AHA vs BHA - What is the difference between the two exfoliants

AHA and BHA are both part of the hydroxy acid family. Their purpose it to exfoliate the skin. Neither is better than the other. Both are great methods to remove dead skin cells from the outer layer of the skin and bring about healthy new skin to the surface. Everyone wants dewy, glowing skin, and one of the best ways to achieve this goal is by adding extra exfoliation to your skin care routine. 

AHA's and BHA's are both chemical exfoliants and powerful tools to bring into your skin care arsenal. They are both clinically proven to bring about softer, dewy and plumper skin. They both work wonders for the complexion. 

They both share similar benefits:

1. They decrease inflammation and both are great for acne, rosacea and other skin conditions like eczema.

2. Improve and plump fine lines and wrinkles. 

3. Diminish the size of large pores.

4. Improve skin texture and tone.

5. Exfoliate the skin.

6. Improve acne by unclogging pores. 

7. Brightens the skin and diminishes hyperpigmentation. 


What are the differences between the two? 

AHA's are mainly used to treat hyperpigmentation, large pores, uneven texture and fine lines and wrinkles, while BHA's are great especially for rosacea, eczema, acne and sun-damaged skin. But both can be used interchangeably to give you a beautiful complexion. 

Some AHA's examples are: Glycolic, Lactic, Tartaric, Citric, Malic and mandelic acids. 

- Glycolic Acid: Comes from sugar cane. Works by exfoliating the skin to speed up cell turnover. It helps to unclog pores, smooth fine lines and wrinkles, improves the skin tone and texture and also helps with sun damage and hyper-pigmentation. 

Lactic Acid: A water-soluble acid that comes from milk or fruit fermentation. Ideal for those with dry skin. It softens fine-lines and helps with sun damage. Helps with collagen production and speeds up cell turnover.

- Tartaric Acid: helps with skin texture and diminishes signs of aging. It is mainly used to lighten dark spots. Great for all skin types, including sensitive. It also acts like an antioxidant. 

- Malic Acid: Smooths wrinkles and fine lines. Derived from apples. Great to diminish pore size and improve skin texture. Also, a wonderful anti-inflammatory which makes this particular acid perfect for those suffering from sensitive skin, acne or eczema, but anyone can benefit from it. 

-  Mandelic Acid: derived from bitter almonds. Best for oily, combination skin types or those suffering from acne. The best AHA to diminish pore size and control sebum. Wonderful for also improving skin texture, accelerating cell turn over and brightening the skin. 


Some BHA's examples are: Salicylic acid, citric acid.

When you combine both acids, it will provide you with fuller, plumper skin. This is due to the increase in collagen production. It is best to start slowly with these ingredients, as they can cause irritation and dryness if used too often or at high concentrations. You can alternate their use by using an AHA in the morning and a BHA at night, or by using one of these ingredients at a higher level once a week or once per month, depending on the strength of the acid. Always check the label to learn how to use an individual product as it is all based on the concentration of such an acid. Always wear a mineral SPF when using any exfoliant. 

Salicylic Acid: derived from the bark of willow trees. If you are allergic to aspirin, do not use this ingredient! It has anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial properties which makes it useful for acne, but everyone can benefit from it. Removes dry skin and helps with pore size and texture.

Citric Acid: derived from lemons. Mainly used as a natural, non-toxic preservative in skin care products but at high concentrations, it is also capable of lightening dark spots and exfoliating the skin. 

If you suffer from very sensitive skin, redness or other skin issues, BHA's might be better for you, though malic (derived comes from apples) is also a very gentle AHA that can be used for these types of skin conditions. Check out our Water Nymph Jelly Mask. This mask is composed of malic acid and it is a gentle enough formula that can be used up to 3 times per week by putting a thin layer over your skin and leaving it for 5 to 10 minutes and removing it with warm water or by sleeping with it once per week and washing it in the morning. It is also high in hydrating ingredients that plump and leave your skin nourished and soft. 


For a once per month AHA or BHA treatment, find a med spa or day spa that provides this magnificent peel in their arsenal and complement it with a once per week mask or gentle daily treatment that also contains this ingredient in your home care routine to boost your results.

What is your favorite method of exfoliation and why? We would love to hear from you, please share it below. 



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