AHA vs BHA: Why They’re Different and How They Work To Give You Flawless Skin

BY Sonam Basantani / Apr 5 2020 / 15:40 PM

Whether you’re working remotely or trying to keep busy, now is the best time to get 'skin schooled' on these super-charged ingredients that can elevate your beauty game

AHA vs BHA: Why They’re Different and How They Work To Give You Flawless Skin

AHAs (alpha-hydroxy acids) and BHAs (beta-hydroxy acids) are two popular exfoliating acids that work proactively to give you clear, healthy and glowing skin.

Exfoliation is touted for its ability to remove dead cells, slough off patchy dry skin and fade dark spots. In the past, many of us associated exfoliation with rough scrubs made up of beads or crushed walnuts – which ultimately could wreck havoc on one’s complexion and do more harm than good.

The term ‘exfoliating acids’ may sound scary; however, the formulations are actually much gentler on the skin and come in forms of creams, serums and even toners. These chemical exfoliants work on a cellular level to dissolve the bond that holds the built-up layers of dead cells, excess oils and dirt, in turn cleaning out pores with minimal effort to give you a brighter, smoother and renewed complexion.

The most common AHAs are Citric Acid, Glycolic Acid and Lactic Acid.

Glycolic Acid

Glycolic has the smallest of molecules, penetrating deeper than the others making it the most effective.

Lactic Acid

While all of them are excellent for supersensitive skin Lactic Acid is usually the go-to for those who prefer to play it safe. The milk-derived acid reduces redness so is great for people with rosacea. It also acts as a humectant which means it won’t over-dry your skin.

Citric Acid

Citric Acid - not to be confused with the ascorbic acid Vitamin C - is a protective antioxidant found naturally in fruits. It’s especially good for acne prone skin types. It helps tighten pores, reduce first signs of ageing like pigmentation and fine lines while also brightening the complexion.

And what about BHAs? You're probably already familiar it. 

BHAs, better known as Salicylic Acid, is an anti-inflammatory ingredient derived from aspirin for those who need a stronger solution to their oily or problematic skin. If you’re dabbling with the idea of introducing this acid to your routine, make no mistake that even though it’s a beta, it isn’t for the sensitive (and definitely not for those who are allergic to aspirin).

The oil-soluble acid actively penetrates deep into the dermis to loosen up the bonds that hold dirt and debris. This process unclogs pores, clears up excess oils and sebum, putting an end to blackheads and blemishes. The anti-fungal acid is an excellent addition for those who want to exfoliate, firm, tone and balance excess oil production for a clearer, firmer and toned complexion.

Once you’ve zoned in on the right acid and product for you, make sure you don’t over-use or over-layer the active formulas. On the days you use AHA’s, avoid using products containing Vitamin C and Retinol immediately after as it may run the risk of overstimulating your skin. While using BHA’s every day is considered safe, AHA’s on the other hand are best used every other day, preferably at night, unless prescribed.

Wondering where to add the skin-saviours to your routine?

Apply them on clean skin after cleansing and toning so it can swiftly permeate and absorb thoroughly without having to go through extra layers. Follow up with a serum or moisturiser. As the skin has technically been chemically exfoliated, it is more photoreactive which is why it’s absolutely imperative to apply a sunscreen to finish.

Here are some of Bazaar’s favourites AHAs and BHAs

Aesop In Two Minds Facial Cleanser Dh170, Aesop

Sunday Riley Good Genes All-In-One Lactic Acid Treatment Dh330, Sephora.ae

Ren Glycolactic Radiance Renewal Mask Dh137, Netaporter.com

Dior Capture Total Dreamskin 1-minute Mask Dh325, Dior

Malin + Goetz Resurfacing Glycolic Acid Pads Dh255, Ounass.ae

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