What Is The Difference Between AHA and BHA?
If you are a person that likes to research your skin care products carefully and understand the different ingredients, you will see the terms AHA and BHA thrown around fairly regularly. Properly formulated AHAs and BHAs are excellent choices for exfoliating the top surface of the skin and both hydroxy acids work to reduce wrinkles, stimulate collagen and promote skin firming.
But what exactly differentiates one from the other and when do you use them? In this post, we give you a breakdown of the uses of AHA and BHA and their specific benefits so you can use the right product for the right skin care problems.
Alpha-Hydroxy Acid (AHA), also known as glycolic acid, is derived from fruit and milk sugars.
Although it was not very popular at the start, its popularity has grown exponentially in the past 20 years, and AHA is currently being used by over 200 makers of skin care products in the USA alone.
In Singapore, AHA exfoliants have also become increasingly popular over the years because of the rapid changes to the weather and climate.
AHA is preferred for sun-damaged and dry skin because it exfoliates on the surface of skin and has the added benefit of improving moisture content. Substantiated research shows that AHAs improve collagen production for firmer skin and increase the skin’s moisture-binding ability.
Myths about AHA
It is often rumored that you may not use both AHA & BHA together. However, this is not necessarily true. If you would like to use AHA and BHA at the same time, that is an option, though not really necessary.
Some people find they work well when they are applied at the same time, but if you want to give this a try, it is best to apply them separately, one during the day and one in the evening.
While the AHA exfoliant does sound like a miracle worker, one must be careful as AHA is known to increase photo-sensitivity.
Some users of AHA have experienced sensitive sensations while out in the scorching Southeast Asian sun. To reduce the sun effects of AHA especially in sunny Singapore, users are strongly advised to apply sunscreen every morning.
Beta-Hydroxy Acid (BHA), also known as salicylic acid, not as strong as AHA. Many skin care products contain salicylic acid and some are available over-the-counter while others require the prescription of a doctor.
BHA is preferred for oily, acne-prone skin and treating blackheads and white bumps because BHA can get through the oil that is clogging your pores, normalizing the lining of the misshapen pore that contributes to acne.
Studies have also shown that salicylic acid is less irritating than skin care products containing AHA but both have similar results in improving the texture and color of the skin.
In addition, BHA exfoliants have anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial properties, ideal for acne or sensitive, reddened skin. Though not everyone with rosacea can tolerate an exfoliant, BHA exfoliants are preferred for those struggling with rosacea. It is recommended to experiment with a BHA product to see how your rosacea responds.
However, it is important to note that those allergic to aspirin (acetylsalicylate) should not use products containing salicylic acid.
AHA products are most effective at a 5% to 10% concentration and BHA at 1% to 2% concentration. Similar to how you mix fixed ingredients in a cake, the level of effectiveness varies depends on the ingredient. You can be rest assured that the BHA products are not any less effective due to lower concentrations of the BHA.
While both AHA and BHA exfoliants work to exfoliate skin, and improve texture and tone, AHA exfoliants are ideal if the main concern is visible sun damage. BHA exfoliants, on the other hand, are more suitable if your key concerns are signs of aging, breakouts, blackheads, and white bumps. Though unnecessary, AHA and BHA exfoliants may be alternately used if desired.
- AHAs are great for sun-damaged, dry skin as they target the skin’s surface, and improves moisture content.
- BHAs are well-suited for oily, acne-prone skin, treating blackheads and white bumps because salicylic acid goes through the oil that clogs pores, and also normalizes the lining of the misshapen pore that contributes to acne.
- BHA has anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties. These are two more reasons to use a BHA exfoliant if you have acne or sensitive, reddened skin.
- BHA is preferred if you are having trouble with rosacea. Not many can handle exfoliants if they have rosacea, so it is wise to experiment with BHAs to see how you handle it.
What if your skin is both sun-damaged with acne and clogged pores? You should then strongly consider a BHA exfoliant.
If you’d like to use an AHA and BHA at the same time, that is an option, though not really necessary. Some people find they work well when they are applied at the same time, but if you want to give this a try it is best to apply them separately – one in the day and the other at night.