All you need to know about AHA & BHA

Admit it first that you cannot get a glass skin without proper exfoliation. Exfoliation has become an important step in your daily skincare routine and they have got beyond physical scrubs. Two such chemical exfoliants that are ruling the skincare routine (AHA and BHA) and if you aren’t using them already, you are missing out on some serious benefits that they offer. Keep reading!

Before we start, let us understand that there are two types of exfoliants: Physical and Chemical. Physical scrubs are the regular scrubs that come with small granules or beads that exfoliate your skin but chemical scrubs do not work that way.

What is AHA?

The full form of AHA is Alpha Hydroxy Acids that represent acids derived from a natural substance like fruits, sugar cane, milk, almonds. Which types of acid come under AHAs:

» Glycolic acid (derived from sugarcane)
» Lactic acid (derived from milk)
» Malic acid (derived from pears and apples)
» Citric acid (derived from oranges and lemons)
» Tartaric acid (derived from grape extracts)

AHA is water-soluble and ideal for dry skincare routine.

Glycolic acid is the most common form of AHA and the strongest too. It has the tiniest molecules that penetrate the deepest into the skin than any other AHA.

Lactic acid is milder than glycolic acid because it has bigger molecules than glycolic acid but small than mandelic acid. Hence, if you are a beginner, you can start which lactic acid.

Mandelic acid is the mildest acid and an appropriate choice if you have sensitive skin.

If you are a beginner, you should try lactic or mandelic acid as glycolic acid might be harsh for you. If you are used to AHAs, then glycolic acid is highly effective and shows phenomenal results that are required for flawless skin.

What is BHA?

The full form of BHA is Beta Hydroxy Acid which is also known as Salicylic acid as it is the only acid present in a BHA product. BHA is a gift to oily and acne-prone beauties. It has anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties and is great if you’re dealing with clogged pores, blackheads, whiteheads, blemishes, enlarged pores, or oily skin in general.

As BHA has oil-soluble properties, it is a boon for the oily skincare routine and combination skincare routine.

Now that you know the difference between AHA and BHA acids, Let us understand their benefits as an exfoliant in the skincare routine.

  • They require no scrubbing hence great for sensitive and active acne skin too.
  • They work even after application.
  • These acids work more deeply, and not just the top layers of skin.
  • Helps reduce signs of aging.
  • They minimize pores and fine lines.
  • Helps in improving your skin texture.
  • Remove dead skin cells and unclog pores.
  • Reduce skin inflammation.

If both AHA and BHA are exfoliants then how are they different from each other?

It depends on each skin type and their concerns, in short, AHA acids help a lot in pigmentation but they are water-soluble hence used by dry skin people as dry skin is flaky and usually suffers a lot of pigmentation. BHA acids help a lot in acne, clogged pores, whiteheads, and blackheads, etc. but they are oil soluble. Though both the acids can be used by an individual but make sure you introduce one acid at a time. Keep Reading!


Benefits of AHA

  • AHA is a water-soluble acid hence it is very hydrating for your skin and best for those with dry skin. Make sure you use a good moisturizer followed by it.
  • It works on the topmost layer of your skin and loosens the bonds between the dead skin and the skin beneath it.
  • AHA has the tendency to make your skin plump, improve its firmness and texture, and reduces fine lines as it has hydrating properties.
  • A must-have who has uneven skin tone, excessive sun damage, and sunburn and are worried about advanced signs of aging.
  • AHA boosts skin turnover rate and collagen production and plays an important role in anti-aging treatments.

Benefits of BHA

  • BHA is a God’s gift for those with oily and acne-prone skin.
  • Unlike AHA, it not only works on your skin’s topmost surface but also penetrates deep inside your skin pores, clears oil and hardened sebum, and reduces acne inflammation, helps in eliminating whiteheads and blackheads. Hence, BHA is mostly used in acne products.
  • BHA also helps in eliminating the appearance of fine lines, wrinkles, and age spots. It improves skin firmness and makes it glossy and smoother.
  • One thing you will notice after using BHA for a while that it helps in balancing excess oil production.

How to use AHA and BHA in your skincare routine?

How to apply AHA:

  • Wash your face with your regular cleanser.
  • Pat it dry.
  • Apply your regular toner on your face.
  • Wait for a few minutes and then apply the AHA serum (only 3-4 drops is sufficient).
  • Gently spread the AHA serum all over your face.
  • Apply moisturizer after 10 minutes.

Note that, AHA exfoliants can make your skin sun-sensitive hence it should be used strictly only at night. Make sure you apply a good sunscreen whenever you step outside during the daytime.

How to apply BHA:

  • Wash your face with your regular cleanser.
  • Unlike AHA, do not wait for the face to dry completely. Apply the BHA serum on semi-dry face and spread it all over your face. Again 3-4 drops are sufficient.
  • Wait for a few minutes and then apply a good moisturizer over our face as BHA can dry out our skin.

Note: If you are a beginner, make sure you apply only 2 drops of
BHA serum only once or twice a week at the start followed by a moisturizer. Or you can also mix it with your moisturizer and apply it to your face. Go really slow when using a BHA serum as it is a little drying. Once you are settled with the skincare active (BHA), you can slowly use it thrice a week.

Can you use AHA and BHA together?

If you want to use both the products alternately if you are acne-prone and uneven skin tone, you can follow the below routine:

  • You can alternate AHA and BHA exfoliants each day. If you are using AHA product one day, use BHA product the next day. (But only after you are used to it)

However, before you start using AHA or BHA exfoliants, make sure you are using the right concentration of the formula. These exfoliants are available in concentrations ranging from 2% to 10%. Start with a low formula so that it suits you. My favorite AHA and BHA serum are from Suganda.co (an Indian brand, which is really mild and effective) and from The Ordinary.

NOTE: Your skin might purge when you start using an active (acid) in your daily skincare routine. This is very normal, your skin takes nearly about 2-4 weeks to adjust to it. Just see the skin purging as cleaning of pipes which removes all the dirt and grime from deep inside before making the skin smoother and clearer. Make sure to use an SPF of 30+ at least while stepping out of the house once you start using acids in your daily skincare routine.

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