AHA and BHA are gaining widespread popularity in the skincare industry around the world by working wonders on the skin through exfoliation. Many dermatologically tested brands such as Dermaceutic Laboratoire, Obagi, Biopelle, etc. have been using these two ingredients in their products to address numerous skin concerns such as clogged pores, dull and dead skin, acne, blackheads, etc. If you still don’t understand what the big AHA / BHA commotion is all about, and why you should start using them. Then here is the introductory guide on AHA and BHA.
A Brief Introduction to Alpha Hydroxy Acid (AHA)
AHA acids are commonly derived from natural substances such as sugar cane, almonds, and even grapes. There is a bond or “glue” that holds our skin cells together, including the dull, dead skin that appears on the surface. AHAs work to break down or melt the “glue” between skin cells to allow the natural shedding process of the skin. You won’t be able to see the exfoliation process of your skin, but soon you will notice the changes in your skin, i.e. your skin would have become softer and smoother. The effects of AHAs can be felt primarily in the top layer of the skin, which means they are ideal for surface-level skin problems such as acne marks, pigmentation, and uneven skin texture. With prolonged use, you can even prevent those annoying spots from appearing.
The molecules that add up to create AHA, love water and are water-soluble acids. This makes the AHA acids suitable for people with dry skin, as it helps to improve the moisture content in the skin. AHAs are also effective on sun-damaged skin and ageing skin that needs rejuvenation.
A brief introduction to Beta Hydroxy Acid (BHA)
BHAs are better suited to oily skin types as they are oil-loving acids. For people with acne-prone skin, the BHA acids may be the right choice. BHAs effectively treat pimples and whiteheads, making your skin lighter, softer and one step closer to getting your desired look. If you are concerned about your sensitive skin, the acids contain anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties that will help calm redness in the skin. The acids can pass through clogged pores by dissolving any sebum and dead skin, which often are a cause for blemishes.
In simple terms, AHAs focus on exfoliating the top layer of the skin, whereas BHAs penetrate deeper into the skin.
If one has Rosacea and is looking for that miracle product to make the skin feel more comfortable and fresh devoid of skin blemishes, then BHA is a great option. You will feel less redness and smoothness. However, you may need to take precautions when using BHA, as your skin may not tolerate exfoliation depending on the severity of your rosacea.
Which is better to use: BHA or AHA?
It depends mainly on your skin type (the season and the weather are equally essential), and especially, the objective of our routine.
The first difference between BHA and AHA is their nature. BHAs are fat-soluble, i.e, they possess a greater ability to cross the lipid mantle of the skin. whereas AHAs are soluble in water, therefore they stay on the surface and cannot cross the lipid mantle of the skin.
Salicylic acid (BHA) is usually recommended on acne skin as it is fat-soluble. It can penetrate pores and help dry comedones and blackheads. According to skincare experts, salicylic acid is one of those products where constancy is the key, i.e you need to use the product routinely to get better results. It is difficult to observe short term results as we would observe with some AHAs.
AHAs or glycolic acid is the most widely used, and are usually used for hyperpigmented and dull skin. These acids gradually remove the dead cell layer from the stratum corneum and provide luminosity to the skin. However, to be effective as an exfoliant, you should remember that the pH of the formula must not exceed pH <4, since at high pH it will only provide hydration.
The importance of pH and skin cleaning
Before any treatment, you should have a clean face and a proper pH, i.e, at 5.5. For this, it is key to choose a good cleanser formulated at an adequate pH and closest to the pH of the skin.
If you wash the face with a more basic (alkaline) or too acidic cleanser, you change the pH of your hydrolipidic mantle which would irritate and dry out the skincare products such as cleansers, based on very strong surfactants such as SLS (be careful! This is the main ingredient ) or the hand soap itself (drastic example, but still in use as a base cleaner for many).
Why is skin cleaning essential?
Basically to create a “domino effect”.
Even if you do not perceive it, your skin naturally eliminates thousands of dead cells every day.
The problem arises when you do not help it detach from them and they begin to accumulate in the skin, causing your skin to dry out and turn off (the famous “dull and uneven tone”), in addition to the pores clogging and the dreaded blackheads and granites.
How do AHA and BHA exfoliators work?
AHA (Alpha Hydroxy Acids, eg Glycolic Acid and Lactic Acid) and BHA (Beta Hydroxy Acid / Salicylic Acid) act to “peel off” the bonds or “glue” that keeps the dead and dull skin on the surface. Once those links are broken, smoothly and evenly, the skin sheds naturally. So, while you won’t see your exfoliating skin, you will soon see the smoother, younger skin lurking from underneath.
How to combine these two?
If you have a combination skin where the T-zone is oily and prone to blockages with enlarged pores, but the cheeks are dry, you could experiment with applying a BHA scrub to oily areas and an AHA scrub to dry areas.
AHA and BHA exfoliators can also exert their benefits to renew skin and improve texture.
When should you use an AHA?
● If your main concern is sun damage, AHAs can exfoliate the most superficial layers of the skin to treat the problem.
● Normal to dry skin can benefit from AHAs, as these can help hydrate and soften the skin, offering hydration.
● These acids have also shown to produce collagen, which is ideal for those whose primary concern is ageing.
When should we use a BHA?
● If your skin is prone to acne, blackheads, or enlarged pores, BHAs will be your best allies.
● These acids penetrate the skin to remove any oil that may be clogging the pores. Thus the BHAs don’t just exfoliate the surface of the skin, but also the pores.
● BHAs work well on normal to oily skin, as they tend to dry it out a bit.
● They also have anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory qualities.
The decision on whether to use AHAs or BHAs depends on the skin type. it is better to consult the skincare specialist before using any of the treatment methods. If you want to talk to skincare experts, then you must visit Nitai Medical and Cosmetic Centre today.