Remember all AHA products are acids and acids do burn and irritate the skin. The higher the concentration, the greater the chance of a side effect.
To prevent the side effects, one must select the proper concentration of AHA to be used as a peeling agent. Initially always try the weaker concentration to ensure that you do not have any allergy to the acids. Try the lower concentration and wait a few months. The results are not always immediate and patience is required. Only after the weaker concentration AHA do not work, should one resort to the higher concentrations of AHA.
Choose a lower strength product initially and go slow. You should not be in a rush to reverse the aging process. Be patient and go slow. Skin resurfacing is a life long process and rushing with higher strength AHA products only leads to more complications. Many complications of the higher concentration AHA such as scarring and skin discoloration can be permanent.
Because the AHA can cause drying and peeling of the skin, buy an AHA product with a moisturizer as a base cream. This may prevent the excess dryness and peeling which is common with all exfoliants. The moisturizer does not take away the effects of AHA
Most AHA products are buffered to reduce their pH and decrease their ability to cause skin irritation. These buffered products are just as effective as exfoliants. One may not visibly see the skin peeling, but rest assured the products will work just as well.
All AHA products when used as peeling agents can make the skin very sensitive to the sun. Sunscreens are a must after application of any AHA product. Sunscreens with a high SPF (>20) must be used whenever one is exposed to sunlight. The sunscreen should contain both organic and inorganic chemicals like zinc or titanium to prevent both UV and visible light exposure.
The weaker strength products are mildly acidic, but the higher strength products are strong acids. To prevent extreme skin irritation, many AHA products are buffered. For home use, AHA products in concentrations between 2-10% are quite effective. Since AHA products work best at low pH, the pH of the product can easily be determined with a pH strip.
One can buy higher concentration AHA products over the internet. The best advice is to refrain from buying such high strength products. Many a user has developed severe skin irritation and scarring. Go slow and go low is the name of the game.
The mild over the counter AHA products may be used in pregnant women, but any prescription higher strength AHA product is not recommended. Even though many cosmetologists claim these products are safe during pregnancy, it is your baby which is at risk, not theirs.
If you want to use AHA for your skin, discuss this with your doctor and get read about the product. Do not rush and buy any product you see.