Guess who’s coming up tops?

We’ve all heard about AHAs (Alpha-Hydroxy Acids) and BHAs (Beta-Hydroxy Acids), but do you know the difference between these two acids? While these ingredients are known to be chemical exfoliants, they do work differently. 

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Read on to find out more about AHAs and BHAs, and which will work better for you!

What are AHAs and BHAs?

AHA is a surface level chemical exfoliant which aids in shedding dead skin and renewal of the skin’s surface level. AHAs are commonly derived from sugar cane, fruit extracts and milk, and can be found in your products under the variations of Glycolic Acid, Lactic Acid and Mandelic Acid.

BHA is a chemical exfoliant which penetrates into the deeper layers of the epidermis to provide a deep cleansing/purging effect to your pores to remove dead skin cells, and reduce excess sebum and bacteria. BHAs are commonly derived from willow tree bark, wintergreen leaves and sweet birch bark, and can be found in your products under the variations of Salicylic Acid and Betaine Salicylate.

Same same but different?

Both chemicals effectively exfoliate and smoothen the skin, for a brighter complexion. They also help to fade dark spots and even out skin tone, increase the density of collagen in the skin to reduce the appearance of fine lines and have anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory properties to reduce breakouts, and clear and prevent mild acne. 

But there are clear points of differences between the two:

1) Solubility

AHA is water-soluble, which works mostly on the skin’s surface levels, while BHA is oil-soluble. Oil-soluble products are better able to work through oils on the skin’s surface in order to penetrate deeper into the pores easily, resulting in a more thorough exfoliation.

2) Areas of action

AHA works on the top layer of the skin, while BHA penetrates the skin and works deep within the pores. This means that if you are looking for a product with better efficacy in purging your pores for a deep exfoliation, BHA would be your go-to choice. 

3) Controlling oil production

AHA does not have a significant effect on oil control but instead, works to brighten the overall skin complexion to reduce the appearance of dull and uneven skin tone.

BHA, on the other hand, reduces excess oil by slowing down sebum production, which helps to minimise the chances of clogged pores and buildup of black and whiteheads. 

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4) Skin type suitability

AHA is suitable for dull skin type users as it helps to brighten up complexion, and even out skin tone. BHA is suitable for oily skin with enlarged pores to minimise the appearance of enlarged pores and reduce blackheads, whiteheads and acne.

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Pro-tip: It is always recommended to do a patch test when using chemical exfoliants to ensure that your skin is tolerant of the product

Can I use them together?

For best efficacy, apply BHAs on the oilier regions of the face – e.g. your T-zone to combat sebum production and reduce breakouts, and apply AHAs on the rest of your skin to brighten up your overall skin tone. It is also definitely okay to pair these two acids for use together, and in fact, you can find both ingredients in a single product too. 

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One such product will be the ést.lab PurClear Detoxifying Mask, which contains both AHA and BHA and can be used up to 1-2 times weekly as an exfoliation treatment to draw out impurities from deep within the pores and brighten up lacklustre complexions.

If you’ve oily skin type, try the ést.lab PurClear Anti-Acne Serum containing BHA that can be used as a daily serum to control excess sebum production and acne breakouts. It’s also great as a spot treatment to soothe those occasional pesky hormonal breakouts or maskne (the new term for acne caused by mask wearing).

Finish off with the ést.lab VitaLift A+ Cellular Ultra-Repair Cream which contains AHA to accelerate cell turnover, remove accumulated dead skin cells from the skin’s surface that can lead to dull skin, as well as refine wrinkles for an overall brightening and anti-ageing effect.

Whether it’s AHA or BHA, use them according to your skin concerns and sensitivity, and your skin will be the one coming up tops!

In Good Hands,