At last there are scientific insights into why weak natural fruit acids cause skin cells to shed and new healthy cells to take their place and so enhance the appearance and texture of skin. Apparently the acids are able to pass through the cell membranes and actually make the inside of the cell acidic which leads to call death and skin exfoliation.  Sounds logical, but this is the first insight into another marvellous natural process.

Meanwhile from our dermatologist friends there is even more news about the bad effects of sun exposure and good news about applying a daily moisturiser to make the complexion look brighter and younger. We all know how nice a good moisturiser feels and Dr Susan Taylor, founding director of Skin of Color Centre, New York says that even though we feel immediate effects of moisturisers they can take six weeks to three months to have a full effect.

Dr Taylor also says avoid using too many products at once and of course if a product burns or stings it’s probably best to change or back off on the concentration.  Also “less can be more” with too much of a product causing clogged pores or a blotchy complexion.

Coming back to our fruit acids for melasma treatment.  The name given to this collection of weak natural acids is actually alpha (or beta) hydroxyacids is AHAs or BHAs.  You will often see AHAs written in the ingredients list of commercial products.

For melasma treatment you will need a concentration of at least 10% which is much higher than the concentration found in many commercial preparations.  If the concentration is not specified than look for it in the second or third position on the ingredients list because ingredients are listed in order of concentration. 

These weak natural acids are actually more than “fruit acids”, they can also be derived from milk.

The most common AHAs are: 

  • lactic acid – from milk
  • glycolic acid – from sugar cane
  • tartaric acid – from grapes
  • malic acid – from apples and pears
  • citric acid – from oranges and lemons

Lactic acid and glycolic acid generally penetrate the skin better than the other weak acids and are a better choice for melasma treatment.

There aren’t a lot of BHAs used in skin care products.  The most widely known is  salicylic acid.  There is some suggestion that BHAs might be less irritating to the skin than AHAs.  A much lower concentration of BHA is used ie only a few percent.  The problem with BHAs is they make the skin super sensitive to sun which can undermine your melasma treatment if you are not careful.

No matter what your melasma treatment regimen always use plenty of broad spectrum 30+ sunscreen, even on cloudy days.  Obviously be even more vigilant if you are using these weak natural acids to treat your melasma. The added benefit of these weak acids is that they are believed to reduce the appearance of wrinkles, of course blotchy pigmentation, skin roughness and may even be working at a deeper level by stimulating the production of the skin support systems elastin and collagen.  In short they are great anti-aging ingredients.

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