Monday, 29 October 2007

Alpha Hydroxy Acids and Salicylic Acid

No, don't run away! This is not a chemistry lesson. I'm going to talk a little about these acids as they are the key to fantastic skin and the good news is they are readily available! Lets start with Alpha Hydroxy Acids commonly referred to as AHAs which I'm sure many of you have used and didn't know about.

It is basically a class of chemical compounds that is used widely in the cosmetics industry in things such as facial peels. The different types include glycolic acid found in sugar cane and considered to be the most effective of the AHAs, lactic acid which is found in SOUR milk and is the reason why yoghurt and sour cream is commonly used in home facial recipes, citric acid from citrus fruits like lemons and oranges, malic acid from apples and tartaric acid from grapes.

Now salicylic acid is a form of beta hydroxy acids (BHA) which are closely related to AHAs. They are commonly used in anti-aging creams and have been medically proven to unclog pores (blackheads, whiteheads), exfoliate dead skin cells and generally provide you with smoother, softer skin!

I'm not going to bore you with the science behind the two acids. I'm here to tell you where to find them. You already know how to find AHAs and regular fruit facial masks will keep your skin in tip top shape although they are generally considered the least effective of the AHAs. Best to mix them with yoghurt or sour cream (lactic acid) and powdered unrefined cane sugar (glycolic acid). Salicylic acid is available at chemists and pharmacies. If not, you can find them in aspirin. Yes, aspirin and if you google aspirin face mask you are bound to find loads of recipes for it as well as many people raving about how soft their skin feels after just one application.

Here's the fantastic thing though. I have found a facial exfoliating cleanser containing AHAs and BHAs and I'm going to share it with you. I guarantee you will be amazed at how soft and smooth your skin will feel!

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This is Murad's AHA/BHA exfoliating cleanser and it is selling for about 70AUD. It contains salicylic, glycolic and lactic acids. Jojoba beads for exfoliation and Sodium PCA which naturally occurs in human sebum.

I have taken a look at the ingredients and the only thing I can't work out is why Sodium Hydroxide (NaOH)/Caustic Soda/Lye is included. Lye is an alkali used to make soap, however you will never see lye on the ingredients list for soap. The reason for this is that although lye is used to make soap, it is not present in the soap anymore when it reaches the consumer for use.

Lye is extremely caustic and can cause serious burns and blindness if it gets in your eyes. Extreme care must be taken when lye is handled. Therefore, I see no purpose for it to be in this cleanser. Something you would use on the delicate skin of your face.

I have written to Murad and expect to hear from them in about 3 or 4 days. So I'll get back to you on that.

Meanwhile, do try the aspirin mask. It is quick and easy, most importantly cheap and will provide you with the results you crave.

Crush a couple of tablets of aspirin (if you can find non-coated aspirin, they dissolve on their own when sprinkled with water) into a powder and sprinkle water on it to achieve a paste like consistency. Try mixing it with a little yoghurt or sour cream as well as water. If you can find unrefined cane sugar, grind it to a powder and you can use it too for a mild exfoliation. However it exfoliates just fine without the cane sugar. Concentrate on the T-zone and areas prone to blackheads.

Please consult a professional before using it on sensitive skin or do a patch test on the inside of your elbow. If redness occurs or you experience a burning or tingling sensation, DO NOT use it. You don't want to burn tour precious skin. Trust me. The cleanser can be drying and it is best to use it once every three days for oily skin, once a week for normal skin, once a fortnight for dry, mature and sensitive skin. Eczema (i.e. me) and Rosacea sufferers are strongly encouraged to speak to a dermatologist before attempting this mask.

Always, always moisturise after this mask. And please, as always be careful what you do to your skin. Never scrub too hard, never vigorously wash, never pull at your skin. Drink 2 litres of water a day and WEAR sunscreen! I don't know if this will get through to anyone but do not ever tan. Not in natural sunlight and definitely NOT in tanning salons/solariums. Please, for the love of god. Skin cancer kills so many young people nowadays. If that's not enough, your skin will age dramatically leading to pigmentation, wrinkles and leathery skin (YUCK).

Sunscreen should be SPF 30 at least! If you MUST tan and I know you still will. Oh, I beg you don't use SPF 0 tanning oil! SPF 8 is better than nothing and won't affect your tan. I will include a tropical scented coconut tanning oil recipe you can make at home in my next post which I hope you will consider trying! It contains all natural ingredients.

More on tanning and its side effects along with a couple of fun recipes next. Stay tuned!

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