Which AHA Exfoliant is Right for Me?
Paula’s Choice Skincare is known worldwide for our extensive selection of gentle, leave-on exfoliants, many of which contain AHAs (alpha hydroxy acids). The most thoroughly researched AHAs, glycolic acid and lactic acids, are an important part of a best-in-class skincare routine—particularly for normal to very dry, sun-damaged skin.
To be clear, AHAs do have benefits for all skin types, and share certain properties with BHA (beta hydroxy acid): They both diminish the look of lines and wrinkles, make skin look and feel firmer, improve the look of dull, uneven skin tone, and smooth out rough texture. But AHAs’ standout features are their ability to enhance skin’s natural moisturizing factors, and their stellar results in reducing the visible signs of sun damage.
Choosing the AHA exfoliant best for your skin depends on your skin type, skin concerns, and your preferences regarding product texture and strength.
Why Using an AHA Exfoliant Is So Important
As we age, and because our skin is subject to unprotected sun exposure, skin’s surface gradually stops shedding as quickly and evenly as it did when we were younger. This leads to a constant buildup of dry-looking, dull, rough, uneven skin. A leave-on AHA exfoliant helps skin slough that buildup—the result is unbelievably smoother, younger, hydrated, radiant, even-looking skin.
The Science Behind Our AHA Products
At Paula’s Choice Skincare, we formulate every product based on published, peer-reviewed scientific research. In the case of AHA exfoliants, look for effective concentrations ranging from 5% to 10%, and pH levels between 3 and 4, which are the optimal ranges for gentle exfoliation and visible results, often as quickly as overnight.
The Differences Between Our AHA Products
Paula’s Choice Skincare offers several AHA exfoliants: two essential facial exfoliation options; two with extra-benefit formulas as part of our RESIST line; and a wonderful AHA body exfoliant. Although all deliver beautiful results, each has its own distinctive qualities, and it’s perfectly OK to use more than one, alternating between products based on your skin’s needs and what works best for you.
Paula’s Choice Skincare AHA Facial Exfoliants:
SKIN PERFECTING 8% AHA Gel: Our original AHA exfoliant, this sheer, lightweight gel is suitable for all skin types, especially oily to combination skin. It contains an 8% concentration of glycolic acid plus soothing chamomile, green tea, and panthenol. Replenishing ingredients such as sodium PCA and hyaluronic acid supply potent, yet weightless, hydration.
SKIN PERFECTING 8% AHA Lotion: This skin-softening exfoliant, in a lightly emollient, moisturizing lotion, is best for normal to dry or very dry skin. Just like our 8% AHA Gel, the 8% AHA Lotion contains glycolic acid plus soothing, plant-derived ingredients like lipids and triglycerides that dry skin needs to visibly improve.
Paula’s Choice Skincare RESIST exfoliants, with extra anti-aging benefits, include:
RESIST Daily Smoothing Treatment 5% AHA: Part of our most targeted anti-aging line, this exfoliant contains skin-replenishing ingredients for normal to dry skin. It’s a silky, nearly weightless lotion containing 5% glycolic acid plus an advanced mix of antioxidants, peptides, ceramides, and other restoring ingredients. This is the daily-use AHA to choose if your primary concerns are wrinkles, uneven skin tone, and visible loss of firmness.
RESIST Weekly Resurfacing Treatment 10% AHA: This liquid exfoliant contains 10% glycolic acid in a unique delivery system loaded with plant-derived soothing agents, brighteners, and advanced hydrating ingredients. A remarkable exfoliant for all skin types, it’s ideal for those struggling with advanced signs of aging, including deep wrinkles and more pronounced skin tone and texture issues. You can alternate its use with any of our other AHA exfoliants as often as needed (but, for best results, use at least once per week).
Note: RESIST Daily Smoothing Treatment and Weekly Resurfacing Treatment are sold separately and also as part of our specially priced RESIST Skin Resurfacing and Smoothing Set.
When to apply: All of our AHA exfoliants should be applied after cleansing and toning. Follow with your other skincare products, applying them in order from the lightest texture to the heaviest texture.
RESIST Advanced Smoothing Treatment 10% AHA: A combination of four different alpha hydroxy acids, this lightweight, silky liquid can be used up to twice a day for immediately smoother, brighter skin. It also features BHA (salicylic acid) to help clear and visibly minimize the appearance of pores.
Paula’s Choice Skincare AHA Body Exfoliant:
RESIST Skin Revealing Body Lotion 10% AHA: This creamy-smooth lotion with 10% glycolic acid is for all skin types. It glides over skin, immediately going to work to visibly improve multiple signs of aging from the neck down. Regular use improves the appearance of crepe-like skin, revives a firm feel, and leaves a lasting, radiant softness.
Apply the Skin Revealing Body Lotion 10% AHA to cleansed skin, and, if needed, follow with a regular body lotion on very dry areas.
ALWAYS, ALWAYS: Protect exposed skin with a broad-spectrum sunscreen rated SPF 30 or greater. This is critical to the success of any AHA exfoliant, not to mention your skin’s overall health.
Still unsure which AHA product is right for you? Contact us via phone, email, or live chat so we can provide you with more personalized assistance.
References for this information:
Journal of Dermatological Science, June 2017, pages 238–248
Journal of Clinical and Aesthetic Dermatology, October 2015, pages 21–26 Clinical, Cosmetic, and Investigational Dermatology, December 2014, pages 9-17 and November 2010, pages 135–142
Jundishapur Journal of Natural Pharmaceutical Products, January 2012, pages 9–10
The Journal of Dermatology, January 2006, pages 16–22
Food and Chemical Toxicology, November 1999, pages 1,105–1,111
Do you want to see more articles like this?
Get exclusive beauty advice delivered twice a month. Unsubscribe at any time.
About the Experts
Paula Begoun is the best-selling author of 20 books about skincare and makeup. She is known worldwide as The Cosmetics Cop and creator of Paula’s Choice Skincare. Paula’s expertise has led to hundreds of appearances on national and international radio, print, and television including:
The Paula's Choice Research Team is dedicated to busting beauty myths and providing expert advice that solves your skincare frustrations so you can have the best skin of your life!