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AHA vs BHA vs PHA – Exfoliant Benefits, Differences & How To Use

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What is AHA?

It is beneficial to people who have dry, rough skin, such as those who have keratosis pilaris. AHA is a water-soluble acid that works on the surface of the skin. It works as an exfoliant and assists in the skin’s moisture retention. One of the most well-known AHAs in skincare is glycolic acid. By levelling out the skin and reducing fine lines and wrinkles, glycolic acid exfoliation can aid in the healing of UV damage. It exfoliates by inducing apoptosis, which causes skin cells to self-destruct. Because alpha hydroxy acids exfoliate the skin and make it more porous, it’s essential to use sunscreen thereafter.

Types of AHAs

  • Citric Acid 
  • Glycolic Acid 
  • Hydroxycaproic Acid 
  • Hydroxycaprylic Acid
  • Lactic Acid 
  • Malic Acid 
  • Tartaric Acid 

Benefits of AHAs

  • AHAs can help with wrinkles, uneven skin texture.
  • AHAs also help with pigmentation by simply eating away at dead skin cells on the surface of the skin. 

Note: You may notice a tiny tingling sensation when using them, but don’t be alarmed; they’re just doing their work.

What is BHA?

BHAs, or beta hydroxy acids, are a group of acids that includes salicylic acid and many forms of citric acid. It will be beneficial to those with oily skin. BHA is fat-soluble, which means it penetrates deeper into the skin than AHA and can clear pores and reduce oil production. Clearing the pores may aid in the reduction of the appearance of larger pores. Salicylic acid, in particular, is well-known for its ability to treat acne and reduce the appearance of blackheads. Salicylic acid can also be used to treat calluses and warts. It exfoliates dead skin cells by dissolving the connections that bind them together. Salicylic acid, unlike glycolic acid, has been found to have sun-protective properties.

Types of BHAs

  • Salicylic Acid 
  • Beta Hydroxybutanoic Acid
  • Tropic Acid
  • Trethocanic Acid

Benefits of BHAs

  • BHAs are oil-soluble, whereas AHAs are solely water-soluble, which makes them suitable for people who have an oily T-zone. 
  • They contain antibacterial and anti-inflammatory effects and can penetrate beneath the oil that clogs your skin. 
  • As a result, they aid in the disappearance of spots and the reduction of redness. Salicylic acid is the most widely used BHA. 
  • It’s available in a variety of compositions designed for spot treatments.

What is PHA?

Poly hydroxy acids, sometimes known as PHAs, include gluconolactone, lacto-bionic acid, and malto-bionic acid. Because their molecular structures are bigger than AHAs, PHAs are better for those with sensitive skin, such as rosacea or eczema. As a result of this, they penetrate the skin more slowly and less deeply. They also help to maintain moisture and exfoliate the face softly. As a result, PHA, like AHA, can improve the appearance of sun-damaged skin. PHA, unlike AHA, does not make the skin more photosensitive.

Types of PHAs

  • Gluconolactone, 
  • Lacto-bionic acid
  • Malto-bionic acid

Benefits of PHAs

  • PHAs are especially useful for people who find other acids to be too harsh. 
  • PHAs can be used to resurface even the most sensitive skin types. 
  • They’ve been shown to be compatible with dry, itchy skin diseases including eczema and atopic rosacea in clinical investigations. 

AHA, BHA and PHA are all exfoliating acids. People with dry, rough skin will benefit the most from AHA, while those with oily skin or acne-prone skin would benefit the most from BHA. PHA will appeal to those with sensitive skin. For people with combination skin types- AHA, BHA, and PHA can be used simultaneously over different areas of the skin. There are also products that combine two or more of these acids in small concentrations which can be useful for combination skin types while also being suitable for other skin types.

While, using AHA, BHA and PHA, keep the following in mind-

  • Acid exfoliation should be done no more than two to three times each week (once or twice per week for those with sensitive skin). 
  • Irritation, redness, peeling, and/or sensitivity to other skincare products are all signs of over-exfoliation. 
  • Acids should be used with caution around the eyes and neck, since they may be too powerful for the skin in these places. 
  • Because retinoids and acids are both exfoliants, they should not be taken at the same time.
  • AHAs should always be layered with sunscreen as they are photosensitive, for that matter, we recommend exfoliation with AHAs at nighttime for best results. 
  • If you have a recurrent problem or anything else suspect on your skin, we recommend seeing a dermatologist for a more thorough check.

For quickly understanding the difference between AHA, BHA and PHA, refer to the following table-

AHAs

BHAs

PHAs

Water-soluble

Oil-soluble

Water-soluble

Best for dry skin

Best for oily and acne-prone skin

Best for sensitive skin

Has moisturizing properties

Has inflammatory properties

Has anti-aging properties

Can penetrate the upper layer of your skin

Can penetrate your pores

Stays on the skin surface

Sensitive to UV light

Not sensitive to light

Not sensitive to light

 

  • AHAs and PHAs are water-soluble while BHAs are oil-soluble.
  • AHAs are best for dry skin, BHAs are best for oily and acne-prone skin, and PHAs are best for sensitive skin.
  • AHAs have moisturizing properties, BHAs have anti-inflammatory properties and PHAs have anti-aging properties.
  • AHAs can penetrate the upper layer of your skin, BHAs can penetrate your pores and PHAs stay on your skin surface.
  • AHAs are very sensitive to sunlight while BHAs and PHAs are not sensitive to the sun.
  • Deconstruct Exfoliating Serum with 18% AHA + 2% BHA (Salicylic Acid)  This unique exfoliating serum with a potent combination of 18% AHA and 2% BHA can help tackle multiple skin concerns. The AHA exfoliates the dead skin cells away leaving behind a bright complexion, while the BHA unclogs the pores and purifies the skin deeply. This serum incorporates the benefits of both Glycolic acid and Salicyclic acid!
  • Deconstruct Beginner’s exfoliating serum with 5% Lactic Acid + 0.5% Probiotics It is a gentle exfoliating serum that has a mild formula, making it perfect for beginners. Probiotics in combination with Lactic Acid can help relieve a wide range of skin problems and exfoliate the skin effectively. It also contains 1% Hyaluronic Acid which keeps the skin hydrated while exfoliation.

The universe of acids is separated into three categories: Alpha Hydroxy Acids (AHAs), Beta Hydroxy Acids (BHAs), and the underdog, Polyhydroxy Acids (PHAs). You’ll fall into one of these three groups if you’re using skincare acid. AHA, BHA and PHA all aid in the shedding of old, dead skin cells, transforming dull skin into radiant skin. Each of these acids, on the other hand, is designed for people with specific skin kinds. Knowing which types of acid best suit you, can help you reach your skincare goals! Maybe that glass-like skin isn’t far away! *winks*

 

  • Can I use AHAs and BHAs together?
    Yes! You can but BHAs should be used in lower concentrations than AHAs. Using AHAs and BHAs together could be great for combination skin types.
  • What are PHAs used for?
    PHAs are great for sensitive skin. They have moisturizing and anti-aging properties apart from exfoliating properties.
  • What’s better for exfoliation- AHA or BHA?
    Both AHAs and BHAs are great for exfoliation. If you have dry skin, we recommend going with AHAs as they are very hydrating and are water-soluble. BHAs, being oil soluble could be great for oily and acne-prone skin types!

 

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