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AHA vs BHA – AHA & BHA Exfoliant Benefits, Differences & How to Use

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The thought of using acids in skincare could be worrisome for many out there. If you’re here you’re probably new to the world of acids in skincare. Wondering what acids do for you? AHA or BHA, which acid should you use? How exactly should you use AHAs and BHAs? You’ve come to the right place coz we’ve got the answers for your questions.

Alpha-hydroxy acids are chemical compounds that are naturally found in certain foods like sugarcane, fruits and milk. They are water-soluble acids which work by dissolving the bonds between dead skin cells. Once the dead skin cells are loosened, it’s easier to slough them away. AHAs are a popular ingredient in skincare as a form of chemical exfoliation, a safer and gentler alternative to physical exfoliation.

  • AHAs exfoliate the skin efficiently.
  • They may help treat signs of aging such as fine lines, age spots etc.
  • They can improve the texture of the skin and help get rid of tiny bumps on the face.
  • They are helpful in treating hyperpigmentation, dark spots and other signs of sun damage.
  • They can help get rid of uneven skin tone and provide smoother skin.
  • AHAs may be effective against acne by removing layers of dead skin cells, dirt and sebum which could potentially clog the pores.
  • AHAs can brighten the skin as they remove a layer of older, dead skin cells.
  • They stimulate collagen production.

 

Beta-hydroxy acids are oil-soluble acids which work by penetrating deep into the pores and getting rid of any sebum, dead skin cells or bacteria clogging them. It then dissolves all this stuff which could potentially clog the pores and gently exfoliates dead skin cells from the top layer of the skin. Willow bark is a naturally occurring source of BHA.

  • As they help clear the pores, BHAs can be effective against acne.
  • They may help reduce inflammation.
  • They effectively eliminate dead skin cells.
  • They may help control sebum production.
  • They can reduce the appearance of large pores.
  • They may help even out skin tone and texture.

 

The fact that AHAs are water-soluble whereas BHAs are oil-soluble is what makes them so different. AHAs work on the surface level by sloughing away a layer of dead skin cells from the outermost layer of the skin. Since BHAs on the other hand are oil-soluble, they penetrate deeper into the pores and remove any oil or dead skin cells clogging them.  

The best way to make sure you choose an acid that’s right for you is based on your skin type. AHAs are of many types and there’s plenty of AHA options to choose from, so there’s something for each skin type. AHAs are also the right choice for those looking to treat sun damage, hyperpigmentation and brighten the skin in general. 

BHAs on the other hand, work a bit more specifically by targeting excess sebum and dead skin cells clogging the pores, which makes them most suitable for those with oily skin types. BHAs are a great choice for those looking to tackle acne, blackheads, whiteheads and excessive oiliness.

Since both of these ingredients are potent acids, you need to be careful while combining these together in your routine. Layering them is a bad idea as it may lead to irritation. Try looking for products that combine AHAs and BHAs, these are formulated to safely work on the skin and provide you with the benefits of both an AHA and a BHA. Combining AHAs and BHAs may not be for you if you’ve got extremely sensitive skin. If not, you could use AHAs and BHAs on separate days to completely avoid any risk of irritation.

To tell if a product has an AHA or a BHA, you need to go back to the basics and know the types of AHAs and BHAs. Once you know what are some common AHAs and BHAs, one look at the ingredient list and you’d know which one of the two the product has. Here are the types of AHAs and BHAs-

  • Types of AHAs- Glycolic Acid, Lactic Acid, Mandelic Acid, Tartaric Acid, Citric Acid and Malic Acid are the common AHAs.
  • Types of BHAs- Salicylic Acid, Betaine Salicylate, Salix Alba and Citric Acid are the BHAs generally used in skincare.

 

Since both AHAs and BHAs are exfoliants, using them together creates a risk of over-exfoliation. Over-exfoliation can lead to a damaged epidermal barrier which could cause many skin problems. Some of the side effects associated with AHAs and BHAs are-

  • Dryness
  • Irritation
  • Peeling of the skin
  • Redness
  • Itchiness
  • Inflammation
  • Blisters 

Another risk associated with the use of AHAs and BHAs together is an increased sensitivity to sun. Using sunscreen while using AHAs and/or BHAs is extremely important to avoid sun damage. It’s also essential to do a patch test to check for allergy or sensitivity to ingredients.

AHAs and BHAs are both acids that exfoliate, hence layering them could be a recipe for disaster. The best way to use AHAs and BHAs together in your routine is to use them on separate days. This eliminates the risk of any irritation associated with using them together. If you really want to use the two together, and are sure that your skin can tolerate it, try looking for a product which combines both these ingredients together. Various chemical peels, serums and moisturisers available in the market combine AHAs and BHAs in a formulation which can safely be used by most skin types. Regardless of how you choose to include AHAs and BHAs in your routine, always remember to use them at night and use a sunscreen the following days to avoid sun damage. Here’s how you could use some of the products with AHAs and BHAs-

  • Serums- Serums are generally formulated to be safely in contact with your skin for a longer period of time. Serums with AHAs and BHAs can be applied to clean skin as a first step and followed by a hydrating moisturiser to avoid dryness. If you have sensitive skin, you can choose to apply the serum for about 30 minutes and wash it off to avoid any irritation.
  • Moisturisers- These can also be safely used on the skin overnight. Moisturisers with AHAs and BHAs can gently exfoliate the skin while keeping it moisturised. Just be sure that you avoid mixing it with ingredients like Vitamin C and Retinol and you can keep irritation at bay.
  • Peels- Peels are stronger in terms of action and are meant to work instantly. Peels are generally applied to clean skin and left undisturbed for about 15 to 30 minutes, after which it’s washed off. The duration is dependent on your skin’s sensitivity.

Deconstruct Beginner’s exfoliating serum with 5% Lactic Acid + 0.5% Probiotics

With a concentration of 5% Lactic Acid, as the name suggests, this serum is ideal for beginners. It’s a mild exfoliating serum, suitable for all skin types. It can effectively exfoliate and brighten the skin.

Deconstruct Exfoliating Serum with 18% AHA + 2% BHA (Salicylic Acid)

A unique serum which consists of a blend of four types of AHAs and a BHA, this serum provides multiple benefits through one product. If you couldn’t decide on an AHA or a BHA to use, this product’s your answer. Just include this product in your regimen and enjoy the many benefits of using AHAs and BHAs.

Don’t be fooled by the name, using acids like AHAs and BHAs in your skincare has multiple benefits for the skin. Although AHAs and BHAs might not be for everybody out there (we’re looking at you sensitive skinned beauties), most people can experience these benefits by finding the right acids for them. Ensure that you follow precautions and use the acids correctly to avoid doing more harm than good.

  • What are the types of BHAs?

Salicylic Acid happens to be the most commonly used BHA. Other BHAs used in skincare include Citric Acid, Betaine Salicylate and Salix Alba.

  • Can you use an AHA and BHA together?

Yes, AHAs and BHAs can absolutely be used together in your routine. AHAs work on the surface level whereas BHAs penetrate deeper into the skin, together they loosen the bonds between skin cells and slough away dead skin cells, sebum and dirt clogging the pores.

  • What are some AHA-BHA serum benefits?

AHA-BHA serum can be the perfect alternative to physical exfoliation. Using an AHA-BHA serum can effectively exfoliate the skin and be effective against skin issues like hyperpigmentation, acne and signs of aging.

  • Is it good to use AHA and BHA for acne scars?

AHAs and BHAs work by exfoliating the skin and increasing the cell turnover rate. They can be effective against acne scars as they remove the topmost layer of dead skin cells and cause newer cells to surface up.

  • Is it safe to use chemical exfoliants with AHA and BHA?

Absolutely yes! AHAs and BHAs can safely be used in your routine to successfully achieve better skin. They offer many benefits and can be useful against hyperpigmentation, fine lines, dark spots, acne and many other skin problems. Just remember to follow precautions and use them correctly and they could very well replace physical exfoliation for you. 

 

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