WARNING: Be careful with this beauty product.



Q: I’m 42 with wrinkles and pigmentation. A beauty therapist friend of mine said I shouldn’t be using a cleanser, serum and night cream with AHAs as it’s too strong but I am seeing results and don’t want to stop! – Jenny

It’s terrible when advice conflicts. I know this because pretty much every skin therapist, dermatologist and skin care creator I meet has conflicting ideas on what to use, when to use it, how to use it, and whether you should wait until the third use to kiss, or later.

But I think they would all agree on the fact that you are DEFINITELY going too hard on your skin with that triple sandwich.


AHA stands for Alpha-Hydroxy Acids, a group that include glycolic acid, (from sugar cane) lactic acid (milk… Cleopatra knew what she was doing with those milk baths) and citric acid (uh, citrus). Glycolic is lauded as the “best” and “most effective” because its molecules are smaller and so it penetrates the skin quicker and easier, but lactic acid is now being said to be best, because it’s gentler and with longer-lasting results. AHAs are moisturising, but are mostly referred to as a ‘chemical exfoliant’ because they gently dissolve the glue that holds dead skin cells on the surface of the skin, without the need for physical exfoliation. (ie: scrubbing.)

AHAs are terrifically effective on oily or congested skin, acne, wrinkles, general skin texture and tone (pigmentation) – in fact, I’d say AHAs are probably the most useful and results-y skin care ingredient around, so long as you don’t have sensitive skin. Except for Retin-A, which is the King of anti-ageing, and which I will post on another time.

For those interested, I use a glycolic-acid based toner three times a week. For those not interested, don’t read that last sentence.

The thing about AHAs, though, Jenny, is that they’re strong. (They cause irritation for a lot of people when they start  – when you began, you were probably advised to start every second day for a few weeks, then building up to daily, yeah?) This is why you’re seeing results, and why you’re a fan, but you are very likely over-stimulating your skin. You might be duplicating ingredients unnecessarily, or forcing some together which are not compatible, or just loading your skin with far too much. Using a glycolic acid cleanser, then a glycolic serum, then a lactic acid moisturiser means you are effectively performing a chemical peel each night.


I recommend you avoid layering your AHAs, Jenny. Use one good AHA product every night – be that your toner, cleanser, serum or moisturiser – and keep it simple for the rest. Also, keep up with weekly masks, and definitely use broad spectrum, high SPF sun protection, every day, all day, if you are using AHAs. Very, very important.

Jenny, I know your skin looks good now, but if you keep up this intense routine, your skin has a strong chance of becoming red, sensitised, (which can even lead to rosacea), and irritated. Long-term, our skin benefits much more from protection than erosion. We all have a finite amount of skin layers, and stripping them off too aggressively for a long period WILL change the texture and condition of your skin, and not in a positive fashion. Everything in moderation, as Katie Price once famously said.

For people who aren’t Jenny, and don’t have a stack of AHA prodz at the ready, some great options are MD Formulations Moisture Defence Antioxidant Lotion, Priori Advanced AHAs Gentle Facial Cleanser, Alpha-H Liquid Gold, Beauty without Cruelty AHA Renewal Moisture Lotion, and Olay Regenerist Night Recovery Elixir (which is available in August and getting wild press in other parts of the world already, so keep one eagle eye on close watch for it).

Zoe is an author, columnist and porridge fan. Her books include the beauty bible Amazing Face, dating and relationship guide Textbook Romance, and three novels, Air KissesPlaying The Field and The Younger Man. Find more info on her here, or supervise on her daily procrastination here and here.

Please understand that Zoë cannot respond to ALL your questions – but never fear, there are readers that are bound to know the answers, so don’t be afraid to ask.

Have you tried AHAs?