AHA vs. BHA: Choosing the Right Exfoliator for Your Skin

AHA vs. BHA: Choosing the Right Exfoliator for Your Skin

An Introduction to Exfoliation

A healthy skincare routine is essential for achieving healthy, glowing skin. Exfoliation will undoubtedly be one of the most important aspects of that routine. Removing dead skin cells can help to improve skin tone and texture while also providing a radiant glow.

Exfoliation is typically cosmetic skin care that can be divided into two types: chemical and physical. Physical exfoliation is the process of removing dead skin cells with fine grains or particles. These are frequently found in the form of scrubbing pads or exfoliating creams. And, while they may feel great, they aren’t as effective as chemical exfoliates. Chemical exfoliation involves the use of gentle acids to dissolve and remove dead skin cells, revealing new, radiant skin. Alpha and beta hydroxy acids, or AHA and BHA, are the two most common types of chemical exfoliates.

So, which exfoliation method is best for your skin? Let’s delve deeper into this critical skincare process to determine which type is best for you!

Types of Chemical Exfoliates

Despite these forms of exfoliates being split into only two categories, there are a number of different acids that make up each.

Types of Alpha Hydroxyl Acids

1. Glycolic Acid:

This acid is derived from sugarcane and is one of the most common forms of AHA. Furthermore, because of its small molecular size, it is one of the most potent acids, allowing it to penetrate deeper into your skin than other alternatives. However, because of this advantage, it is also one of the most irritating to the skin.

2. Lactic Acid:

┬áLactic acid comes from milk! It’s similar to other AHAs, but it’s especially effective for treating hyperpigmentation, sun spots, and uneven skin tone. Because it is milder than other acids, it is an excellent choice for people with sensitive skin.

3. Mandelic Acid:

This acid is one of the gentlest options and is suitable for a wide range of skin types. Mandelic acid is distinguished by the size of its molecular structure. Mandelic molecules are larger than those of any other type of acid, preventing them from penetrating deeply into the skin.

4. Malic Acid:

Apples and pears are the sources of this gentle acid! Malic acid, like other milder acids, has larger molecules that prevent it from penetrating as deeply into the skin as other acids. It’s also known for its ability to give you super smooth skin.

5. Tartaric Acid:

Tartaric acid, which was previously derived from grapes, is now produced as a byproduct of wine production. Because of its ability to moisturize skin, promote cell regeneration, and provide anti-aging results, it is a common ingredient in many skincare creams.

6. Citric Acid:

As you may have guessed, citric acid is derived from citrus fruits such as lemons and limes. It’s known for being high in antioxidants, anti-aging properties, and the ability to reverse UV damage. This acid can also be used as a pH adjuster, which is a component that is added to other products to reduce irritation.

7. Phytic Acid:

Phytic acid is a mild exfoliant that can be used to treat and improve skin tone, as well as brighten skin pigmentation. This acid is commonly added to other skincare products that treat skin pigmentation issues because it contains a high concentration of antioxidants.

Similarities and Differences Between AHA and BHA

Both AHA and BHA products have numerous advantages. They both exfoliate the skin’s outer layer to remove dead skin cells and provide smooth, luminous skin. AHAs are also known for increasing collagen production and decreasing sun damage and age spots.

Whereas AHAs only affect the outer skin layer, BHAs are oil-soluble, allowing them to penetrate deeper into the skin and pores. As a result, BHAs are frequently the preferred exfoliator for people with deep bumps and oily skin.

Which One is Better?

When selecting an exfoliant, consider your skin type as well as how you want the product to work. If your skin only requires weekly exfoliation, an AHA is most likely the best option. However, if you have more severe skin problems, such as cystic acne, you may prefer a BHA, such as salicylic acid.

As with any skincare product, you should seek the advice of a dermatologist or medical professional to determine which treatment is best for you.

Using AHAs and BHAs

Some people have reported smoother, plumper skin after incorporating both AHA and BHA products into their skincare routine. However, because they are both active acidic compounds, it is important to note that they should not be combined directly.

Using AHAs and BHAs on alternate days is an effective strategy. You can also use various products on different parts of your face.


AHAs and BHAs are hydroxy acids that are commonly found in cleansers, toners, and moisturizers. They are a tried-and-true method for removing dead skin and debris from the skin’s outer layers, revealing plump, glowing skin cells beneath. Despite their differences, both are incredibly effective at what they do. Including these products in your skincare routine can help to improve skin texture, tone, and reverse sun and age spots.

Finally, the only way one chemical exfoliant is preferable to another is if one type works better for your specific skin type. You can use the trial and error method to determine which to include in your routine by testing various types to determine the most effective choice. Alternatively, your dermatology specialists will be able to steer you in the right direction depending on your skin type.

So what are you waiting for? Get out there and figure out which one works best for you and your skin!