Skincare 101: What’s AHA and BHA?

Do you want smooth, flawless skin? Well, here’s a treat for you! Exfoliation is one of the many steps in a skincare routine. We need to get rid of dead skin cells, unclog pores and promote proper blood flow and collagen production. To do this, one type of exfoliation that’s gaining traction is acids — specifically AHA and BHA.

What are AHA and BHA you ask? And who should use it? And what are the products that contain AHA and BHA?

Alpha-hydroxy acid (AHA), AHA acids, is derived from natural substances such as sugar cane, milk, almonds or grapes. They dissolve the glue that holds skin cells together and traces the skin’s natural repulsion process. In simpler terms, AHA acids are obtained from sugary fruits. This type of acid is mainly used for mild hyperpigmentation such as age spots, melasma, scars, and enlarged pores. AHA is good for dry skin as it is a water-soluble acid. It helps improve the moisture content of the skin.

Meanwhile, Beta Hydroxy Acid (BHA) is best used for acne-prone skin. BHA acids can prevent oil blockages that build up to become blackheads and whiteheads. Since it is oil-soluble, it penetrates further into the skin, resolving deeper skin problems. It dissolves sebum and dead skin that leads to acne. BHA also stabilises the lining of the pores and has antibacterial properties. It is best for users with oily skin and sensitive skin. The use of BHA may help to reduce rosacea-related redness.

According to a review in 2009, AHAs and BHAs yield fuller skin when used together. This may be due to increased collagen production, which can make both the dermis and epidermis visibly plumper. Both share the same exfoliating benefits but vary on different skincare goals. If you’re looking for something for dry skin, it’s best to use AHA. And if you are experiencing an acne outbreak, use BHA.

If you can’t decide and you’re experiencing hyperpigmentation, acne or dry skin, it is better to use both AHA and BHA. It is the two-stroke acid treatment of fine lines, sun damage, dark spots, as well as acne. Buy products that contain both ingredients or alternate between your AHA product and BHA product every night or every week. Since both are exfoliants and if used excessively may cause dryness and irritation.

Here are some products that contain AHA and BHA:

Products containing AHA:

Image from @swan_kbeauty

COSRX AHA 7 Whitehead Power Liquid, available on Amazon, USD 14.95
– AHA liquid formulated to reduce whiteheads and renew complexion it contains 7 percent glycolic acid and fruit water to gently exfoliate the skin, prevent breakouts, and brighten skin tone.

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Mario Badescu A.H.A. Botanical Body Soap, available on Amazon and Ulta, USD 14
– If you’re looking for a way to regularly fight body acne and thoroughly clean up the build-up on your skin, this is an excellent option to expand your shower combination. Papaya and grapefruit extract dead skin cells to be replaced with new smooth and soft skin. Ginseng extract rejuvenates and oat protein relieves sensitive or irritated areas.

Products containing BHA:

Image from @paulaschoice

Paula’s Choice Skin Perfecting 2% BHA Liquid Salicylic Acid Exfoliant, available on Amazon, USD 28.03
An exfoliant that works to unclog deep pores, blur wrinkles, and improve skin tone, this is a facial scrub is that it is less abrasive and penetrates deep into the pores, improving the structure of the pores.

Image from @thecosmeticsbrands

Clinique Acne Solutions Clarifying Lotion, available on Amazon, USD 34.50
A Sephora beauty community favourite, this contains anti-inflammatory and antibacterial ingredients, making it great for fighting acne. It prevents dark spots and promote a smooth finish.

Products that have both AHA and BHA:

Image from @drunkelephant

Drunk Elephant T.L.C. Sukari Babyfacial, available on Amazon and Sephora, USD 80
It won the “Best of Beauty” award from Allure in 2017 and contains high concentrations of AHA (25%) and BHA (2%). It also consists of Drunk Elephant’s “dream team blend” of glycolic, tartaric, lactic, citric, and salicylic acids. Together, they effectively reveal an even and smooth skin as it gently resurfaces the new skin. Powerful antioxidants like matcha, apple fruit, and milk thistle calm and hydrate, and non-fragrant plant oils replenish moisture and nourish the new layer of skin cells. Chickpea flour brightens and balances the skin without over-drying, and pumpkin ferment bumps up enzymatic action. Niacinamide, also known as Vitamin B3 or niacin, is included to brighten and tone skin for a healthier look and feel.

Image from @cultbeauty

The Ordinary Peeling Solution AHA 30% + BHA 2%, available on Amazon, USD 14.19
It is a cheaper AHA/BHA option that acts like a 10-minute exfoliating facial. It contains a relatively high amount of AHA (30%) to exfoliate the skin’s topmost surface and BHA (2%) to clear congested pores. The Peeling Solution also has Tasmanian Pepperberry to help reduce irritation, Vitamin B5 to assist healing and black carrot as an antioxidant. Limit your usage to no more than two times per week since the solution is strong. The company only recommends it for seasoned users of acid exfoliation, and it shouldn’t be used on sensitive skin.

Always remember to take extra good care of your skin, your skincare routine shouldn’t take long, you just have to know which products to use. Keep in mind to always use sunblock if you’re going out on daytime and check your dermatologist for products best for you.


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