The dilemma of choosing between AHAs vs BHAs can be confusing for many people. But because both these exfoliating acids have important roles to play in skincare, it’s equally important to know what they actually are as well as their benefits and differences. Let’s dive into the world of AHAs and BHAs to get the best out of both.
Why AHAs and BHAs?
Our skin has the natural tendency to shed dead skin cells on its own on a daily basis. Over time, as we age or due to overexposure to the sun, this process of natural exfoliation decreases and can even stop completely. When this happens, your skin could result in dull, dry, and rough textures. It could even lead to clogged pores, pimples, uneven skin tones, fine lines, and wrinkles.
When this natural process of skin shedding diminishes, exfoliating agents like the AHAs and BHAs come to our skin’s rescue. These acids work to unglue the outer layers that bind the dead skin cells together and increases cell turnover by removing the dead cells and revealing the healthier cells that are hiding under the skin surface.
AHAs vs BHAs : The Difference
The fundamental difference between these two acids is that – AHAs are water-soluble and BHA is oil-soluble. This means AHAs can work only on the skin surface while BHA can work on the surface as well as through the oil pores under the skin.
There are five major types of AHAs namely glycolic, lactic, mandelic, malic, citric, and tartaric acids. Among these, glycolic and lactic acids have become the most commonly used AHAs due to their special ability to penetrate the skin.
There is only one BHA, which goes by the name Beta Hydroxy Acid or Salicylic acid.
Let us look at the ones that suit your skin best so you can choose the right skin exfoliating acid.
All about the AHAs
AHAs are known to be more beneficial for thickened dry skin that has been damaged by harmful sun rays over time. Overexposure to the sun results in thickening of the top layer of the skin; this makes the skin appear dull and rough. AHAs work to remove this thickened outer layer, thus revealing the healthy skin cells underneath and a more radiant skin.
AHAs like glycolic acid helps in improving the skin discolorations and fine lines caused by sun damage, increases the level of collagen and strengthens the skin barrier. If you have sensitive skin, you can opt for mandelic acid, which is a mild form of AHA.
All about the BHAs
BHA or Salicylic Acid is beneficial on oily and acne-prone skin due to its special
ability to penetrate the oil pores underneath the skin. BHA works to exfoliate the dead skin cells that are built-up inside the oil glands. The built-up of these sebaceous glands or sebums is what causes acne on the skin.
Its unique property to penetrate the oil pores makes it extremely effective for skins that are prone to blackheads, pimples, enlarged pores, and blemishes. AHAs cannot play this role as they cannot penetrate through the fatty oil content under the skin.
Benefits of AHAs and BHAs
Regular exfoliation by AHAs or BHA can smoothen skin, improve skin textures, unclog pores, and correct fine lines and wrinkles giving your skin a firmer look. This is possible because more of the healthy skin cells come up to the skin surface, giving you that happy glow. The only catch with exfoliation is that your skin becomes more vulnerable to sun damage. So, all you need to do is slather on as much sunscreen as possible to protect your skin.
Here are a few things to note when using AHAs and BHAs:
- Use exfoliation only once a week, if you have sensitive skin. Those of you with normal skin can use three times a week.
- Do not use chemical exfoliants the same time you are using Vitamin C, retinol, or other actives. You can alternate the use of exfoliants and other actives.
Want to read more about skincare ingredients? Go here.