PP Ingredients: AHA (alpha hydroxy acid)

AHA (Alpha Hydroxy acid)
AHA are acids derived from fruit and milk sugars. A natural source is rhubarb which contains glycolic acid used for its exfoliating properties to sweep away dead skin cells and promote new cellular growth for softer, smoother, younger-looking skin.

Cleopatra used to bathe in sour milk and honey, so say historians. Her dressing table and bath were filled with oils, balms, creams, and scrubs — all to give her skin a radiant and youthful appeal. Among her many beauty secrets was to exfoliate with what we now know as “AHA,” alpha hydroxyl acids, derived from milk and fruit sugars.

So – do you need to exfoliate? Dermatologists suggest this easy test: take a piece of clear tape and stick it to your forehead. Rub it gently for a minute, then peel it away. If there are smudges or visible skin cells, it’s time to do something about it! Read on!

When in 1993, Paul Penders revealed his Citrus Fruit Exfoliant in Paris, this natural AHA product caused quite a stir in the cosmetics industry. When it was understood that this all-natural exfoliant could unclog pores and slough away dead skin cells, leaving the skin softer and clearer that ever before – everyone wanted to copy his success.

In 1996, GlycoFruit, another PP invention, became the first natural AHA on the U.S. market. Using the AHA glycolic acid found in rhubarb, GlycoFruit even had heads in Hollywood turning. A noted plastic surgeon gave testimonials and the company was approached by a major “infomercial” producer. Soon PP products were being sold on national television by movie stars including Meredith MacRae.

What is this “magic” ingredient? AHA – short for alpha hydroxyl acid – is the acid that is produced when milk goes sour as one familiar example. There are 5 major types used in the cosmetics and skincare industry today: lactic acid which is derived from milk, tartaric acid from grapes and passionfruit, malic acid from apples, and the strongest and most popular AHA is glycolic acid which can be derived from sugarcane or rhubarb. The glycolic acid molecule is the smallest of the AHA’s and gives the best “bioavailability” because its small size allows it to penetrate deep into the skin.

What does AHA do? The theory is that the acid loosens the “glue” that holds the surface skin together; technically speaking, “dissolving part of the surface intercellular cement that holds keratin together.” In layman’s terms, our outer skin thickens to form a protective barrier, becoming almost waterproof. Too much rubbing and pressure and skin will thicken into calluses as every athlete knows. As the skin becomes thicker, the cells at the surface stop metabolizing and undergo a “programmed death.” They fall away and new skin appears from below. Thankfully, this is an on-going process that lasts our lifetime.

Why should I use AHA? The trouble is that those dead skin cells can get trapped – beneath the skin’s “glue” or oils or around hair follicles. New cells can’t reach the surface because the dead ones are in the way. Wrinkles form and trap more dead cells. Then your facial and body skin will start to show all those signs of aging.

So what’s the most effective way of looking younger? Get rid of the dead skin cells on the outer layer and stimulate the next layer to rise to the surface with fresh young cells. That’s what AHA does. Alpha hydroxy acids are reported to improve wrinkling, roughness, and pigmentation of photodamaged skin.

How often should AHA products? This is trickier to answer. It’s possible to exfoliate too much which could dry out the skin surface or to have acids build up causing irritation. Those with dry skin could probably safely exfoliate once a week while those with issues of oiliness, acne, scarring, or pigmentation could probably use daily applications over several months without irritation until the issues are resolved. In severe cases or if any kind of reaction appears, it would be important to consult a dermatologist or other doctor.

Warning #1: You can have too much of a good thing. Check the ingredients on all the containers of substances you use in your skin care regime. Exfoliants will almost always have AHA as a major component but they may also appear in cleansers, moisturizers, toners, masks and even lipsticks. Use one after another and the acid may build up as it penetrates into your skin. Unwittingly, you could be giving yourself a homemade “chemical peel.”

The US FDA responding to concerns over side effects announced the following guidelines in 1997 for all AHA cosmetic products sold to customers:

  • The AHA concentration is 10% or less
  • The final product has a pH of 3.5 or higher
  • The final product must have an effective sunscreen in the formulation or else give a warning to people to use sunscreen products

Unfortunately, the only way to know for sure about the pH of any given product is to test it with a pH strip (you can usually buy these at a pharmacy). Cosmetic manufacturers are also not required to provide concentration information on the label.

The FDA has also set requirements that only trained cosmetologists may use concentrations of AHA greater than 10%. Typically, a cosmetologist will use a 20 – 30% concentration which will give skin a smoother appearance after a few applications and last 3 to 6 months. If you are looking for a treatment that will erase wrinkles, scars, or mottled pigmentation for longer term, then you should always consult a doctor. Only doctors are allowed to use AHA products in higher concentrations, usually 50 – 70% for chemical peels. And they will tell you what to expect as consequences of putting strong acid on your skin.

Obviously, the higher the concentration of acid applied, the greater the irritation of the skin. After a high dose of AHA, you will experience severe redness, flaking, even oozing, pain, and that lovely “burned” appearance for up to 4 weeks. You will also probably not be able to go out into the sun.

Warning #2: Always apply sunscreen after exfoliating or using any AHA product

Studies have shown that the use of AHA can increase sun sensitivity by as much as 50%. While AHA products can help reverse sun damage (photoaging), they also make the skin more vulnerable to damage from the sun’s rays. Dermatologists recommend using a sunscreen with an SPF of at least 15 for UVB protection and which contains avobenzone, titanium dioxide, or zinc oxide for UVA protection.

AHA’s, especially glycolic acid, are among nature’s little miracles. Topical application of this AHA to photodamaged skin has been shown to produce increases in the amounts of collagen, water retention, and skin thickness. It can give you a fresher, younger appearance as old dead skin falls away and new skin appears.

Just don’t forget when using any AHA product, that the FDA encourages cosmetic companies to issue the following warning:

Sunburn Alert: This product contains an alpha hydroxy acid (AHA) that may increase your skin’s sensitivity to the sun and particularly the possibility of sunburn. Use a sunscreen, wear protective clothing, and limit sun exposure while using this product.

Cleopatra’s beauty regime may have been more extensive than most modern women’s – how many of us can spend a day pampering our skin? Luckily, now all we have to do is reach for a bottle already prepared for us.


The AHA glycolic acid derived from rhubarb is used in several of Paul Penders products including our “Citrus Fruit Exfoliant.”

Regular use of this non-abrasive herbal exfoliant will reveal soft, fresh, healthier-looking skin. Formulated with natural alpha and beta hydroxy acids that gently remove the outer layer of dead skin cells, this all-natural exfoliant will unclog pores and sweep away dead cells, leaving the skin softer and clearer than ever before. Specially created to work synergistically with the natural whitening effect of Paul Penders AquaLuna and Intensive Clarifying Therapy.

By Teviot Fairservis.


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Brigitte Bardot… An Example of True Beauty

In Los Angeles, California, more than 10 years ago, we produced a 30-minute “infomercial” television show called “A Lifetime of Beauty.” It was aired in all the big cities of the U.S. including Boston, New York, Miami, Seattle, San Francisco and Houston. The show promoted the newest product which our company pioneered — the first natural AHA (alpha hydroxy acid) cosmetic product in the world.

    GlycoFruit was the first natural AHA on the market

The novelty was that these special products called “GlycoFruit” contained acids from the rhubarb plant that naturally sloughs-off old skin cells to reveal clear and fresh-looking skin. So how did it happen that this product became featured in a 30-minute television show?

    Street sign at the famous Hollywood Boulevard

GlycoFruit became a hit in a few stores in San Francisco and our best-selling product ever in the history of Paul Penders Co. It was also advertised in several natural lifestyle magazines around the country. The advertisements got the attention of a few Hollywood celebrities and soon their agencies started to contact us.
To make a long story short, soon afterwards Katja and I were invited to Hollywood to visit several movie stars wanting to discuss a business deal about this new GlycoFruit product. According to them, GlycoFruit would make for a perfect 30-minute infomercial product to be shown nationwide on television!
Dr. Joni Laughran while working in our company in California wrote a book for the show, also with the same name, “A Lifetime of Beauty.” The book was a give-away for people who called the Paul Penders Company enquiring about our newest beauty invention.
Honestly, Katja and I had a blast meeting these movie stars at their homes. I can say this was a very interesting tour, and we got to meet several popular stars over a few days.

    Meredith MacRae with her special friend Bob Hope

After meeting these celebrities and their Entertainment Lawyers, I finally signed contracts with 2 stars; the most important one was Meredith MacRae (May 30, 1944 – July 14, 2000), best known as Billie Jo on the TV sitcoms, Petticoat Junction and as Sally Ann in My Three Sons.
Several weeks after the signing ceremony, we started shooting in the studio of Jay Leno’s “Tonight Show.” It was a time of learning, fun and excitement. During the shooting days, got to know Meredith better. She turned out to be a charming, intelligent and very kind person with a healthy amount of humor!
Part of the filming for the show was in Hollywood and part at our company’s base in Petaluma in Northern California. Meredith, her agent and a crew of beauticians all flew out to Petaluma for the shoot at Paul Penders Company.
We had dinner with the group the night before filming and then became it apparent how much she looked like Catherine Deneuve, the beautiful and distinguished French movie star I admired so much as well. Probably too it was that which attracted Katja and me to Meredith in the first place.

    French movie star Catherine Deneuve

Since I am talking movie stars, there is another movie star I REALLY admire and have since a young age — Brigitte Bardot. I fell for her because of a few great movies with producer Roger Vadim, and later because she became a fierce fighter for animal rights.
To this day, Brigitte Bardot’s focus in life is to end the suffering of animals. A little while ago we wrote about the vote in Catalonia, Spain making bull fighting illegal this year. Let me mention that Brigitte Bardot’s latest fight is to stop the bull fighting in the South of France where it is still legally practiced.

    Brigitte Bardot still looks fabulously beautiful.

She was interviewed not long ago by “France Dimanche” and told the reporter, “My life would have been worthless if changes are not made to stop bullfights in France before I die. But I am like a pit bull; when I start biting, I don’t let go easily”.

      Thank you, Dame Bardot, for being a
      living example for me by helping
      to set the standards to stop
      cruelty to animals!