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New Age Attitude Toward AHAs

By: Christine Heathman
Posted: July 22, 2008, from the March 2007 issue of Skin Inc. magazine.

page 4 of 7

Glycolic acid loosens or dissolves glue-like substances holding the outer layer of cells together to the underlying epidermis. These thick, piled-up, clinging cells are responsible for the appearance of dry, rough, scaly skin and brown spots caused by age and sun damage. When the “glue” is loosened, the thick, microdamaged SC is sloughed away, and the newly exposed skin is healthier, exhibits a smoother texture with refined pores and retains an elevated level of moisture content.

Unfortunately, glycolic acid has received bad press in past years, and the negative press is likely a result of a lack of information and ignorance that can be associated with the “sky is falling” way of thinking. The facts conclude that when individuals use these ingredients for a long period of time, they anecdotally have reported an increase in sensitivity to UV light. Many studies have been performed to assess whether topical glycolic acid can enhance photodamage, and it recently has been found that glycolic acid does make the skin more sensitive to UV light, with lowered minimal erythema dose and enhanced formation of sunburn cells. It is for this reason application of an inorganic sunscreen is imperative during daylight hours, as it would be in any sensible skin care protocol, regardless of the ingredient used.

If this condition occurs with a client, suspend the use of AHAs for 10 days. If the client has sustained any UV-induced irritation, this condition will be reversed within seven days after discontinuing use. Reintroduce AHAs slowly, restrict sun exposure, and ensure the use of antioxidant and anti-aging peptide complexes and a meticulous sun protection program.

In addition to the aforementioned, guide clients’ use of AHAs with the natural circadian rhythm of the skin, and have them apply this constituent at night only.

A medical spin on this amazing ingredient substantiates that glycolic acid has been shown to be protective against UV-induced skin cancer, reduction of skin tumor incidence, a 55% reduction of tumor multiplicity and a 47% decrease in the number of cancers larger than 2 mm. This inhibitory action is accompanied by a decreased expression of some UV-induced proteins that regulate the cell cycle such as proliferating cell nuclear antigen, cyclin D1, cyclin E, and cyclin dependent kinase 2 and 4.1 These results medically suggest glycolic acid may play an important inhibitory role on UV-induced tumorigenesis.