Experts in skin Skinstitut - Experts in skin