The Science of AHA Exfoliation

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Exfoliation is high on our list of beauty secrets. Our readers are always surprised to see what a difference a little exfoliation can make to their skin. Not only does it even out the skin’s texture but also it fights signs of aging, prevents breakouts, minimizes dark spots and even has slimming effects on the body.

Alphahydroxy acids (AHAs) are a group of acids, naturally derived from sources such as fruit, that are known to speed up skin exfoliation. They’ve been known to do wonders for the skin but until recently, how AHAs worked their magic, wasn’t exactly clear. Researchers from UC Davis and Peking University discovered the process by which AHAs actually work to improve skin: Glycolic acid (the smallest AHA) enters into keratinocytes (dominant cells in the outer most layer of skin) and generates free protons, creating acidic conditions.

The low pH causes the TRPV3 ion channel (a protein found in keratinocytes), to open, allowing calcium ions to flow into the cell. More protons continue to enter through the open channel, allowing the process to feed on itself. The calcium overload leads to the cell’s death and finally exfoliation, resulting in fresh, rejuvenated skin.

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