Treating Wrinkles With Beta Hydroxy Acid

The uses of hydroxy acids have been steadily increasing in popularity with more and more research regarding what causes wrinkles and the effects of photoaging.

There are two types of hydroxy acids – alpha and beta. Alpha hydroxy acids are exfoliants derived from lactic acid prouced from milk, and sugar cane. As for beta hydroxy acid, there is only one kind – salicylic acid.

How Beta Hydroxy Acid Works

Like alpha hydroxy acid, beta hydroxy acid works mainly as an exfoliant. It makes the cells of the epidermis to unglue so that the dead skin cells can slough off. With the dead skin cells gone, the new skin can regrow.

Beta hydroxy acid is said to improve wrinkling, skin roughness and mottled pigmentation of photodamaged skin. It is reported that beta hydroxy acid can improve on these skin defects after at least 6 months of faily application. Beta hydroxy acid in skin-care products works best in a 1-2% concentration and at a pH level of 3-4.

Beta hydroxy acid and sun sensitivity

It is a bit odd how beta hydroxy and sun sensitivity go about. Beta hydroxy acid repairs or reverses some of the damage caused by photoaging, yet it increases the skin’s sensitivity to the sun by as much as 50%, making it more susceptible to photoaging. Thus, if you’re using beta hydroxy acid, you must also us a good sunscreen that has both UVA and UVB protection, and SPF 15 or higher.

Difference between alpha and beta hydroxy acid

The main difference between alpha and beta hydroxy acid is their lipid (oil) solubility. Alpha hydroxy acids are soluble only in water. Beta hydroxy acids on the other hand are lipid (oil) soluble. Being lipid soluble means beta hydroxy acid is able to penetrate into the pore which contains sebum and exfoliate the dead skin cells that are built up inside the pore.

Because of the difference in properties,, beta hydroxy is better suited for oily skin with blackheads and/or whiteheads. Alpha hydroxy acids are better used on thickened and/or sun-damaged skin. Thickened skin are not prone to tom breakouts.

Beta hydroxy acid and irritation

it has been found that beta hydroxy acid is less irritating to the skin than alpha hydroxy acid even though it goes deeper into the pore. This is because salicylic acid is derived from acetylsalicylic acid – aspirin. Aspirin is well-known for its anti-inflammatory properties, and salicylic acid retains most of these anti-inflammatory properties.

However, even with these properties, beta hydroxy acid can still cause skin irritation. Symptoms of skin irritations include, redness, burning, itching pain and sometimes even scarring. People with darker skin color are more prone to scarring pigment changes with beta hydroxy acid.

How to use beta hydroxy acid?

Because of its anti-aging properties, beta hydroxy acid has become a staple ingredient of skin care products such as moisturizers, cleansers, eye cream, sunscreen, and foundations. Thus, there is a risk of irritation because of some mistake in the formulation. Here are some guidelines for beta hydroxy acid use:

Choose only one product that contains the right formulation to use as your exfoliant. As for your other skin care products, it is best that you use those that don’t contain any more hydroxy acids to lesses the risks of skin irritation.

Beta hydroxy acid in a moisturizer base may be the best combination. Beta hydroxy as cleansers may not be the most effective combination.

Beta hydroxy has to be absorbed by the skin, and cleansers are washed off before this can happen. Cosmetic manufacturers are not required to put pH information on their product, thus there’s no way to tell if the pH level of your cosmetic is right. The only way to know for sure is to test is with a pH strip.

Beta hydroxy acid is effective at lower concentrations, unlike alpha hydroxy acids that must b e listed in the top 3 ingredients to indicate the appropriate concentration.


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