The Ultimate Guide to Anti-Aging Ingredients: AHAs

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Welcome to your comprehensive journey through the realm of Alpha Hydroxy Acids (AHAs) – the transformative skincare ingredients that promise radiant and rejuvenated skin. Whether you’re a skincare novice or a seasoned enthusiast, this guide is your key to understanding AHAs, helping you make informed decisions tailored to your unique skin needs.

Prepare yourself for a comprehensive journey delving into the roots, varieties, advantages, and key factors associated with AHAs. As we move forward, we will reveal our own method of harnessing AHAs’ benefits while effectively avoiding potential drawbacks.

What Are AHAs?

Alpha Hydroxy Acids (AHAs) are natural or synthetic compounds used in skincare for exfoliation. They dissolve dead skin cells, revealing fresher skin underneath.

Naturally, they appear in fruits and milk sugars.

Because they can increase sun sensitivity, using sunscreen when using AHAs is essential.

The Origins of AHAs: Unlocking Nature's Potential

The journey of AHAs begins with their natural origins, deeply rooted in botanical sources. Derived from various fruits and milk sugars, AHAs are nature’s gift to skin care.

These compounds have been used for centuries across cultures for their skin-renewing properties. From citrus fruits like oranges and lemons to the humble apple, each source brings forth a unique AHA that contributes to the rejuvenation of our skin.

Additionally, cosmetic science advancements have led to synthetic AHA development. These lab-created versions allow precise control over concentration and molecular size.

How Do AHAs Work?

AHAs break down the bonds between dead skin cells, promoting their removal. This process stimulates cell turnover and can improve skin texture, tone, and firmness.

Close up photo of the citrus fruit held in hands that reflect on the related article discussing Alpha Hydroxy Acids.

What Are the Benefits of AHAs?

  1. AHAs can:

    • Improve skin texture and tone.
    • Reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.
    • Brighten dull skin.
    • Encourage collagen production.

Types & Benefits of AHAs

The most problematic when it comes to AHAs is sensitive skin because, although AHAs offer remarkable benefits, they can sometimes trigger initial redness or irritation. For this reason, it is good to familiarize yourself with different forms of Alpha Hydroxy Acids and understand their functions.

Derived from sugarcane, it’s a widely used natural AHA known for effective exfoliation and it is the first to be introduced to skincare products.*

FUNCTION: Glycolic acid penetrates deeply into the skin, effectively exfoliating the outermost layers. It helps reduce the appearance of fine lines, uneven texture, and hyperpigmentation.

SKIN TYPES: Generally suitable for normal, combination, and oily skin types. Those with sensitive skin should start with lower concentrations and perform patch tests.

*Yu RJ, van Scott EJ. Alpha-hydroxy acids and carboxylic acids. J Cosmet Dermatol. 2004;3(2):76–87.


Found in milk and fruits, lactic acid offers gentle exfoliation and skin hydration.

FUNCTION: Lactic acid has larger molecules, making it gentler than glycolic acid. It exfoliates and moisturizes, enhancing the skin’s texture and radiance. It’s also known for improving hydration.

SKIN TYPE: Suitable for most skin types, including sensitive skin. It’s particularly beneficial for dry and mature skin due to its moisturizing properties.


Extracted from citrus fruits, it contributes to exfoliation and skin brightening.

FUNCTION: Citric acid is a natural antioxidant and exfoliant. It helps promote skin cell turnover and improve skin texture, revealing a smoother complexion.

SKIN TYPE: Suitable for various skin types, but those with sensitive skin might want to use it cautiously due to its irritant potential.


Naturally occurring in apples, malic acid helps exfoliate and improves skin tone.

FUNCTION: The malic acid in apples offers gentle exfoliation and helps enhance skin radiance. It’s often used with other AHAs for its mild exfoliating properties.

SKIN TYPES: Generally suitable for various skin types, especially those seeking mild exfoliation.


While found in almonds, synthetic mandelic acid is common in skincare for mild exfoliation.

FUNCTION: Mandelic acid has larger molecules, making it even gentler than lactic acid. It’s known for its exfoliating and antibacterial properties, making it suitable for acne-prone skin.

SKIN TYPE: Skin Types: Suitable for sensitive and acne-prone skin due to its mild nature and potential to target acne-related concerns.


Though naturally present in grapes and other sources, such as berries and citrus fruits, synthesized tartaric acid is used for exfoliation.

FUNCTION: Tartaric acid is a mild exfoliant. It can help improve skin texture and promote a smoother complexion.

SKIN TYPES: Suitable for various skin types, particularly those seeking mild exfoliation.


In the context of skincare, pyruvic acid used in products is often synthesized for its exfoliating properties. It might not be commonly extracted directly from natural sources, but rather produced through controlled chemical processes.

FUNCTION: Pyruvic acid offers exfoliation and can help improve the appearance of skin texture, fine lines, and pigmentation. It also has antibacterial properties.

SKIN TYPES: Suitable for various skin types, including acne-prone skin.


Hydroxycaproic acid is not a common or widely recognized ingredient in skincare products, and information about its sources and uses in skincare may be limited.

FUNCTION: It’s believed to have exfoliating properties similar to other AHAs.

SKIN TYPE: Information on its suitability for different skin types is limited due to its relative rarity in skincare formulations.

These AHAs in various skincare products offer different exfoliation levels and benefits. When choosing between natural and synthetic AHAs, personal skin type and preferences play a role in making the best decision.

Our Solution

With Sapphō’s Brightening Serum, we’ve addressed the concern of AHAs in sensitive skin head-on. We coupled it with the delivery of vitamins, toning, and calming ingredients to deliver results with zero irritation.

Our Brightening Serum is the epitome of meticulous formulation. It houses AHA fruit acids and an array of toning ingredients and fruits, enriched with calming components such as green tea, cucumber, and aloe vera. The result? A harmoniously balanced, freshly concocted serum that illuminates your skin without invoking irritation.

The magic of AHAs behind our serum lies in the sourced ingredients. We draw from a palette of 5 plant species: Bilberry, Sugar Cane, Orange, Lemon, and Sugar Maple.

Each botanical extract contributes a unique natural AHA to the serum: Bilberry’s Lactic Acid (Vaccinium Myrtillus Fruit Extract), Sugar Cane’s Glycolic Acid (Saccharum Officinarum Extract), Orange’s and Lemon’s Citric Acid (Citrus Aurantium Dulcis Fruit Extract & Citrus Limon Fruit Extract), and Sugar Maple’s Malic, Tartaric and Hydroxycaproic Acids (Acer Saccharum Extract).

In doing so, we’ve introduced an effective solution for those seeking to tone and brighten their skin without the burden of skin irritation.

Conclusion: Awareness Empowers

In the realm of skincare, awareness empowers. Knowing the potential cons of AHAs has led us to develop an exceptional solution embodied by Sapphō’s Brightening Serum.

Immerse yourself in the harmonious blend of nature’s gifts, allowing your skin to revel in the brilliance of revitalization – a radiant path forward without compromise.

How can I differentiate between synthetic and natural AHAs in skincare?

Here’s a valuable tip for fellow enthusiasts of natural skincare!

Suppose you’re on the lookout for natural AHAs. In that case, we suggest examining the ingredients list for fruits and sugars (like the ones found in our Sapphō’s Brightening Serum) that naturally harbor these compounds.

Why? Because most AHAs in today’s skincare market are synthetically produced.

It’s important to note that the terms ‘natural-compliant’ or ‘nature-identical’ don’t equate to being genuinely natural. Such terms describe compounds created in laboratories while aiming to mimic natural counterparts, which can sometimes be misleadingly associated with authentic natural sources.

Learn more about our blends.

Experience the exceptional freshness and uniqueness of Sapphō’s Brightening Serum & Hana Defies Time Phytotherapy Serum through our exclusive Fresh Series. Each batch is meticulously crafted bi-monthly, exclusively for those who purchase it, ensuring unparalleled quality and potency.

Learn more about our exclusive Fresh Series.

Close up of Sapphō's Brightening Serum placed on freshly cut aloe vera

This light gel serum with 17 bio-actives is rich in vitamin C and carries AHA fruit acids and soothing organic aloe vera, green tea, cucumber, and ginkgo biloba.

Hana Defies Time Phytotherapy Serum by Phaedra Botanicals

Our HDTP Serum contains Bakuchiol among with our antiaging, Vitamin C and natural Vitamin A complex.