Researchers Uncover Cellular Basis for Effectiveness Behind Alpha Hydroxyl Acids in Anti-Aging Creams

Alpha hydroxyl acids (AHA) have long been the primary ingredient in the most effective anti-aging cosmetics. According to the latest science news on skin care, researchers have discovered a mechanism that may explain how alpha hydroxyl acids work to enhance skin appearance.

Alpha hydroxyl acids are typically derived from natural sources such as fruit and milk. These wrinkle-smoothers increase skin cell turnover, improve the skin’s ability to maintain moisture, and lighten pigment spots by loosening one to several layers of dead cells clinging to the skin’s surface. There is also some evidence that a AHAs based products might help improve acne when applied to the skin.

The most common forms of alpha hydroxyl acids that are used in beauty products include:

  • Glycolic Acid
  • Lactic Acid
  • Citric Acid
  • Malic Acid
  • Mandelic Acid
  • Tartaric Acid

Alpha hydroxyl acid products sold to consumers must have a concentration of less than 10%. These work by gently dissolving the intercellular “glue” that makes old skin cells stick to the epidermis. Some dermatologists also believe that AHAs enhance the skin’s moisture-retaining ability so the tissue maintains its firmness.

How Alpha Hydroxyl Acids Cause Skin Exfoliation

The findings published in the Journal of Biological Chemistry explain the underlying mechanism that makes AHA so effective. A team of investigators from UC Davis and Peking University believe that the results of this study may be decisive in the development of improved cosmetic formulations as well as medical applications.

Researchers have studied the cellular pathway that was primarily focused on an ion channel, known as transient receptor potential vanilloid 3 (TRPV3). The channel is located in the cell membrane of keratinocytes, which is the predominant cell type in the outer layer of skin. Moreover, according to previous studies, this channel plays an important role in normal skin physiology and temperature sensitivity.

In their experiment, researchers developed a model that describes how glycolic acid enters into keratinocytes and generates free protons, creating acidic conditions within the cell. The low pH activates the channel, allowing calcium ions to flow into the cell. Calcium ion overload in the cell leads to its death and skin exfoliation.

Researchers said that their study is the first to show that the TRPV3 ion channel is likely to be the target of the most effective skin enhancer in the cosmetics industry.

Source: Intracellular proton-mediated activation of TRPV3 channels accounts for exfoliation effect of alpha hydroxyl acids on keratinocytes


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