If you've dabbled enough in exfoliants, you're probably already familiar with the terms AHA and BHA. Even if you aren't familiar, it's extremely important that you know what's going on your skin and how it's affecting you. Well, luckily for you, we did the homework for you and have put together all you need to know.
What is AHA?
AHA stands for Alpha Hydroxy Acid. Its primary function is to detach the dead cells from your skin and bring out the brighter and healthier skin that's beneath the dead surface. The most common forms of AHA are:
Glycolic acid is derived from sugar cane, pineapple and sugar beets, and is the most effective form of AHA because it has the smallest molecular structure. However, it's also likely to cause skin irritation when used in high
concentration. If you're just starting out with glycolic acid, start lower - the ideal concentration would be a minimum of 8 to 10%. This acid is great for aging, dull and pigmented skin.
Lactic acid is the second most common AHA. Lactic acid is derived from milk and is considered perfect for sensitive skin, since it's much gentler than glycolic acid. It's perfect for skin that's suffering or has suffered from rosacea and severe acne breakouts. Lactic acid also has great humectant properties i.e it helps retain water, which in turn reduces fine lines.
Sounds great! Is it suitable for my skin?
AHAs are excellent for dry and mature skin, since they possess strong humectant properties. Basically, AHAs are attracted to water, so they latch on to the moisture present in the dermis and keep the skin fresh and fine lines away.
However, they are not so great for oily skin since the oil inhibits AHA penetration and effectiveness.
What's the best way to incorporate AHA into my skincare routine?
It is extremely important to remember that AHAs increase photo-sensitivity. So, if you apply it during the day and step out in the sun, you risk getting sunburnt. If you have to, then make sure you apply sunscreen on top of it.
AHA is a trusty component in a bedtime skincare routine. A simple solution would be to opt for a night cream that's already infused with AHA. If not, you can always keep an AHA cream or serum handy. Here's what your nighttime skincare routine should look like:
Step 1: Cleansing
Step 2: Pat dry
Step 3: Toning
Step 4: Applying AHA
Step 5: Applying serum
Step 6: Moisturising
Got it. Now, what are BHAs?
BHA stands for Beta Hydroxy Acid. Unlike AHAs, there is only one form of BHA, i.e. Salicylic Acid. BHA does the same job of shaking off all the dead skin cells as AHA; the only difference is that AHA is water soluble, whereas BHA is oil soluble.
What does this mean?
In the simplest terms, BHA does what AHA cannot i.e penetrate an oily surface and clean up sebum filled pores. It is also anti-microbial and anti-inflammatory. This makes it super effective for oily, acne prone and sensitive skin. BHA also clears up spots and blemishes.
If you have dry skin, stay away from BHA packed products, as they will further dry up your skin and make matters worse.
Fortunately, unlike AHA, BHA does not increase photosensitivity, so you can use it in the day time too. As for the routine, follow the same procedure as the one mentioned for AHA application.
How often should I use hydroxy acids?
Dr. Rebecca Kazin, MD of Washington Institute of Dermatologic Laser Surgery, and Johns Hopkins Department of Dermatology has stated in an interview that, “Your tolerance of hydroxy acids depends on your skin type and history, as well as your environment. Normal to oily skin can use AHAs and BHAs up to twice per day, when the weather is warm and humid. Those with dry skin may use them once a day, every day in warm climates, and not at all when it's cold.”
Long story short...
- AHA is perfect for dry skin. But should be applied only in the night time.
- BHA is perfect for oily and sensitive skin. It can aggravate dry skin.
- Both work best only when applied on clean skin.
- Don't overdo the exfoliation. It'll damage your skin beyond repair.
- Regulate usage based on how your skin responds, as well as your environment.
- In the end, when in doubt consult your Derm!
We hope this sheds light and helps you pick the right exfoliant! Go get that clean and radiant skin!