What Does AHA Do for the Skin?

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You may have noticed three large letters on the front of your favorite skincare product, or simply heard the buzz about them, and wondered what does AHA do? This smart question is important to ask not just of AHA but of any ingredient in skincare products you regularly use and apply on your skin. The good news is, you don’t have to know how the chemistry works before you can experience results. When you incorporate AHA into your skincare routine you’ll soon see the powerful aha skin benefits.

So, what does AHA do for the skin and what can you expect when you add it into your routine? We’ll answer these questions and help you find the best aha products to maximize its benefits. Keep reading.

What are AHAs?

AHA stands for Alpha Hydroxy Acid. In science-speak, AHAs are water-soluble (dissolvable in water) acids that act as a chemical exfoliant when used on the skin. Chemical exfoliants dissolve dead skin cells, unlike physical exfoliants such as abrasive beads or sponges that buff them away.

These acids are naturally occurring in nature. In fact, they come from a variety of natural foods you’d find in the produce section at your grocery store or out on a farm including grapes, citrus, sugar cane, apples, milk, and tomato juice.

Common AHAs Found in Skin Care

Glycolic acid and lactic acid are two of the most common AHAs found in skin care products, and for good reason; they deliver outstanding results (more on these later). Glycolic acid, which can come from fruit, sugar cane or can also be created in a lab, is a powerful AHA and a popular choice for skincare masks and facial peels. Lactic acid, which can come from milk, fruits or sugar cane, is a gentler AHA, which is why it is more commonly used in products that are intended for daily use.

A few other AHAs found in skin care products include citric acid, malic acid, mandelic acid, tartaric acid, hydroxycaproic acid, and hydroxycaproic acid. It is not uncommon to find more than one of these AHAs listed on an ingredient label. In fact, when combined, they are often even more effective. Every one of these acids ranges in size and pH, which is why there isn’t one right AHA for everyone. Those with more sensitive skin will be better off with AHAs such as lactic and mandelic acid, while others may be able to handle glycolic acid more regularly.

Why You Should Use AHAs

Are you prepared to be amazed? There are so many research-backed reasons to use AHA on your skin. These are some of the most convincing...

To Exfoliate Your Skin

We’ve discussed the importance of exfoliating and how often you should exfoliate, and we’ll continue saying it until we’re blue in the face. Ridding the skin of dead skin cells, which you do when you exfoliate, can keep pores from becoming clogged and causing blemishes.

If you’ve been traumatized by rough beaded cleansers or moisture-stripping masks in the past, we hear you and we’re here to tell you there’s a better way to exfoliate. Lactic acid, in particular, is an AHA that does a fabulous job of gently exfoliating the skin. It effectively breaks up dead cells and replaces moisture so much so that it can even be used daily as is intended with our Ready Steady Glow Daily AHA Tonic.

To Achieve a Radiant Complexion

As if that weren’t enough, if you’re wondering what else AHA does for the skin, the list is far from over. Since AHAs work to help remove dead skin cells on the surface of the skin, they can help you achieve a more radiant complexion. How? Well, those dead skin cells, not to mention dirt and other particles that build upon the skin, have a dull, lackluster appearance, but when they’re gone, a radiant, glowing complexion can shine through. This is why we like to call the best AHA products glow getters.

To Have a More Even Skin Tone and Texture

If you deal with regularly clogged pores, scars from long-gone blemishes, or rough patches, you probably experience an uneven skin tone or texture. AHAs can help with that too.

To Combat Dryness

Another powerful effect of AHAs on the skin is especially beneficial for those who experience regular or chronic dryness. This means that the use of AHAs such as glycolic acid can help increase the skin’s level of hydration. If you experience dry skin, this is reason enough to consider adding glycolic acid into your routine. Just take ten minutes out of one day each week to apply this Glycol Lactic Radiance Renewal mask. It will be the perfect addition to your dry skin care routine.

To Minimize the Appearance of Fine Lines and Wrinkles

If your skin is experiencing the signs of aging, including fine lines and wrinkles, you will be pleased to hear that AHAs have been shown to improve the overall texture and smoothness of aging skin when used consistently.

To Reduce Visible Sun Damage

Another reason we wish we could turn back time, sometimes, is to reduce the amount of visible damage we’ve let the sun do to our skin. The good news is that some of the side effects of sun damage include hyperpigmentation and wrinkles, both of which can be visibly reduced with the consistent use of AHA-containing products. However, it’s also important to note that AHAs can increase the skin’s sensitivity to UV light, so it’s always crucial to apply sun protection after using AHAs to protect against further sun damage.

How To Incorporate AHAs into Your Skin Care Routine

Thankfully, the benefits of AHAs aren’t a secret, so it’s easy to find skincare products that feature AHA ingredients such as glycolic acid and lactic acid. Of course, it’s important to consider your skin type before filling your cart with every AHA out there; remember, these acids are exfoliants, which means you can overuse them. Follow the directions on each product and go a day or two between uses if you experience irritation.


A simple way to incorporate AHA into your skincare routine is with a skin cleanser. Assuming you wash your face daily, a cleanser featuring AHAs won’t add another step to your routine, but it will enhance it. Our Micro Polish Cleanser contains Glycolic Acid from Pineapple to gently exfoliate the skin, leaving it brighter, smoother and looking fresh and radiant. Use it a few times a week in place of your regular cleanser to experience these benefits.


As we mentioned above, our Daily Tonic is a gentle way to incorporate AHA into your routine every day, and with our 100ml size Ready Steady Glow Daily AHA Tonic, you can take it with you anywhere. Because our skin can need a bit of freshness during the summer months, thanks to sweat and sunscreen, now is the perfect time to try out our Summer Limited Edition Daily AHA Tonic as well, which features a soothing and refreshing hint of cucumber. Simply swipe the product over your cheeks, forehead, and neck, and reveal a bright, healthy-looking glow.

Apply Serum

Your face shouldn’t have all the fun, and by fun, we mean the benefits of AHAs. Incorporate AHAs into your shower routine as well with our AHA Smart Renewal Body Serum. Apply it all over clean skin and give yourself a good massage until it’s absorbed and get ready to see a glow. With this product, you can ensure your skin all over is exfoliated, radiant, smoother, and more hydrated.

Skincare acids are the perfect addition to your skin care routine whether you have blemish-prone skin, oily skin, or an uneven skin texture. Incorporating AHAs into your skincare routine is simple, really, and it doesn’t require a complete overhaul of the products you’re already using either. With the simple swap of a cleanser here and there and the addition of a toner, you can maximize the incredible benefits of AHAs.


  2. Alpha Hydroxy Acids / FDA
  3. An Antiaging Skin Care System
  4. Applications of Hydroxy Acid

About the Author

Camille Poggi is a doctor in Pharmacy (PharmD.) and is passionate about skincare and how the skin works in general. She specializes in the cosmetic industry and worked for renowned companies in France like L’Oréal and Chanel before moving to London. After being a training manager for 4 years, Camille is at ease with explaining how products work in the skin and how to adapt her speech according to the audience.

She joined REN in January 2020 as International Training Manager and moved to the Research & Development team earlier this year to be the new Scientific Education Manager. A tailored-made role where she assesses and leads all technical communication and ensures scientific compliance is always met. She’s also involved in new product development from the earliest stages. Finding a way to create sustainable skincare products and making sure the message is properly delivered and understood is definitely a big challenge but also her favourite part working for REN.