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What exactly is an AHA or BHA?

So many folks are using acids in their routine right now. Don't get me wrong, using acids is not a problem if, you are use them correctly, pairing them safely, using the right acid(s) for your needs and Using SPF30+. Not using SPF daily in one level of not caring for your skin and causing potential long-term damage, however not using SPF paired with using active acids blasphemy in my eyes. Without doing enough research to determine the right acids for your skin can be extremely harmful and painful to your delicate skin. Using the wrong acid could literally add more damage on top of what you may be trying to repair...and that's no bueno.

I am pretty sure you have come across the terms AHAs and BHAs on thses skincare streets. But what the hell is an AHA or a BHA? Luckily you have me to explain. Both AHAs and BHAs are types of hydroxy acids, AHA stands for alpha hydroxy acid and BHA stands for beta hydroxy acid. They are usually available in different levels of concentration making some more potent than others.

You can find both in a wide variety of products, from facial cleansers, toners, moisturisers, scrubs, peels and masks. Their specific purpose simply put, is to exfoliate the skin. This is where the concentration of the acids come into play.

AHAs are water-soluble acids made from sugary fruits. They help peel away only the surface of your skin, allowing new and more evenly pigmented skin cells to generate and take their place. You’ll likely notice that your skin is smoother to the touch after an initial use. AHAs are primarily used for mild hyperpigmentation, enlarged pores, fine lines, surface wrinkles and uneven skin tone.

BHAs on the other hand are oil-soluble and can get deeper into the pores to remove dead skin cells and excess sebum. BHAs are mostly used to combat acne and sun damage. These products go deep into the hair follicles to dry out excess oils and remove dead skin cells to unclog pores. Due to the effects BHAs have they are mostly suitable for combination and oily skin. AHAs are often marketed as safe for all skin types which in fact they are, however you’ll want to take precaution if you have extremely dry and sensitive skin. 

Types of AHAs

Glycolic – made of sugar cane and is the most common type of AHAs, providing significant exfoliation.

Lactic – made from lactose in milk, it’s also known for its significant exfoliation and anti-aging effects.

Tartaric – not as widely and known made from grape extracts and may help alleviate signs of sun damage and acne.

Citric – made from citrus fruit extracts. Its main purpose is to neutralize the skin’s pH levels and to even out rough patches of skin.

Malic – derived from fruit like apples & pears.  Smooth out texture, fade discoloration and help unclog pores, much gentler than other AHAs.

Mandelic – derived from almonds which makes skin appear brighter. Larger molecular structure making it not as harsh as other acids, so perfect for super-sensitive skin.

Types of BHAs

Salicylic – the most common BHA. Concentrations can range between 0.5 and 5 percent depending on the product. Well-known as an acne treatment as it is fat-soluble and penetrates deeply.

Citric – although classified as an AHA, some formulations of citric acid are BHAs primarily used to dry out excess sebum and clean out dead skin cells deep within pores.

Which AHA and BHA product do you like the most? Please share your ideas in the comments and forum section.

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