About AHA Toners + DIY Recipe

    Spring is around the corner, and I realised that this is my last chance to try AHAs before the sun gets too strong (except mandeleic acid, which you can use all year around). AHAs (Alpha Hydroxy Acids) can declog and tighten your pores, gently exfoliate dead skin cells, treat fine lines and scars (especially glycolic acid), repair sun damage, even out discolourations (especially mandeleic acid), as well as having anti-aging properties.  They can be pretty awesome!  Although the word "acid" sounds scary, it is not -- even super-natural brands like Dr. Hauschka use lactic acid in their products.

     Never having used AHAs before, I decided to start with a toner with a lower concentration of AHAs that I could use everyday. I picked Lactic Acid which is supposed to be good for beginners (as is mandaleic acid), and made a very basic toner which (recipe below). The effects are visible after already a few days: the pores on my nose have shrunk visibly and have never been cleaner; and the colour of my face looks more even. The lactic acid toner is also lightly moisturising. I am very pleased, and I have a feeling this is only the beginning of my experiments with AHAs.
  Obviously you can also buy a product containing AHAs instead of DIYing it (I have heard good things about Paula's Choice products). Also, you are more likely to find products with AHAs  among pharmacy brands.

How to make an AHA toner:

What you need:

  • Distilled water or demineralised water from petrol stations, or a hydrolate (flower-water), 
  • Sodium bicarbonate (baking soda -- not baking powder!) or sodium lactate, 
  • An Alpha Hydroxy Acid of your choice. This you can get in a DIY cosmetic ingredients store, some are also available in pharmacies, and I heard that you can get lactic acid in places that have wine-making supplies. 
  • pH strips, from a DIY cosmetic ingredients store or in a pet store that sells aquarium supplies. 
  • A small beaker with the volume marked in ml, and a dropper -- again preferably with the ml marks on it (from DIY cosmetic stores, pharmacies or lab equipment stores.)

How to make:

   The first toner for daily use that you make should contain a low concentration of AHAs. If you buy the acid online, the website should give you the concentrations that it should be used in. For example, glycolic acid and lactic acid can be used in concentrations 5% to 10% for a gentle toner. Please take this seriously -- you can burn your skin if you start out with high concentrations.
   The percentage is calculated in ml., so if you are making 100ml, 5% would be 5ml. However, most AHAs are already diluted with water: you will see that the bottle says "70%" or "80%". So you need to recalculate to compensate for this. For example my lactic acid said 80% on the bottle, so I had to re-calculate: for a 10% solution I would need 10 ml lactic acid + 87.5 ml water (and you thought you don't need maths to be pretty).

    Carefully measure out the water and the AHA, then mix. If the AHA doesn't wand to dissolve you can heat the water up a bit. Now, you need to bring the pH level to 4-5. Check the pH level of the mixture with your pH strip and gradually add the baking soda or sodium lactate. That's it! Now you can pour your toner into a nice container. Without a preservative the toner lasts around 2 weeks in the fridge.

   If you need more moisture, you can always replace some (10%-20%) of the water with hyaluronic acid.

How to use an AHA toner:

  • This kind of toner can be used as a treatment, or as a preparation to a "stronger" AHA peel.
  • After cleansing your face, simply wipe your face with the toner using a cotton pad. Avoid the eyes. 
  • It is normal if the skin pinches slightly and may redden. However if your skin gets irritated, wash of the acid with water and try diluting your toner with distilled water. Women with more sensitive skin sometimes report that the toner works like a peel for them.
  • You can always do a patch test behind your ear.
  • You can always dilute the toner if it is too strong. Simply add more water /hydrolate.
  • Some people get a breakout within the first few days of using AHAs, especially if the skin has a lot of impurities.
  • When using AHAs, always wear sunscreen because your skin is more sensitive to the sun. You can skip the sunscreen if you need more discolouration and fine lines. Don't tan, whether in a tanning salon or outdoors.
  • Also, use the toner in the evenings so that your skin doesn't get exposed to sunlight immediately.
  • Don't use AHAs in the summer, other than the very gentle mandeleic acid.
  • Although you can use the toner for a longer time, it is a good idea to make a 2-week break after around two weeks.

Have you ever tried a toner with AHAs? What effects did you see?

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