Are AHAs really unsafe for sensitive skin and dark skin tones?

AHAs (or Alpha Hydroxy Acids) are an amazing set of ingredients. They can exfoliate, brighten and plump the skin almost instantaneously (it’s why K-Beauty brand Some By Mi named its AHA/BHA/PHA line the “Miracle” range). AHAs work on the surface layer of your skin to reveal new skin and speed up the cell renewal process (while BHAs work deeper into your pores). Most people are suitable candidates for AHAs, however there is much written up about how AHAs are unsafe for sensitive skin and darker skin tones. 

But is this true? 

Not necessarily. It can depend on the type of AHA and how often you use it. One of the most popular AHAs, glycolic acid, is still suitable for dark skin according to the founder of the Black Skin Directory Dija Ayodele – but darker skin tones must ensure they don’t overuse these treatments and take care to utilize them correctly. Start with a low %. Always patch test and listen to your skin. Unusual breakouts, burning sensations (as opposed to a slight tingle) and excess redness (a little temporary pinkness is to be expected) is your skin’s way of telling you it’s not down with it! 

For those wanting an even safer option, try mandelic acid. It’s an AHA that’s still effective, but made of larger molecules than its peers. This means it doesn’t penetrate the skin as deeply, and is a great entry point for those looking to get into AHAs. It is both anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial, it perfect for targeting concerns such as acne and rosacea. Try By Wishtrend’s Mandelic Acid 5% Skin Prep Water (available here on Kanvas Beauty). In addition to a relatively low % of AHA, it contains Vitamin B5 (a humectant), Centella (to help prevent inflammation) and other moisturizing factors.

How to use it

Essentially, use it after cleansing, and before applying your toner, serum, and moisturiser. Wait until it dries before moving on to the next step in your routine. If you have particularly sensitive skin, try a gradual introduction, building up to 2-3 times per week as the brand recommends. Buy it here.

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