Yogurt: your natural source of Alpha Hydroxy Acids

A number of you have mentioned that you use products such as cleansers or moisturizers containing AHAs or Alpha Hydroxy Acids to exfoliate your skin. AHAs are often described as chemical exfoliants that is able to remove dead skin cells on our skin’s surface but they are really derived from natural products. These include glycolic acid from sugar cane, lactic acid from milk, malic acid from apples and pears, citric acid from oranges and lemons and tartaric acid from grapes. However, the two most commonly used AHAs are glycolic acid and lactic acid because they have a special ability to penetrate the skin.

Improve skin tone & even stimulate production of collagen
According to The Complete Book of Beauty by Helena Sunndydale, Alpha Hydroxy Acids work by breaking down the protein bonds that hold together the dead cells on the surface of our skin.  They cause the cells of the epidermis to become “unglued” allowing the dead skin cells to slough off, revealing brighter, plumper cells underneath. This gentle process cleans and clears blocked pores, improves your skin tone and softens the look of fine lines. AHAs may even stimulate the production of collagen and elastin and are reported to improve wrinkling, roughness, and mottled pigmentation of photodamaged skin after months of daily application. Well, you may like to know that it’s one of the popular choices of skincare ingredients recommended by many dermatologists too.

Said to inhibit melanin production
Skincare expert Paula Begoun has said that AHAs can help cell turnover rates and removing unhealthy or abnormal layers of superficial skin cells where hyperpigmented cells can accumulate. In fact, she even claims that AHAs can help to inhibit melanin production, separate from their actions as an exfoliant on skin. (source) This is why she uses AHA in her products – in a concentration of less than 10% allowed in commercial products. Higher concentration of AHAs, such as at 20% to 30% are used by trained cosmetologists or doctors in what is commonly termed as chemical peels. The higher the Alpha Hydroxy Acid concentration used in a chemical peel, the more skin irritation occurs and some even experience flaking skin.

Natural source of AHA that is affordable & easily available
Actually, I’ve avoided commercial products containing AHAs as they did not do too much for me. Perhaps I’ve used the wrong products and my skin developed some sensitivity as a result. So now, I use a natural AHA in the form of yogurt, which contains lactic acid. While it may not work as quickly as those commercial AHA based products, those of you who use this ingredient will agree with me that this is really great for the skin and it’s so affordable. In fact, this will make a great exfoliant without causing sensitivity to most skin types.  I’m not sure what’s the concentration of AHA in the yogurt but the pH level is definitely under 5 and so most people can use it quite regularly.  And by using this ingredient at least twice or thrice a week, you may find your skin tone evening out and some of your pigmentation or acne scarring marks actually lightening up over time. I’m not kidding you; I’ve used yogurt for awhile now and I’ve seen some good results on my skin!

Versatile in homemade recipes
Some companies are going to flame me for saying this but there is no need to purchase cleansers or creams containing AHA because yogurt is a natural and viable option.  You can also choose to use milk like Cleopatra, who is said to have bathed in sour assess’ milk to keep her skin beautiful. I don’t use milk that regularly only because I find yogurt a more versatile ingredients in homemade recipes. Yogurt is easily available in the supermarkets; just choose yogurt formulas that are sugar and flavor free and if you are acne prone, best to use the low fat formula too.

Slather your sunscreen when using AHA
Do check out my Homemade/DIY beauty category for various recipes using yogurt. I am currently loving it with oat flour, rice flour and sometimes mung bean powder. You can also use it with fruits or vegetables. Or, you can just use it alone as a mask. Leave it on for 10 to 20 minutes, rinse off and moisturize as usual. Some readers have informed me that their grandmothers have great skin because they use this simple ingredient. Realistically though, expect to see results after three to four weeks of regular usage with this natural ingredient but whether you choose to use yogurt or an AHA based product, please remember to slather your sunscreen daily as the ingredient can cause sun sensitivity.

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  1. says

    when everyone raves about yoghurt mask, for some reasons, yoghurt that I put on my face gave me some itchy red patches, have tried few times…can’t be sure whether it is really co-incidence, or it really irritates my skin =/

    • sesame says

      If you have used non flavored, plain yogurt that is low in fats and you still get the red patches, then chances are yogurt is not suitable for you probably due to the very lactic acid as well. I know some people with rosacea can’t use that ingredient too.

      • Nita says

        Hi Sesame, I use only yogurt in the morning for my facial wash. In the evening, I double cleanse my face by using grape seed oil and yogurt. They work well for my blemish and sensitive skin.

        • sesame says

          I see…glad it works for your blemish and sensitive skin. I am the opposite of you…I only use yogurt in the night.

  2. says

    I totally agree with you, yoghurt is the best findings I’ve made this year! Hehe. I have dry and sensitive skin so yoghurt is better suited for me than glycolic acid. Funnily, glycolic acid gives me rashes!

    • sesame says

      I think it must be glycolic acid that was in those products I used. Even at a high concentration, it didn’t help my skin much and instead, caused sensitivity.

  3. ZF says

    Hey, just wondering whether the yoghurt mask is suitable for acne-prone skin? i’ve few pimples around my forehead.. but was afraid to try this type of mask since it may aggravate the pimple further?

    • sesame says

      Yes, but you need to choose those low fat ones. Also, try adding brewer’s yeast to the yogurt as that’s supposed to help the acne. My suggestion is to try a little first to see if your skin is okay. The proportion is one teaspoon of brewer’s yeast with one tablespoon of yogurt.

  4. Mai says

    yeahhh i just b0ught s0me y0ghurt yesterday!! G0nna try mixing it either with the 0at fl0ur 0r s0ybean. 1st time user s0 h0pefully it will d0 w0nders f0r my skin :)

    • sesame says

      Hope you’ll enjoy using it. If you’re using it for the first time, use it for 10 mins first and if okay, then gradually increase to 20 minutes if you wish.

      • Mai says

        Haha, i remembered y0u wr0te s0mewhere ab0ut this but was t00 engr0ssed watching B0urne Ultimatum last nite that i left it 0n f0r 25 mins. Lucky f0r me there was n0 adverse reacti0n :)

        • sesame says

          That’s great! Usually the mixture will work for most pple…but I was wanted to be sure. Glad it worked out ok for you.

  5. says

    aspirin+honey mask is similar too in the sense that it contains AHAs? anyway i use yogurt for my itchy scalp. apply cold yogurt on my scalp after a day at work is simply shiok! =)))

    • sesame says

      Aspirin contains BHA and it does have that exfoliating effect. Oh yogurt for itchy scalp? So interesting!

    • sesame says

      I rarely come across yogurt products here…probably seen one or two but noticed that the yogurt is not really a key ingredient.

  6. says

    I love plain yoghurt as a snack with bananas or blueberries and as a facial mask :)
    I’ve never thought to use it as a cleanser… Will try it out coz I always have plain yoghurt at home (“,)

    • sesame says

      Great that you love to use it inside out. It’s good for the digestive system…too bad for me that I don’t like to eat it.

  7. Lucia says

    I love the smell of yogurt mixed with oatmeal! I can’t find oat flour anywhere so I use regular oats (i’m lazy to pound!) and it works just as great, I think. Is this ok? How often do you do the oat-yogurt mask? Also, I had no idea yogurt can be used as a cleanser! Will try it soon. :)

    • sesame says

      Yes, regular oats are fine…I used to pound them to make them more powder like. I actually use it every alternate day. As for the cleanser, I have a recipe here you can check it out too: http://www.vivawoman.net/2011/03/18/diy-beauty-simple-homemade-makeup-remover/

      • Lucia says

        Thanks, Sesame!
        This is out of topic but is there Now grapeseed oil available in Singapore? I still can’t find cosmetic grade GSO where I live and since a friend of mine is going there next week, i’ve asked her to buy me some stuff such as Nexcare acne patch and cosmetic grade gso. Where can you buy GSO in Singapore (any brand you recommend will do)? Will probably ask her to get me some oat flour as well. :) Thank you! :)

  8. Kim says

    hi sesame, yogourt mask can be applied under the eyes too? or just avoid put the yogurt under the eyes as the skin under the eyes are very thin?

    thanks in advance for your advice :)

    • sesame says

      Try to avoid eye area but sometimes I doapply slightly near. The trick isnot to get the yogurt into the eyes.

  9. Zinat says

    Hi Sesame,

    Have you tried Miessence Probiotic brightening toner? It’s all organic and natural. I’ll send you the link below.


    • sesame says

      For some personal reason, I wasn’t keen on this brand. I think it’s because over here, this is sold through special channels although I’ve seen a few of their products at some stores.

  10. says

    I love yogurt but I am more interested in eating it than slathering it on the face…I don’t know why but its my weakness that I don’t like t waste the things I like to eat by slathering them on the face which happens specially with yogurt and buttermilk and kiwi and strawberry and such fruits!!! but, yup, yogurt does wonders for hair and skin both…try using yogurt with clay…its the best deep cleansing mask one can ever get!!!

  11. Ktee says

    Yogurt mask with pre-mixed green pea face wash powder bought from indian shop is very good. After leaving it on for 10 minute or so and wash off, my skin is soft, bright and well hydrated. On the next day, my skin looks radiant. It is also good for clearing blemishes and marks. But since it is all natural, patience is the key word.

    • sesame says

      Ah…the pre-mixed green pea face wash powder is the same as mungbean? I use that sometimes.

      • ktee says

        Yes, but with added herbal blend. I notice the presence of turmeric. Smell needs some getting use to. I’ve blended my own powder using green peas but the result is not the same. That’s why i’ve gone back to the indian face wash powder. A few days ago, i’ve left the mask on longer than intended, about 20 minutes, the result was even more amazing! It’s like i’ve gone for a facial. The subtle glow lasted a couple of days.

        • sesame says

          Hmm…interesting. Sounds like the Bedah Sejuk others recommended. Must check this out soon.

  12. Dessie says

    Yogurt will never go to waste in my frige again. I can’t wait to try this! I’ve always been into natural products, and more recently alpha hydroxy products. My skin is so dull. I want to make it look vibrant and fresh again. I will be cleansing with yogurt tonight.

    • sesame says

      It will really help. I use yogurt consistently for some time now and I see a difference. It’s slower than the commercial products and it surely is more natural and gentler on our skin.

  13. Weiying says

    Hi sesame, how do you apply the yoghurt mask? Do you rub it in, or just let globs of yoghurt sit on top of it? I’ve tried rubbing it into my face, leaving just a thin layer on. It dries up pretty quickly, and after using it thrice, my skin became pretty rough and flaky! And letting a thick layer lie there on my face just doesn’t seem to be effective either :( What should I do?

    • sesame says

      That’s pretty strange. I suggest you stop using it then cos it sounds like it doesn’t work for you. I use it with oat flour and I just apply a thick layer and let it sit for 10 – 20 mins before washing off. But even based on the way you use, it should not cause flakiness so I’m very puzzled.

      On second thoughts, I think it’s the AHA causing your skin to ‘exfoliate”.

    • sesame says

      You’re welcome! I just remember that a facial therapist once told me not to over massage my skin using her exfoliator. She told me the skin can become worse…so I wonder if it’s the same theory for yous.

  14. mangomaddnes says

    I use a DIY Greek Yogurt Face Mask (plain Fage Greek yogurt). It leave my skin, soft and smooth. Ialso find that it takes the pain from any painful blemishes on the rare occasion that I get them.

      • mangomaddnes says

        Ohh ok. Is your skin a bit oilier? Greek yogurt is good for my (slightly) dry side and sensitive.

          • Thelma says

            Hi Sesame..I have sensitive skin as well..is yogurt really a AHA exfoliant? Do you know how to make a BHA natural exfoliant? Can you use it alone or does it have to be combined with another ingredient?

          • Sesame says

            I think aspirin is a BHA exfoliant. I’ve got a recipe here: http://www.vivawoman.net/2009/07/31/diy-beauty-aspirin-green-tea-for-acne-spots/

  15. says

    I just wanted to add its not fresh milk.. its sour milk. When it smells sour that’s the lactic acid, the lactic acid literally grows in the milk. People think Egyptians bathed in fresh milk.. it wasn’t. It was sour milk.

    • cy says

      Actually, if it smells sour it is more likely the (good) bacteria, as it is the probiotics (bacteria) that make any milk product sour. Lactic acid exists in all milk, not just sour. Buttermilk is sour precisely because it is cultured also (cultured=bacteria cultures)

  16. Dagmar says

    If i ‘ll do the yougrt mask 3times a week can i also use an peel off or a scrubbing mask on my face?


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