The Cleveland Clinic

Choosing Skin Care Products:
Step 2: Know Your Ingredients

Introduction

Alpha. Beta. Acids, vitamins and derivatives. All these words sound more like stuff in a science experiment than lotions or creams for your skin. But never fear: This simple guide will help you understand the latest ingredients in skin care products that may benefit your skin.

Use this information to sort through various skin care products on the market. If you're still unsure which skin care products are right for you, ask your dermatologist or consult with a skin esthetician at your local salon or beauty counter.

Alpha-hydroxy Acids (AHAs)

Over-the-counter skin care products containing alpha-hydroxy acids (glycolic, lactic, tartaric and citric acids) have become increasingly popular over the last five years. In the U.S. alone, there are over 200 manufacturers of skin care products containing alpha-hydroxy acids. Creams and lotions with alpha-hydroxy acids may help with fine lines, irregular pigmentation and age spots, and may help decrease enlarged pores. Side effects of alpha-hydroxy acids include mild irritation and sun sensitivity. For that reason, sunscreen also should be used every morning. To help avoid skin irritation with alpha-hydroxy acids, it is advisable to start with a product with concentrations of AHA (10-15 percent) Also, make sure you ease into it. You want to get your skin used to alpha-hydroxy acids, so you should only initially apply the skin care product every other day, gradually working up to daily application.