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What is the difference between AHAs and BHAs?

by Aliya Turarbek
What is the difference between AHAs and BHAs?

AHAs (Alpha Hydroxy Acids) and BHAs (Beta Hydroxy Acids) are both popular types of chemical exfoliants used in skincare, but they have some key differences:

  1. Chemical Structure:

    • AHAs are water-soluble acids derived from various fruits and milk, such as glycolic acid (from sugar cane), lactic acid (from milk), and citric acid (from citrus fruits).
    • BHAs are oil-soluble acids, with salicylic acid being the most common one used in skincare.
  2. Penetration:

    • AHAs are known for their ability to work on the skin's surface, effectively exfoliating the top layer of dead skin cells.
    • BHAs, being oil-soluble, can penetrate deeper into the pores, effectively targeting and unclogging them. This makes them especially beneficial for oily and acne-prone skin.
  3. Exfoliation Mechanism:

    • AHAs mainly work by loosening the bonds between dead skin cells, allowing them to be easily shed.
    • BHAs not only exfoliate the surface but also penetrate into the pores, dissolving the mixture of sebum and dead skin cells that can lead to acne.
  4. Skin Types:

    • AHAs are generally recommended for normal to dry and sun-damaged skin due to their ability to improve skin texture and hydration.
    • BHAs are often preferred for oily, acne-prone, or sensitive skin due to their ability to penetrate pores and reduce acne-causing bacteria.
  5. Sun Sensitivity:

    • AHAs can increase sun sensitivity, so it's crucial to use sunscreen when incorporating them into your routine.
    • BHAs are less likely to cause sun sensitivity compared to AHAs, although sunscreen is always recommended in any skincare routine.

When choosing between AHAs and BHAs, consider your skin type, concerns, and sensitivity. Some people also find success using both types in their skincare routines, alternating them or using products that combine both for a comprehensive exfoliation approach.

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