Difference between AHA & BHA
I have already explained the difference between physical and chemical exfoliation and also spoke about how to keep a balance between them according to your skin type and skin concerns but there is a lot of confusion surrounding the ingredients in chemical exfoliation that is AHA & BHA and what exactly do they do individually.
To Check out the post about physical & chemical exfoliation: Click here
To understand what they do lets first understand the names and what ingredients fall under which name. I will be answering the main and the most asked questions related to them.
What is AHA?
AHA stands for alpha hydroxy acid. AHAs are water-soluble acids made from sugary fruits. They help peel away the surface of your skin so that new, more evenly pigmented skin cells may generate and take their place. After use, you will notice that your skin is smoother to the touch that's why AHA is meant for textured skin.
What are the acids in AHA?
The most common ones are Glycolic and Latic acid but there are other acids too, all are explained below:
Glycolic Acid: Glycolic acid is naturally derived from sugar cane. It has the smallest molecules out of all AHAs giving it significant exfoliating abilities that treat a lot of our skin concerns: hyperpigmentation, scars, sun damage, and skin-aging. Glycolic acid also helps prevent acne breakouts.
Lactic Acid: Most AHAs come from sugary fruits but unlike all of them, lactic acid is actually made from the lactose found in milk. It is a milder AHA that is used to treat hyperpigmentation and reduce pore appearance, wrinkles, and other signs of skin-aging. It is meant for sensitive skin.
Tartaric Acid: Tartaric acid is the main acid found in most wines. It is derived from a number of plants and fruits like grapes. Although it is not as popular as other types of AHA, tartaric acid is an amazing antioxidant that helps heal signs of sun damage and acne.
Citric acid: Citric acid is derived from citrus fruit extracts like lemons and limes. This AHA can be found in toners intended to neutralize the skin’s pH. It is often an ingredient found in serums to help smooth the texture of the skin.
Malic Acid: Malic acid comes from apples and is considered to be both an AHA and BHA. It hydrates and soothes the skin while increasing respiration. However, compared to other AHAs, malic acid is not as effective when used on its own. It should be used in combination with other acids to boost its efficacy and maximize results.
Mandelic Acid: Mandelic acid comes from bitter almond nut extracts and contains larger molecules compared to other AHAs. Often, it is combined with other acids for maximum exfoliation but it could also be used alone to improve the skin’s overall texture, pigmentation, and pore size.
Benefits of AHA:
AHAs are used to solve issues like mild hyperpigmentation like age spots, melasma, and scars, enlarged pores, fine lines, and surface wrinkles (caused by dehydrated dead skin formation), and overall even out your skin tone.
Can you use AHA every day?
Ideally, you should use AHA three times a week and not more then that but if you are someone who is using different kinds of acids or heavy actives use AHA only twice a week, and its more then enough. The days you feel your skin is feeling extra sensitive (raw and burns) then skip AHA that week and follow a more nourishing routine that has ceramides and HA in them.
Never mix your AHA with other strong actives at the same time in your routine.
Is AHA better for dry skin?
Yes AHA is better for dry skin but it also works well for all other skin types and is sold in the market as meant for all skin types. Since dry skin is more prone to dead skin AHA helps in getting rid of that layer and helping the new skin to come to the surface.
What is BHA?
BHA stands for beta hydroxy acid. BHAs are oil-soluble. Unlike AHAs, BHAs can get deeper into the pores to remove dead skin cells and excess sebum.
What acid is BHA made of?
The only one everyone talks about is Salicylic acid and it has been in the skincare market for a while its just that we did not know its a BHA acid. It is naturally derived from the bark of the willow tree. Its light surface exfoliation improves overall skin texture, while the deeper penetration action effectively treats skin problems such as whiteheads, blackheads, and deeper cystic acne but it can also help calm down general redness and inflammation. Salicylic Acid also has antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties that help maintain and keep skin acne-free. Concentrations can range between 0.5 and 5 percent, depending on the product at hand.
Citric acid: While primarily classified as an AHA, some formulations of citric acid are BHAs, too. Rather than even out your skin’s pH levels, this type of citric acid is primarily used to dry out excess sebum and clean out dead skin cells deep in your pores.
Benefits of BHA
BHA is primarily used for acne and sun damage. Since BHA goes in deeper into your pores it helps to dry out the excess oils and gets rid of the dead skin cell. Excess dead skin cell leads to clogging pores which in turn are the major reason for acne. BHA takes care of that. That's why when AHA and BHA work together they make a fantastic team and work better but then the formulation should be made together if you use two different products of AHA & BHA then it may cause problems instead of helping.
Can you use BHA every day?
No please don't. Use BHA only twice a week and if you are using AHA in the week then use BHA only once and keep a day gap between the usage. Be very careful when you are using BHA. BHA can do wonders for your skin but if not used right it can destroy your basic skin barrier too.
With great skincare comes great responsibility.
Is BHA better for oily skin?
BHAs are most suitable for combination to oily skin. Lower concentrations may be used to help calm sensitive skin. You may also have more success with BHAs if you wanted to reduce rosacea-related redness and also any kind of skin rash. Since BHA is working on deeper levels of your skin cells it is a great solution for oily acne-prone skin. But too much of BHA can also make your skin dehydrated or cause dry surface patches so be careful especially in dry weather areas.
Can AHA and BHA be used together?
When it is formulated together yes definitely, In fact, the whole trend started with the Ordinary peeling solution where AHA and BHA work together but usually, in these type of formulations the AHA is higher than the BHA since a small percentage of BHA can do a lot of difference compared to AHA. Comparatively, AHA is milder then BHA that's why AHA can be used 3 times a week, unlike BHA. If you still want to use both of them you can alternate between morning and night routines where BHA can be applied in the morning and AHA at night. Don't use AHA in the morning and follow up with a heavy SPF after you use BHA in the morning.
Don't use different formulation/products of AHA and BHA together its not safe. It will cause irritation and extereme dryness
Ingredients that shouldn't be mixed with AHA & BHA:
Don't Mix ingredients like Retinol, benzoyl peroxide with AHA/BHA acids. AHA and BHA acids are exfoliating, which can dry out the skin and cause further irritation if your skincare routine already includes retinol. As for benzoyl peroxide and retinol, they cancel each other out. Also, don't use Vitamin C with AHA and BHA especially if its a higher concentrate (above 5%) Basically the rule is one active at a time. Even though there are a few people who say you can use two actives together depending on your skin barrier strength but if you are reading this it means you are trying to understand basic skincare so that means you are not ready to mix active ingredients together on your own yet. Also don't mix essential oils with AHA and BHA separately if they are formulated together it's different don't use it separately.
Ingredients that you can use with AHA & BHA:
Now you can use ingredients like ceramides, HA (hyaluronic acid) with AHA and BHA in fact Cermaide moisturizers make as a great buffering moisturizer when you are starting out with AHA and BHA. If you use HA just see that you are not using it on dry skin. If you want to use Vitamin C on the same day then use Vitamin C in the morning routine and use the AHA/BHA in your nighttime routine. You can also use Niacinamide if the percentage is less with AHA but I would suggest don't use it with BHA because most of the niacinamide serums already have salicylic acid in them. Also, it would be safer if you don't use niacinamide serum right after using AHA & BHA peels.
Is AHA better than BHA?
Neither AHA nor BHA is “better” than one or the other. They have similar skin benefits that can help you achieve different results depending on your skin concerns. AHA is recommended for dry, aging skin while BHA is recommended for clogged, oily skin. Both together work beautifully if formulated together but don't work together in separate versions so they are better together then apart.
Once you understand what chemical exfoliation can do for your skin you will know which product is meant for you so you use them accordingly and get to your glowing skin dream sooner. Remember nothing is going to give you results overnight and skincare just like everything in life takes time and patience. Understanding and listening to your skin needs is the key. If you follow a full ayurvedic skincare routine with heavy oils then don't mix chemicals with that or use it on the days you won't use the heavy oils. You can use your basic facial oils but nothing heavy or something that will react with the acids.
Most of the information mentioned above is very standard and you can find it anywhere on google and other blogs but I decided to club whatever I know and researched so I could give you a comprehensive idea about the ingredients and what they do for you and how you should use them. If you still have any more queries or confusion do feel free to message me and I will try to solve to the extend of my knowledge.
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