Both forms of fruit acid – AHA (alpha hydroxy acid) and BHA (beta hydroxy acid) are recommended for skincare. The irony about skin products is, its users, if hard-pressed, will hardly be able to explain why the one product they bought is the best match for their skin type. So, 'Which one's best for my skin?' stands out to be the universal question, when it comes to skin products. This post, therefore, deals with some of the common queries on skincare products. They are best dealt with answers from a skin expert!

AHA vs. BHA for Skin

Which one is best for my skin, AHA or BHA?

AHA stands for Alpha Hydroxy Acid derived from sugarcane, grapes, and some other plant sources. BHA, on the other hand, stands for Beta Hydroxy Acids. There is a hydroxyl group attached to the beta position of the carboxyl group. To some extent, therefore, AHA and BHA are similar! Neither one is better than the other. It's just that each one targets different skin types and requirements. Both acids are synthetically produced to help people who are allergic to natural substances.

Which is the most common form of AHA and BHA?

Glycolic acid is the smallest of all the AHAs and the most widely used ingredient in skincare products. On the other hand, Salicylic acid is the most common component in BHA skin products. Since Salicylic acid has fat-soluble properties, it is best suited for acne-prone skin. It dissolves the oil and penetrates the pores quite easily!

BHA vs. AHA Cream Benefit

How does AHA benefit the skin?

AHA benefits both the outer layer (epidermis) and the inner layer (dermis) of the skin. For the outer layer, it performs the exfoliative function. What AHAs do is that they loosen the bonds that connect dead skin cells. Once cut loose, these dead cells shed quickly.

For the dermis, AHA helps reduce the appearance of fine lines by stimulating collagen production by increasing the collagen synthesis by fibroblasts (which are the collagen-producing cells in the skin).

How does BHA benefit the skin?

As discussed above, Salicylic acid is fat-soluble and hence used a lot in acne products. Besides, they are used to treat areas of dry skin too. In higher concentrations, salicylic acid is used to treat warts. This is done in the same way as AHAs do away with dead skin cells – the cells in the area affected with rosacea are unglued, and hence they disappear gradually. According to experts, BHA penetrates deeper and is suitable for combination to oily skin!

AHA-BHA combo

When is an AHA and BHA combination used?

Sometimes an AHA-BHA combination is excellent for your skin. Especially if yours is combination skin, you can use both types of acids on different parts of your face. A BHA-like salicylic acid must be applied on your oily areas, as they are more blemish-prone, while an AHA-like glycolic acid to the drier areas. If the issue is more in-depth, like bad acne in general, you should go for a BHA. When your goal is to exfoliate the outer layer, stick to an AHA. However, as a word of caution, AHAs should not be used daily unless prescribed by a skin expert, as it may lead to skin damage.

What is the difference between a physical exfoliation and a chemical exfoliation?

Primarily, the face scrubs that you use is the physical method. They do not use any segregated chemical formula for exfoliating the skin; they use tiny plastic microbeads. These are great at peeling off the last or outer layer of your skin. The only issue is – they are not biodegradable materials! So, when they run down the drainpipe of your washbasin into the open environment, it is baneful! It is known to affect marine life too.

Chemical peels are blended in the composition of skin care products like peel-offs, exfoliating creams, serums, etc. the mechanism they use to get rid of your dry skin layer is that they weaken the lipids that bond the upper layer of the skin. This effectively removes your outer dead and dull skin and aids in new cell generation to reveal healthy and younger-looking skin. The two main categories of chemical exfoliants are AHAs and BHAs.

When do I know that my skin has been sufficiently exfoliated?

Go by the instructions of your exfoliating product carefully. If you notice that your skin has suddenly started feeling tight, no matter how much moisturizer you are applying, it is a warning signal that you have over-exfoliated your skin. Overuse of both AHAs and BHAs damages the skin that is manifested in symptoms like dryness, extreme irritation, or even redness. Thus, exfoliation should not be an everyday affair.

How long do AHAs or particularly a glycolic acid take to yield the desired results?

A complete transformation of the skin always takes about 6-8 months. However, with effective glycolic acid products, a visible effect will be noticed within 2 to 3 weeks. You can say, this acid has been a very useful peeling-off ingredient for the skin that is being used by the skin products industry for the last 20 years. However, as a precautionary step, a glycolic acid product should be followed by a good sunscreen since the former makes your skin prone to sun damage!

For exfoliation, do I use a glycolic acid face wash or a cream?

Using a glycolic acid cream would be recommended over the use of a glycolic cleanser because:

  • The face wash contains only 8 to 10 percent of the acid whereas creams contain up to 30% of glycolic acid.
  • A cream is not washed off your face, quite unlike a face wash or a cleanser. Therefore, the former has the whole day's or the entire night's time to work on your face!

What is the difference between AHA and HA?

HA stands for Hyaluronic Acid and AHA for Alpha Hydroxy acid. People often confuse AHA with HA or vice versa, assuming that HA is a further abbreviation for AHA or one among the many variants of AHA's. The fact though is, Hylauronic Acid is an active moisturizing ingredient and proves to be highly hydrating for the skin. The scientific reason behind this is, it binds 1,000 times to moisture your skin. Due to such properties, it is also injected into fine lines and wrinkles as a filler to restore lost volume.


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AHA vs. BHA vs. PHA

What are PHAs?

PHAs stand for polyhydroxy acids and is less famous than AHAs or BHAs. If someone's too much into this skincare affair, he or she would quite often come across the AHAs and BHAs and their immense rejuvenating and skin brightening effects but not PHAs! But why?

PHAs, though lesser talked about, are larger in molecule size, and therefore less irritating than BHAs or AHAs in the sense that – if you have sensitive skin, you'll know the difference! Your skin might be sensitive, but you still might want to reap the benefits of exfoliators. That's when you should opt for PHAs.

How does PHA differ from AHA or BHA?

Technically speaking, PHAs are second-generation acids; in addition to their exfoliating properties, they have an added virtue too! They can act as a Humectant. That is, they can bind water, thus keeping moisture adhered to the upper layer of your skin. In the process, they also aid in reducing the appearance of fine lines, unclogging pores, and correcting pigmentation too.

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