The Truth About AHA and BHA Acids: Are They Effective?

AHA and BHA acids

Our modern beauty habits have finally made room for another one – the use of sunscreen every day. However, along with this, the place on the pedestal was also required by exfoliants of AHA and BHA groups. However, many of our readers are still wondering what it is and how to use it.



Exfoliation or the more familiar word "exfoliation": is a daily necessity. Our skin is not able to completely get rid of the keratinized layer of dead cells on its own and, if it is not helped, they will accumulate in a layer on the surface of the skin, interfering with the beneficial effects of your care cosmetics and not allowing oxygen into the epidermis.

Daily use of alpha hydroxy acid (AHA) or beta-hydroxy acid (BHA) helps to remove dead skin cells, even out its tone, and make it smooth

What are alpha hydroxy acids (AHA)?

Alpha hydroxy acids are water-soluble substances that act as chemical, rather than physical, exfoliants (peels). They help in removing old skin cells, which are replaced by new ones. For this reason, AHA acids are excellent ingredients for people with a dry, dull, or uneven complexion, as well as with damaged or sensitive skin.

These ingredients can also help boost the effectiveness of other skin care products you use, as exfoliating your skin from dirt and makeup residue makes it easier for products to get into your skin, which will help them do their best.



What is beta-hydroxy acid?

Beta-hydroxy acids are lipid-soluble substances, so they can penetrate the skin through the sebaceous glands. This characteristic makes BHA suitable ingredients for people with oily skin, which is why salicylic acid, the most common BHA for care, is often used to treat acne. Unlike AHA acids, BHA is more beneficial when they are present in low concentrations of skin care products. Therefore, seeing salicylic acid listed in the middle or end of the ingredients list on your anti-acne cream is normal and even preferred.


How do acids work?

Both BHA and AHA have excellent exfoliating abilities (removing dead skin cells), but AHA acids work by reacting with the upper layer of the epidermis, weakening the binding properties of lipids that hold dead skin cells together. This allows the outer shell to "dissolve, ", revealing the underlying skin. Exfoliants begin the production of new skin cells. AHAs are also thought to reduce the appearance of wrinkles, roughness, and age-related pigmentation, and may also stimulate the production of collagen and elastin in the skin.

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In the composition of cosmetics, I mention active AHA xylose in second or third place. Such products are likely to contain a recommended concentration of 5-8%. There are several AHA acids, most of which are fruit and dairy. Here is a list of the 5 most active AHA acids:

  • Glycolic acid - sugar cane.
  • Lactic acid - milk.
  • Malic acid - apples and pears.
  • Citric acid - oranges and lemons.
  • Tartaric acid - grapes.

Glycolic and lactic acids penetrate the skin a little better than others, so you will find these AHA acids in foods more often.


How Do BHA Acids Work?

Indeed, there is only one type of BHA acid widely used in the production of skincare products, and that is salicylic acid. Like AHA, BHA works well as an exfoliant, penetrating deep into the pores, and exfoliating dead skin cells to make room for new ones. After six months of daily use, BHA, according to clinical studies, reduces the severity of wrinkles, skin relief, and pigmentation caused by sun damage.





If AHA acids work at a higher concentration since they are softer, then at the same time with BHA acid, everything is different, it is very concentrated. Therefore, do not look for it in the top three ingredients. Look for it in the middle or at the bottom of the product composition list. BHA in skin care products usually works best at a concentration of about 1-2%.



What to choose: BHA or AHA?

AHA acid will be an ideal choice for owners of sensitive and dry skin. Acids of the AHA group cannot penetrate deep into the pores, so they do not cause dehydration and irritation.

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BHA is ideal for skin prone to acne because BHA acids can penetrate deeply into pores and cleanse them. BHA acids also help to narrow pores and have antiseptic and skin-soothing effects. And BHA acids are one of the most effective means in the fight against rosacea.

Although both AHA and BHA acids can be useful in skin care, you need to decide on the result that you need.


For example, if you want to:

  • Minimize the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.
  • Improve the appearance of facial tone and skin texture.
  • Get rid of dull skin.

Here, your best friend is AHA acid.


But if you want to:

  • Balance the sebum content of the skin on your skin.
  • Treat acne, subcutaneous, and acne.

Then definitely choose BHA acid.

How to get the greatest benefit from the use of AHA and BHA acids?

  1. After you use your cleanser (foam, balm, toner), apply an AHA or BHA exfoliant.

  2. You can use it around the eye area, but not on the eyelid or just below the eye (along the lower eyelash line).

  3. You do not need to wait for BHA or AHA products to dry on the skin, apply any other product (serum, eye cream or sunscreen) - immediately after applying the exfoliant.

  4. Experiment with different AHA and BHA acids to see what concentration of the ingredient in the product gives you the most effective results.

  5. How often you have to exfoliate your skin with AHA or BHA acids depends on the type of skin. Oily skin types should apply AHA or BHA exfoliants twice a day, every day. We recommend owners of dry or sensitive skin to use such products once a day or every other day. Check what works best for you.

Tip: if your AHA or BHA product resembles water in texture - apply it with a cotton pad; if lotion or gel - apply it with your fingers.


Why don't I just use a scrub or cleaning brush to exfoliate my skin?

Most scrubs have a rough, uneven texture that can be too harsh and abrasive, causing micro-tears in the skin. Many cleaning brushes are also a problem because they have stiff bristles and have the same negative effect on the vulnerable surface of the skin.

The exceptions are soft peels and soft cleaning brushes, but even if they are best used as an additional cleansing step, they are not a substitute for what a properly selected exfoliant with AHA or BHA acids can do. Scrubs simply do not work as deeply and effectively as the exfoliants of AHA and BHA groups!

Does using BHA or AHA acid increase your sensitivity to UV radiation?

Whenever you exfoliate the skin with a scrub, brushes, AHA or BHA acids, you are removing layers of dead skin. Dead skin provides you with a small degree of UV protection on its own, so to some extent, it becomes more vulnerable. However, this problem is solved by the banal use of sunscreens every day, which will not only protect it from photoaging but also moisturize it.




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