AHA vs BHA: Which One Is Good For You?

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AHA vs BHA: Which One Is Good For You?

AHA vs BHA: Which One Is Good For You?

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The golden rule to follow while choosing your skincare routine products is to first identify the skin you have and what skin concerns you need to address.

Both AHAs and BHAs refer to chemical exfoliates used in skincare, which works in different ways, on different types of skin. “All skin naturally exfoliates and replaces dead skin cells daily, but this process slows down over time due to sun damage and symptoms of ageing. Now, when you have chemical exfoliates like AHAs and BHAs in your skincare routine daily, you can help maintain this process and keep your skin clear and glowing,” says Dr Dinesh Hawelia, Consultant Dermatologist, while shedding light on the pros and cons of these chemical exfoliates.

What are AHAs?

AHA stands for alpha-hydroxy acid and it’s a water-soluble chemical exfoliant. AHAs represent acids that are derived from natural substances like sugarcane, milk, almonds and grapes. They work by breaking down the glue holding the dead cells together, which helps the skin’s natural shedding process.

Types of AHAs
AHAs most commonly used in products available for skin care routines include salicylic acid derived from citrus fruits, glycolic acid from sugarcane, lactic acid from milk, malic acid from fruits and tartaric acid from grapes.

“The US FDA recommends AHA products to have an overall AHA concentration of less than 10 per cent on day-to-day skincare products and it should never be over 15 per cent in daily use products such as serums, toners and moisturisers. These usually contain lower AHA concentrations ranging from 5 to 10 per cent, whereas higher concentration AHA fields like glycolic fields contain 20-70 per cent and these are used less frequently as daily care products. They are used as professional peeling agents, as they are highly concentrated. This should only be used as a peeling agent, not as a daily skincare routine product. By using these products in higher concentration, the skin becomes more sensitive, and that’s why we have to advise the next session after two weeks only, and that you should use sunscreen daily and more frequently to prevent sunburns,” explains Dr Hawelia.

What are BHAs?

BHAs are beta-hydroxy acids which are oil-soluble chemical exfoliants that are derived from willow tree bark, wintergreen leaves or sweet birch bark. BHAs are best for acne-prone skin and those with deeper skin concerns because BHAs penetrate further into the skin. They can bypass the oil that clogs pores and dissolve the mix of sebum and dead cells, which lead to acne; they also stabilise the lining of the pores.

Types of BHAs

There are various types of BHAs; however, Salicylic Acid is the most common agent we use. Salicylic Acid is derived from willow bark. Betaine salicylate is a gentler option for salicylic acid and comprises salicylic acid and betaine (a hydrating amino acid derived from sugar beets)

Being a common skin ingredient, BHAs come in different concentrations as well. You’ll find them in everything from cleansers to moisturisers, serums to face masks. “Salicylic Acid is the most common BHA used and its concentration can range from .5-5 per cent, depending upon the products you use. Higher Salicylic Acid concentrations can be used as peels as they are usually available as 20 per cent or 30 per cent concentrates as peeling agents, which is a procedure which should be done by professionals in a clinic. This has many benefits if taken at regular intervals of 13-30 days,” says Dr Hawelia.

Key Differences between AHAs and BHAs

AHAs are water-soluble exfoliates that help in removing dead skin cells, whereas BHAs are oil-soluble exfoliates which can penetrate deep into the skin through the sebaceous glands.

Benefits of AHAs 

AHAs are chemical exfoliates which can minimise the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, reduce pore size, promote collagen and blood flow, correct discoloration from scars and age spots, prevent acne breakouts, brighten your complexion and increase product absorption

Benefits of BHAs
BHAs help improve acne, blackheads, whiteheads, and rosacea-related redness. They are also known to fight bacteria and help treat calluses.

Who should use AHAs and BHAs?

AHAs are more appropriate for age-related skin concerns like fine lines, and surface wrinkles and for those looking to address pigmentation.

BHAs are best for sensitive, acne-prone skin. If you have over one skin concern, you can always experiment with both AHAs and BHAs together.

Common benefits of AHAs and BHAs

  • Decrease inflammation, which is a key marker for acne, rosacea-related redness and other skin disorders
  • Decrease the appearance of large pores, age spots and surface wrinkles
  • They remove the dead skin cells
  • Unclog pores to prevent acne and improve discolouration of the skin as well

When asked if it is possible to use AHAs and BHAs together, Dr Hawelia points out: “Both AHAs and BHAs provide similar skincare benefits. Each product is used for different skincare woes, but we can use these safely together. They can increase the fullness of the skin, and achieve many benefits as well. However, since they are both exfoliates, using both individually may cause dryness and irritation, but if you can use them in products which combine these agents, they can safely improve the fullness of the layers of the skin.” 

AHAs and BHAs serve as excellent agents for improving the appearance of sun-damaged ageing skin, even though they work in different ways for different skin types. 

Disclaimer: The above content is for informational purposes only and should not be used as a substitute for the advice of a qualified physician or doctor. The Company does not vouch for or endorse any of the above content, and disclaims any and all warranties, express or implied, relating to the same.