In your quest for younger-looking, smoother skin, you’ve probably encountered alphahydroxy acids or AHAs, a group of acids that are typically derived from natural sources like apples, citrus or sugar cane, that are known to help speed up skin exfoliation
But until now, many scientists weren’t quite sure how they worked—as in, what about AHAs actually causes the skin to flake off and expose fresh skin? That’s why a group of scientists from the University of California, Davis and China’s Peking University set out to discover the mechanism. The results were published in the Journal of Biological Chemistry.
During the study, the researchers tested electrical currents across cultured skin cells that were exposed to AHAs. They found that glycolic acid creates acidic conditions within skin cells by activating the TRPV3 ion channel (a protein), opening it and allowing calcium ions to enter the cell, leading to the death of the cell from calcium overload (hence the skin exfoliation and cell turnover).
All of this is good news for us because it means that AHAs could be used even more effectively in skin care products and lead to better anti-aging technology.
“Our experiments are the first to show that the TRPV3 ion channel is likely to be the target of the most effective skin enhancer in the cosmetics industry,” said Jie Zheng, a principle investigator of the study and professor of physiology and membrane biology at UC Davis. “Although AHAs have been used for years, no one until now understood their likely mechanism of action.”
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