Anti-wrinkle creams: alpha hydroxy acids. Part 2


Another way to look younger is to remove the superficial layers of the stratum corneum, this task can be solved through chemical treatment.

Alkaline solutions could be extremely effective for this purpose, but these substances are too dangerous for you and me, and their use in cosmetics is prohibited. Therefore, to remove the upper stratum corneum, most people use acids. Together with the top layer of the skin, all kinds of defects are removed from its surface for a while, including shallow wrinkles. Acid treatment is carried out under medical supervision, after which a thick crust of dead cells forms, this takes approximately one day to form, then the crust is washed off with water and soap, eventually a layer of young skin is exposed. Immediately after the procedure, the face has a reddish color, but after a day the redness disappears, and the feeling of freshness remains for the next few weeks.

Less effective acid treatment of the skin is possible at home. Many people are encouraged by the fact that the acids used in cosmetics are produced by certain plants and are also found in milk.

Milk is good for the skin

But do not rub it, but drink it.

This is one of the old teachings, but this couplet is only half true, since its second part contradicts one of the traditional methods of skin rejuvenation — washing with milk. Thrush women of yesteryear had a healthy complexion and were known for their beauty, and the Egyptian ruler Cleopatra (69-30 BC) regularly took donkey milk baths. Neither Cleopatra, nor those people who lubricate the skin with lemon juice, are not fools at all. Milk, lemons, and many other natural products contain alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs), which have a rejuvenating effect on the skin by removing its top layers. Most of the AHA is in sugar cane, which contains mainly glycolic acid, and in milk, which is high in lactic acid. In addition, grapes contain tartaric acid, lemons contain citric acid, apples contain malic acid, and bitter almonds contain mandelic acid.

In 1984, Pennsylvania dermatologist Johan Van Scott decided to use AHA on the skin of his twenty-seven-year-old patient, choosing glycolic acid as the acid of choice. He lubricated the woman’s skin twice a day for three months. The result was amazing. In further experiments to test the cosmetic properties of AHA, two-thirds of the women who took part claimed that they had significantly reduced wrinkles. Later, in 1986, Van Scott’s method was published in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, in that article it was said that after six months of acid treatment, the skin becomes thicker and more elastic.

In the early 1990s, other plant acids began to be used to treat wrinkles and were added to various creams. Some of those acids were actually of natural origin, such as mixtures of AHAs obtained from the fermentation of various fruits. So, the chardonnay grape variety during fermentation gives a cocktail of lactic, malic and grape alpha-hydroxy acids, plus pyruvic and acetic acids. During the fermentation of lemons, grapes, tomatoes and blueberries, the same acids are formed, but in different proportions. To create more exotic formulations, some manufacturers use pineapple or passionflower fruits, as well as plants growing in the Swiss Alps, hoping to evoke in consumers associations of their product with clean mountain air through advertising. Optima Chemicals released a product called SeaAcid (marine acid) that contained AHAs derived from the fermentation of seaweed. SeaAcid contains lactic acid and small amounts of malic and pyruvic acids, it also contains carbohydrates, which contribute to the creation of a pleasant cosmetic consistency.

Although plant acids can be obtained directly from plants, the chemical industry is a more successful source. And the point here is not only that at chemical plants the production of acids is possible in large volumes and at a lower cost, it is also important that synthetic acids are much purer, that is, they contain much less various kinds of impurities that could cause an allergic reaction in sensitive individuals. But regardless of the source and name of the remedy, its active ingredient is always an alpha hydroxy acid.

When it first became known about the possibilities of AGK, it caused a real boom in the cosmetics market. But although the use of these funds gave at first glance good results, at the initial stage it was rather risky. Creams then contained too large amounts of acids and, having fallen into the hands of inexperienced consumers, they could cause damage not only to the upper layers of the skin, but also to its deep layers. In 1989, the US Food and Drug Administration began to show interest in new cosmetics, as complaints began to come in from people who claimed that they experienced irritation, swelling around the eyes, localized fever, itchy skin, and even bleeding.

In 1997, the US National Institute of the Environment’s National Toxicology Program conducted studies on AHA, which established a 10% limit for the content of these substances in cosmetics, while the pH of the product was limited to 3.5. By today’s standards, creams sold to the general public should not contain more than 8% AHA, but even at this concentration they can be effective. Studies conducted by cosmetic companies have shown that people who apply a 4% glycolic acid solution twice a day for twelve weeks experience almost no redness of the skin.

Despite this, there was a wave of concern in the United States in the summer of 2002 due to the results of studies conducted by the US Food and Drug Administration, which showed that AHA-treated skin was more prone to sunburn.

In the UK, some consumers have reported that AHAs have caused damage to their skin. In 1995, victims’ applications and demands for monetary compensation were submitted to the Liverpool Court. The facts concerning this case were provided to the media. Two companies were involved in the scandal then: Clinique and Elizabeth Arden. Following complaints that some of these companies’ products cause eye irritation and impair vision, some of their products have been withdrawn from the market. Then it was possible to do without serious litigation, cosmetic companies made compensation payments to the victims voluntarily.

Anti-wrinkle creams: alpha hydroxy acids. Part 1

Source: based on the book by John Emsley «On the benefits and harms of the products we love to buy»

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