What's the Difference Between AHA and BHA?
In your quest for healthier-looking skin, you may have heard of alpha-hydroxy acids (AHAs) and beta-hydroxy acids (BHAs). Both are types of hydroxy acids which help to exfoliate the skin, and are considered chemical exfoliants. In the case of your skincare regime, the process of weighing up the AHA vs BHA benefits are simple. Discover the strengths and differences between AHA and BHA exfoliants ahead.
What is a hydroxy acid?
Both AHAs and BHAs are chemical exfoliants, which means that they use chemicals (in particular, acids or enzymes) to exfoliate dead skin cells.
Both hydroxy acids can be found in:
• Face masks
• And more.
The difference between AHA and BHA
As mentioned above, two of the most lauded and commonly used groups of exfoliating acids in skincare are alpha- and beta-hydroxy acids. While they are both chemical exfoliants, their differences lie in which skin concerns they are best suited to support. Of course, not all skincare products are made equal. Depending on the concentration, products formulated with hydroxy acids have varying benefits for the skin. Keep in mind that both AHAs and BHAs can deeply and effectively exfoliate the skin.
Ahead, learn more about AHAs vs BHAs so you can make the best choice for your unique skincare needs.
AHA vs BHA: AHAs explained
Alpha-hydroxy acids (AHAs) are water-soluble acids derived from fruits and plants. Citric acid, lactic acid and glycolic acid are all examples of AHAs.
AHAs are typically used for:
• Minimising the appearance of mild hyperpigmentation, such as age spots.
• Helping pores to appear smaller.
• Reducing visible signs of ageing, such as fine lines and surface wrinkles.
• Evening skin tone.
• Those with dry skin types. (Note that those with extremely dry or sensitive skin may need to work up to daily use to prevent skin sensitivities.)
AHA vs BHA: BHAs explained
Beta-hydroxy acids (BHAs) are a type of mild acid found in plants, tree bark, fruit and some dairy products. Specifically, ingredients like salicylic acid and benzoic acid are examples of BHAs. In skincare, they act as a gentle chemical exfoliant to help brighten the complexion and minimise the appearance and occurrence of mild acne-prone skin.
BHAs are generally used for:
• Mild acne-prone skin.
• Mild rosacea-prone skin.
• Those with combination to oily skin types.
To simplify your choice, when matching up AHA vs BHA for skin, the first question to ask is, “What is my main skin concern?” Depending on your answer, this will guide which hydroxy acid is more suitable for you.
How to incorporate AHAs vs BHAs into your skincare regime
Depending on your skin type – you can use AHAs and BHAs together. In fact, those with mild acne-prone or oily skin types are often recommended to combine these two acids. To prevent skin sensitivities or extra dryness, you can also alternate hydroxy acids by using one type in the morning, and the other at night. Discover a selection of CeraVe skincare products containing AHAs and BHAs below.
CeraVe’s AHA and BHA products to try
While the focus is often on AHAs vs BHAs, one type of hydroxy acid does not triumph over the other. They both make suitable skincare options for a variety of concerns and can often be used in tandem.
Many CeraVe skincare products are formulated with BHAs or AHA/BHA blends. Now the difference between AHA and BHA exfoliants is clear, discover our best recommendations below.
• The Blemish Control Cleanser for mild acne-prone skin is formulated with 2% salicylic acid to target blemishes and visibly reduce the appearance of blackheads. It also assists with preventing future breakouts, while supporting the skin moisture barrier with 3 essential ceramides.
• For a cleanser that removes makeup, try Ceramides Hydrating Cream-to-Foam Cleanser. With double the BHA action in salicylic acid and benzoic acid, it is formulated with three essential ceramides, amino acids and hyaluronic acid.
• After cleansing, those looking for an AHA/BHA blend can turn to the Blemish Control Gel. While the BHA element of salicylic acid helps to target blemishes and prevent future breakouts, the lactic and glycolic acids work to even and soften the skin.
Is it okay to use AHA and BHAs every day?
To reduce skin sensitivities, it is often advised to use AHA products every other day. Once your skin has had a chance to acclimate to the ingredient, you can then work your way up to incorporating AHAs into your daily skincare regime. Keep in mind that AHAs may make skin more sensitive to UV rays for up to one week after use, so use a broad-spectrum sunscreen daily and reapply more regularly to prevent sun damage.
As for the difference between AHA and BHA exfoliants for daily use: BHAs are also fine to use every other day, however they are also suitable to use daily. When first getting started with BHAs, you may need to start with applying it a few times per week. While BHAs won’t make your skin as sensitive to the sun as AHAs, you should continue to lather on your sunscreen of choice every morning to prevent sun damage.
What should you not use before or after AHAs or BHAs?
Healthcare professionals recommend not mixing, or directly layering AHAs and BHAs with retinol or vitamin C products, as this may cause skin sensitivities. Using niacinamide together with AHAs or BHAs in your skincare routine is okay if they aren’t layered consecutively.
For best results, the above ingredients should be layered on at different times of the day (such as morning and night), or on alternating days.
Now that you’re across the difference between AHA and BHA exfoliants, you can discover how to use hyaluronic acid & salicylic acid together.