Skincare 101: Alpha Hydroxy Acids (AHAs)

AHA exfoliators

What are Alpha Hydroxy Acids (AHAs)?

I know. You hear the word acid and you immediately think of an evil, acid-wielding villain from Batman.

No fear. Acids, specifically alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs), are derived from fruit and dairy, and in my opinion, offer the best way to exfoliate the skin.

They typically come in a mask or serum form, and are sometimes called ‘fruit acids’. Rather than ‘mechanically’ loosening dead skin cells (typical of an exfoliating scrub), AHAs work to shed dead skin cells by dissolving the ‘glue’ that holds them together.

This may sound harsh, but in most cases (such as with lactic acid) AHAs can be fairly gentle and moisturizing. I particularly like them for treating acne since there is no physical abrasion (unlike a scrub) that could potential rupture pimples, spread bacteria, and over stimulate already red and inflamed skin. AHAs are also fantastic for clearing up congestion (black heads and white heads), brightening complexions, and lightening scars and dark spots.

Here are some common types:

Lactic acid: derived from corn or dairy products. This is considered a fairly gentle acid, and is good for most skin types; it’s also a natural humectant (meaning it retains moisture) and is therefore hydrating to the skin. This is my AHA of choice, and I am in LOVE with Pure + Simple’s Lactic Acid. I use it 2-3 times per week either all over my face, or just in spots that are prone to congestion.

Malic acid: most commonly derived from apples. It is less irritating than citric and glycolic acid, and is also a natural humectant.

Citric acid: derived from citrus fruits like lemon, grapefruit, and oranges. Excellent for brightening, and targeting age spots and scars.

Glycolic acid: most commonly derived from sugar cane. It has a small molecular structure that enables it to penetrates deep into the skin. However, it can be highly irritating and drying if used incorrectly, or too regularly.

Home care products will always have a higher pH level (aka less acidic) and contain a lower concentration of acid than professional use, however you should look for something with at least a 5% acid concentration and a pH between 3.5-4 for the product to be effective.

A little tingle is good . . . but a burning sensation is not so good!

VERY IMPORTANT: Always follow product instructions, avoid over use, immediately follow up with a moisturizer, and diligently wear sunscreen; as is the case with any exfoliation!!! If you’ve never used AHA products before, start with 1 application per week to avoid irritation and then gradually increase to 2-3 times per week.

When in doubt, consult a professional skin care therapist, esthetician, or dermatologist.

Have a question? Just ask! Write in the comments section below, or connect with me through Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram.

Are all natural face care lines the same?

Natural Skin Care Products

Alright friends, let me level with you. When it comes down to it, many natural face care lines are not that different from the next.

Recently I was reading one of my favourite online blogs, No More Dirty Looks, which echoed this very thought, it said: “[natural face care lines] can feel a bit samesame after a while. A non-foaming cleanser, an amazing oil, and maybe a lovely hydrosal toner or spray…”

I don’t mean to take anything away from these fantastic lines, but (with a few exceptions) once you get to a certain quality of face care product (in other words: those that are made with pure, high quality ingredients, free of alcohol, perfumes, mineral oil, synthetic preservatives and all of the rest) they start to resemble each other. Don’t get me wrong, this is a good thing, it means they follow the same fundamentals of good natural skin care: cleanse gently, hydrate, replenish, and protect. It also means though that when I am asked, “what is the best natural face care line available”, the answer is not so simple.

I recommend products based on subtle differences. . .

Therefore, considering what I just said, obviously there ARE subtle differences, and so (aside from consideration of skin type and condition) I consider the following when recommending face care products:

1. Price point: I wish there was such a thing as a money tree, sadly there is not. I recognize that not everyone can afford expensive skincare, or even if they can, they don’t want to! Generally speaking, natural and organic products are more expensive than their synthetic counterparts, but fortunately there are options for every price point.

2. Look, appeal, and aroma: Some say you can’t judge a book by its cover, I would disagree. . . but that’s just me, you see! I like products that are pretty and luxurious – not everyone does, or cares. I have to consider an individual’s general aesthetic. Some like no-nonsense, others like glamorous-chic  and to smell like a rose garden.

3. Lifestyle: As much as I would like to recommend “the ideal” to everyone (double cleanse, exfoliate, tone, and apply a serum, moisturizer, and oil) it’s just not for everyone. If your skincare routine is comprised of soap and water, it’s pretty unlikely that you will try a twenty step process . . . but you may try some multi-purpose products.

4. Availability: I feel fortunate that I live in a large metropolitan area where many natural brands are available, but I recognize that not every city and town are the same. Naturally then, it is important to consider geographic location. At the end of the day if someone really needs that cleanser or moisturizer in a pinch, let’s not fool ourselves, instead of shipping the natural one from across the country, they’re more likely to just pick up the nearest thing at the local drug store.

Having a good skincare routine does not mean you have to be a glamour-queen. Likewise, “going natural” does not mean you have to be a tree loving hippie. It also doesn’t have to cost you an arm and a leg. . . it certainly can if that’s what you want, or where you like to spend you money, but believe me, it’s not required! There really is something for everyone!

Questions? Need a product recommendation? Leave a comment below! Looking for a skincare and beauty routine tailored to your needs? Let me coach you, check out available services.

3 simple ways to kick start your skincare routine

Are you someone who never devotes time to a skincare routine because you think that it takes too much time, or costs too much money? Maybe you know someone who thinks this way (if so, share this post). Your skin does not have to suffer as a result of your schedule. Here are 3 simple things that you can do to kick start your skincare routine to make it more effective in no time, and at no cost!

Give your skincare a kick start!

Give your skincare a kick start!

1. Quit washing your face in the morning. If your face is always tight after washing and you deal with dry skin but don’t have time to find a new moisturizer or cleanser, try washing only at night and see how your face oils balance out. Alternatively, if your skin is extremely oily, try this as well! You may be over washing which can cause your skin to produce more oils to compensate for what you are scrubbing away. Instead of cleanser in the morning, just splash a little water on your face and apply a moisturizer as usual.

2. Sprinkle a little baking soda in your cleanser. If you don’t have time to go searching for an exfoliator, or don’t want that extra step, trusty baking soda can act as an excellent gentle scrub. Don’t even own a cleanser? Add a splash of water instead (enough to make a paste with the baking soda). You can do this nightly, or 2-3 times per week.

3. Apply moisturizer on damp skin. When moisturizer is applied to damp skin it helps to trap water on surface cells and acts as a barrier for moisture loss. Thus making your moisturizer more effective without even having to switch it!

Do you have any skincare ‘hacks’ that simplify your routine ? Please share!

Also, if you haven’t already, don’t forget to watch the Spread Beauty video and join the movement to spread a little love and beauty to everyone you know! If you find it inspiring, please share using #SpreadBeauty

Tumeric: Food or Beauty Product?

photo Tumeric. I know what you are thinking: curry, curry, curry. And I will say, yes, tumeric is a common and delicious component of curry powder. It gives it the bright, yellowy-orange colour, but is not responsible for curry’s well known flavour and smell– that my dear friends is from cumin, fenugreek, and coriander.

“Tumeric’s almost magical anti-inflammatory, anti-septic, and antioxidant properties make it a great ingredient for beauty rituals.”

This tuber looking spice is a relative of the ginger family and is native to India. A few years ago, it started getting popular within health circles as an oral remedy for gastrointestinal inflammation and pulmonory conditions, as well as for cancer prevention (read more about this here). As with most popular health trends, there is always a part of the world that has been using it long before the age of Dr. Oz and the internet. In this case, tumeric has been a cure-all medicine in India for thousands of years. Tumeric’s almost magical anti-inflammatory, anti-septic, and antioxidant properties make it a great ingredient for beauty rituals and many Indian women will attest to this. Tumeric facial masks have been a staple in Indian beauty arsenals for generations; used to fight acne and hyper pigmentation. Tumeric has also been popularly used as an Indian pre-wedding head to-toe body scrub. Naturally then, I knew I had to give it a try.

Tumeric Body Scrub
Recipe type: Body
  • ½ chickpea flour (a.k.a gram flour commonly found most bulk stores)
  • 11/2 Tbs ground tumeric
  • 5 drops of oil (almond or jojoba work well)
  • 1-2 tsp of water
  1. Mix all ingredients into a paste and gently rub over body using circular motion. Rinse with water – but be warned it makes a bit of a mess in the shower.

Tumeric Face Mask
Recipe type: Face
  • 1Tbs ground tumeric
  • 1Tbs ground chickpea flour
  • 1Tbs thick yogurt
  • 1-2tsp(s) of water
  1. Mix into a paste, spread on face, let dry for 10-15 minutes.
  2. Rinse off, gently using the mask as an exfoliant.
  3. Follow up with a moisturizer or face oil.

Now, I must share my experience, because I will not publish anything that I have not tried and do not trust. After reading rave reviews and learning about tumeric’s ancient past, I was excited for the results. As I have shared before, my skin is quite sensitive and prone to reddness. After I spread the paste on my face and rinsed it off after 10-15 minutes, I was quite surprised to see that my skin had turned red and blotchy. Thankfully the redness subsided over night, but I definitely was skeptical after that. What happened?? As I shared before, there are many, many, many people who use tumeric face masks and get glowing results – my husband included (yes, I coerced him into trying the concoction, and he continues to use it!) This is just a little lesson for myself, and for all of you natural beauties. Just because something may be natural and handmade does not mean it is meant for you. Our skin reacts in different ways, and an ingredient that may be a godsend to one person, my be god’s wrath to another. Always spot test when trying new products and do not believe everything you find on youtube or blogs (yes, I realize I am saying this ON MY BLOG). I will leave you with that and I want to know, what is your experience with tumeric? Have you had fabulous results? Do you use it orally as a medicinal remedy? In your food? Let me know!