Alpha hydroxy acids are a group of natural acids found in foods. Alpha hydroxy acids include citric acid (found in citrus fruits), glycolic acid (found in sugar cane), lactic acid (found in sour milk and tomato juice), malic acid (found in apples), tartaric acid (found in grapes), and others.
Alpha hydroxy acids are most commonly used for skin conditions such as dry skin, aging skin, or acne.
Not all cosmetics that contain alpha hydroxy acid have the concentration information on the label. For safety's sake, it's best to use products that identify the concentration of active ingredients.
Alpha hydroxy acids seem to work by removing the top layers of dead skin cells. They can also increase the thickness of deeper layers of skin, promoting firmness.
When taken by mouth: The alpha hydroxy acid called malic acid is POSSIBLY SAFE when used short-term. Some people can have side effects including diarrhea, nausea, and general stomach discomfort.
When applied to the skin: Alpha hydroxy acids at a concentration of 10% or less as a lotion or cream are LIKELY SAFE for most people when applied to the skin appropriately and as directed. In some people, alpha hydroxy acids can make the skin extra sensitive to sunlight. Be sure to use a sunscreen while using alpha hydroxy acid products. Alpha hydroxy acids can also cause mild skin irritation, redness, swelling, itching, and skin discoloration.
Facial peels, lotions, and creams with a concentration greater than 10% should only be used under the supervision of a dermatologist. Facial peels can cause moderate to severe skin irritation, redness, and burning. Facial peels left on the skin for periods longer than recommended can cause severe burns to the skin.
When taken by mouth, the alpha hydroxy acid called malic acid is POSSIBLY SAFE when used short-term. Some people can have side effects including diarrhea, nausea, and general stomach discomfort.
Special Precautions & Warnings:Pregnancy and breast-feeding: Alpha hydroxy acid creams at a concentration of 10% or less are LIKELY SAFE when applied to the skin during pregnancy and breast-feeding. There isn't enough reliable information to know if alpha hydroxy acid is safe to take by mouth when pregnant or breast-feeding. Stay on the safe side and avoid use.
Sensitive skin: Alpha hydroxy acids can worsen skin conditions by causing skin irritation and removal of the top layer of skin cells.
There are no known interactions with medications. Before taking this product, talk with your health professional if you take any medications.
There are no known interactions with herbs and supplements.
There are no known interactions with foods.
The following doses have been studied in scientific research:
- For fibromyalgia: Specific tablets containing 1200 mg malic acid plus 300 mg of magnesium hydroxide (Super Malic tablets) have been taken twice daily for 6 months.
- For dry mouth: A mouth spray containing 1% malic acid, a specific alpha hydroxy acid, has been used as needed.
- For aging skin: Creams, solutions, or lotions, containing the alpha hydroxy acids lactic acid, citric acid, mandelic acid, or glycolic acid in concentrations up to 25% are used, usually twice daily. Peels containing 70% glycolic acid or 85% lactic acid have also been used, usually every 2-4 weeks.
- For dry skin: A cream containing alpha hydroxy acids or a lotion containing 12% lactic acid, a specific alpha hydroxy acid, have been applied twice daily.
- For acne: Solutions or creams containing 14% gluconolactone or 10% glycolic acid have been used. Creams containing alpha hydroxy acids, such as glycolic acid, malic acid, or citric acid, have been used in combination with other ingredients. A peel containing 40% glycolic acid has been used in 2 week intervals.
- For acne scars: Glycolic acid (GA) facial peels are used. Peels containing 20% to 70% glycolic acid have been applied every two or six weeks. Peels are applied for up to 4-5 minutes. Completing the series at least 5-6 times is usually needed before skin looks better. Sometimes a 35% or 70% glycolic acid cream is used along with a treatment called microneedling.
- For dark skin patches on the face (melasma): A 10% lotion of the glycolic acid (GA) is applied with a sunscreen to facial skin nightly for 2 weeks. Then a peeling program is done monthly for 3 months in a row. The peeling program features a 50% GA peel applied three times to the face and left on for a period of 2-5 minutes each time (first peel 2 minutes, second peel 4 minutes, and third peel 5 minutes). A peel containing 30% glycolic acid has been used every week in combination with laser treatment.
APPLIED TO THE SKIN:
- For acne: Solutions or creams containing 14% gluconolactone or 10% glycolic acid have been used. Creams containing alpha hydroxy acids, such as glycolic acid and malic acid, have been used in combination with other ingredients.
Acide 2-hydroxypropionique (Acide Lactique), Acide Alpha-Hydroxyéthanoïque, Acide Citrique, Acide de Pomme, Acide Dihydroxysuccinique (Acide Tartrique), Acide Glycolique, Acide Hydroxyacétique (Acide Glycolique), Acide Hydroxycaprylique, Acide Hydroxypropionique, Acide Hydroxysuccinique, Acide Lactique, Acide Malique, Acides Alpha-Hydroxylés, Acidos Alfa-Hydroxi, AHA, Alpha Hydroxy Acides, Alpha-Hydroxyethanoic Acid, Apple Acid, Citric Acid, Dihydroxysuccinic Acid (Tartaric Acid), Gluconolactone, Glycolic Acid, Hydroxyacetic Acid (Glycolic Acid), Hydroxycaprylic Acid, Hydroxypropionic Acid, Hydroxysuccinic Acid, Lactic Acid, Malic Acid, Mandelic Acid, Mixed Fruit Acid, Monohydroxysuccinic Acid (Malic Acid), 2-hydroxypropionic acid (Lactic Acid).
Natural Medicines disclaims any responsibility related to medical consequences of using any medical product. Effort is made to ensure that the information contained in this monograph is accurate at the time it was published. Consumers and medical professionals who consult this monograph are cautioned that any medical or product related decision is the sole responsibility of the consumer and/or the health care professional. A legal License Agreement sets limitations on downloading, storing, or printing content from this Database. Except for any possible exceptions written into your License Agreement, no reproduction of this monograph or any content from this Database is permitted without written permission from the publisher. Unlawful to download, store, or distribute content from this site.
For the latest comprehensive data on this and every other natural medicine, health professionals should consult the Professional Version of the Natural Medicines. It is fully referenced and updated daily.
© Copyright 1995-2021. Therapeutic Research Faculty, publishers of Natural Medicines, Prescriber's Letter, and Pharmacist's Letter. All rights reserved.