There are many different ways to treat acne:
- Kill bacteria, P. acnes, which is responsible for acne, with oral and topical antibiotics and other chemical agents;
- Increase cell turnover and exfoliation rates, which is often slowed in patients with acne;
- Decrease the amount of skin cells that “stick” to one another, which causes the skin to hold onto old cells for too long (and clog up);
- Decrease inflammation in the skin that is associated with acne.
LHA, or β-lipohydroxy acid, is an ingredient that has only been around for the past seven or eight years. It is exciting because it does all three of the above, killing bacteria (Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology, 2007); increasing cell turnover (Journal of the European Academy of Dermatology and Venereology, 2009); and decreasing corneocyte adhesion (European Journal of Dermatology, 2002).
Who Is a Candidate for LHA?
LHA is best for patients with mild to moderate, non-cystic acne, who have tried other agents like salicylic acid, glycolic acid, retinol, and benzoyl peroxide in the past without luck, or who are currently using these agents but still are experiencing breakouts. Those with cystic acne are not likely to be aided much by LHA.
Which Products Contain LHA?
A limited number of products contain LHA, including:
- La Roche Posay Effaclar Serum ($49.50, FutureDerm.com/shop)
With its high rate of exfoliation at low concentrations and neutral pH, it has a lot of potential in both anti-aging and acne-fighting skin care regimens.
What Other Ingredients Can Be Used in Conjunction with LHA?
FutureDerm readers will probably be happy to know that LHA can therefore be used with everything from acidic vitamin C (L-ascorbic acid) to retinoids (for which esterification, i.e., activation occurs at pH 5.5-6.0). This is because LHA has a slightly acidic pH that is similar to that of normal skin (5.5) and does not require neutralization for activation within the skin.
If you want to introduce LHA to an existing regimen, the best way is with a full-strength LHA serum. I recommend using a 10% salicylic acid cleanser, benzoyl peroxide on-the-spot treatment, LHA serum, and retinol or glycolic acid moisturizer to treat acne nightly.
Of the ingredients premiering on the skin care market in the past few years, I feel that LHA is one of the most exciting for treating mild to moderate acne. It can be used alone, as in the La Roche Posay Effaclar System, or in conjunction with other agents to treat acne.