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what's the difference between AHAs and BHAs?

Acid education; what’s the difference between AHAs and BHAs?

Back in the early 1990s when Alpha-H first began sharing the amazing benefits cosmetic acids can impart on our skin, it was a bit out there and scary to many. Nowadays it’s well known and accepted that adding acids to your skincare routine can help you achieve a healthy and youthful glow. AHAs and BHAs are two families of acids which are commonly used in skincare, but they have different functions and benefits. So which one is right for your skin? It’s time for acid education!

Liquid Gold by Alpha-H

What are AHAs?

AHAs (Alpha Hydroxy Acids) are water soluble and provide progressive chemical exfoliation to the surface of the skin by breaking down the glue-like substance which keeps dead skin cells attached to the outer layers of our skin. This helps our skin to shed those old, dull and dead cells, and encourages cellular renewal in the lower layers of the skin.

A number of different acids fall under the AHA umbrella including Glycolic Acid and Lactic Acid. These water-soluble acids can be naturally sourced from a variety of plants including sugar cane, hibiscus flowers and lime pearls.

What are BHAs?

Beta Hydroxy Acids differ from AHAs by one carbon atom which makes them oil soluble. This means they are able to penetrate the sebaceous gland and work through the pore to break down the built up oil and other “gunk” inside. So BHAs also provide exfoliation, but instead of targeting the surface like an AHA does, they target what lies beneath; they’re an oily skin’s best friend!

The most common BHA is Salicylic Acid which is sourced from the bark of willow trees. Salicylic Acid is also the principal metabolite of Acetylsalicylic Acid, aka asprin; it’s what gives asprin its anti-inflammatory action. The upshot of this, however, is that Salicylic Acid is generally not recommended for use by women who are pregnant or breastfeeding.

Who should use AHAs?

To answer this question, we need to go back to what AHAs do. Have you ever noticed that babies and children seem to have the most amazingly soft and smooth skin? This is because their skin is still working at its absolute optimum, shedding those dead skin cells and replacing them with lovely, soft and smooth new ones quickly and efficiently. But once we hit our mid to late 20s, those processes have slowed dramatically. It gets to the point where you could have up to 30 layers of dead, grey-looking cells covering the outer layers of your skin. Beyond making us look dull and tired, these old dead cells can also end up mixed in with sebum and other debris, leading to congestion in the mouth of the pores; hello whiteheads!

If you’re at an age where your skin’s natural turnover has slowed, AHAs are going to be a must-have in your routine. Alpha-H’s cult product, Liquid Gold, features 5% AHA Glycolic Acid in a low pH formulation to give a stronger and more effective peel than those with a higher pH. It’s what has turned it into a cult must-have.

Clear Skin Tonic with BHA Salicylic Acid

Who should use BHAs?

Like we mentioned earlier, BHAs target what lies beneath. So, for skins where cell turnover maybe isn’t an issue, but persistent deep lumpy, bumpy congestion and acne is, Salicylic Acid has the benefits you want and need.

Our new Clear Skin Tonic features 2% BHA Salicylic Acid which is ideal for persistently problematic skins thanks to its ability to penetrate the follicle and clear out that debris which is down deep in the pore, causing those deep, nasty bumps under the skin. It’s also ideal for those deep lumps which our hormones seem to love to bring on during menstruation, ladies!

More benefits than just BHAs

While BHAs are definitely the business when it comes to congested and acne-prone skin, if they are used on their own, BHAs can actually leave skin dehydrated. And BHAs will never address the bacteria which can continue to spread the breakouts, no matter how hard you try. That’s why our Clear Skin Tonic goes beyond just being a BHA liquid exfoliator.

To support the Salicylic Acid’s efforts, Clear Skin Tonic also features Seboclear MP. This natural active ingredient addresses the nasty P. acnes bacteria which can spread the congestion. It is also backed up by the natural antibacterial properties of Tea Tree, Eucalyptus and Thyme, plus a whole raft of other botanicals to help calm the inflammation and redness which go hand in hand with acne.

Can I use AHAs and BHAs together?

You sure can! Just don’t layer them on top of each other. Instead, tailor your choice of tonic to match your skin’s needs. Do you have dead skin cells built up on the surface which are making your complexion dull? Liquid Gold! Do you have underlying congestion and nasty bumps which just don’t seem to go away? Clear Skin Tonic! If you are at an age where your cell turnover has slowed, but you are still getting that deep congestion, you could look to use Clear Skin Tonic of a morning and continue to use Liquid Gold every second evening, or use them on alternating evenings.

If you still have questions about AHAs and BHAs, or would like more help in selecting the right exfoliating tonic for your skin, don’t be shy! You can talk to us on live chat, submit a consultation card, or request a live online skin consultation.