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The Ultimate Skincare Guide to AHA and BHA

Sometimes skincare can feel like a science experiment. There’s concoctions, there’s emulsions, it’s fun to tinker but it’s also confusing — especially when our favorite products come labeled with acronyms that are harder to make out than the periodic table. 

Some such acronyms are AHA and BHA. These stand for Alpha and Beta hydroxy acid. But don’t worry, you don’t need a chem degree to really get these ingredients, we’ll break it down for you. 

What’s a Hydroxy Acid Anyway? 

Hydroxy acids are derived from natural things like fruit peels, sugar cane, and bark. These acids work to “loosen the glue that holds dead skin cells together,” as one MD put it.  By doing this, theys clear away old stuff from your skin to leave you looking brighter and feeling tighter. 

Products come with different concentrations of these acids. Everyday serums or creams will likely have a lower concentration for gentler exfoliation while once-in-a-while peels amp things up to cleanse deeper. The FDA suggests using an overall concentration of less that 10% daily.


Both of these acids are great for reducing fine lines, improving skin texture and brightness, and sloughing off dead skin. 

AHA helps minimize the appearance of pores, even out skin tone, and promote collagen production which keeps your skin baby fresh. AHAs can also make it easier for other products in your routine to absorb into your skin. It may not be the best acid for sensitive skin though so consider gradually adding small amounts to your routine rather than jumping right in. 

BHAs are lipids, which means they work best on oily skin. BHA penetrates the skin deeply and can help those with acne clear out clogged pores. It’s also a great ingredient to look for if you want to reduce redness or rosacea. 

Can I Wear Both at Once?

Totally, and most products will have a mix of each. Depending on the product, AHAs and BHAs will usually come during the toner or serum stage of your routine. Make sure to moisturize after using because exfoliating leaves your skin vulnerable to sun damage. 

If you need help to further your skincare experimentation, schedule a consultation with your favorite professional today.

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