AHA vs BHA – Dermatologists have the ultimate say
The natural shedding and renewal cycle for skin lasts over 28-40 days. During this time, the skin produces new cells and sheds the old cells. This renewal cycle keeps the skin plump and fresh-looking. As we age, the skin loses its ability to exfoliate naturally and the shedding process slows down. This leads to dull, dry skin, clogged and enlarged pores, flare-ups, uneven skin tone, and sagging skin.
To speed up the exfoliation process, we need a little outside help. This is where chemical peels like alpha and beta hydroxy acids come in handy. They are applied topically and help the skin get rid of dead cells by dissolving the tiny bonds which hold the skin together. As a result, the dead skin starts to shed and youthful, blemish-free skin is revealed.
AHA and BHA are both hydroxy acids. They serve the same purpose i.e. increase cell turnover and exfoliate the skin. However, the extent of their ability to penetrate the skin differs. Let us learn more about the differences between AHA and BHA and how they interact with the skin.
What Are AHAs
- Alpha hydroxy acids are water-soluble acids that work on the top layer of the skin. They are derived from sugary fruits and are known as fruit acids. They have a gentle working mechanism and do not penetrate beyond the upper dermis. AHAs peel away the top layer of the skin and reveal fresh skin underneath.
They are ideal for normal to dry sun-damaged skin. They help in fading hyperpigmentation which may be caused due to sun damage or as a result of acne. AHAs also help in reducing the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. They do so by stimulating the production of collagen and reduce the degradation of the existing dermal matrix. Glycolic and mandelic acid are the two most common AHAs that are used in skincare products.
What Are BHAs
- Beta hydroxy acids are oil-soluble acids. Their exfoliation mechanism is not limited to the top surface only, rather they penetrate deep inside the skin pores. This allows them to remove dead skin, micro comedones, and excess sebum.
BHAs fight effectively against bumps, clogged and enlarged pores, and blemishes. Salicylic acid is the most common BHA. It is used in most skin-care products that are manufactured for acne-prone skin. Since BHAs are oil-soluble, they work best on normal to oily skin.
BHAs and AHAs are structurally similar, they only differ in their position of one hydroxyl group.
AHA vs BHA – Which Acid to Choose?
- Choosing between AHA and BHA is dependent on your skin type, skin concerns, and skin goal you want to achieve. If you suffer from cystic acne, then opt for BHA as it has the ability to control sebum and unclog pores from a deeper level. You can also choose a combination of AHA and BHA to enhance penetration and effectiveness.
If you have dry to normal skin, then a mild AHA like mandelic acid can be a safe choice. It helps remove textural irregularities, brightens the complexion, and deals with mild acne. Note that the following precautionary measures should always be taken while using these chemical exfoliants:
- The peeling effect makes skin sensitive to the sun. avoid unnecessary sun exposure while using these peels.
- Avoid tanning beds while using AHA and BHA.
- Use a non-comedogenic moisturizer while using these acids. They have a drying effect on skin and flaking can occur if the skin is not kept moisturized.
This information is brought to you by Missoula Wellness and Medispa.