Skincare Ingredient Series – Exfoliators

AHAs and BHAs What’s the difference?

The beauty industry is fantastic for coming out with different skincare ingredients, and when we are talking exfoliation, it’s all about the AHAs and BHAs.

AHA = Alpha-Hydroxy Acids

BHA = Beta-Hydroxy Acids

Does that help? No, we thought not. Here is an explanation of EXACTLY what these common exfoliating ingredients are and what they do for our clients skin so that you can be completely informed next time you book yourself in for one of our Dermaquest facials.

What are AHAs (alpha-hydroxy acids)?

Naturally occurring acids, derived from fruit, milk and sugar cane. They are mainly used in exfoliant products and treatments to slough away the dead skin cells that make your complexion look dull and tired.

AHAs help promote the growth of new skin cells underneath the skins surface, helping to give you a brightened, more radiant complexion. AHAs are very gentle and are often called ‘chemical peels’ or ‘chemical exfoliators’.

We use 5 types of AHA in our skincare products:

  • Glycolic acid (sugar cane)
  • Lactic acid (milk)
  • Malic acid (apples and pears)
  • Citric acid (oranges and lemons)
  • Tartaric acid (grapes)

Glycolic and lactic acid are the most common.

Glycolic acid molecules are tiny. Able to penetrate through to the skin’s layers, making it the first choice AHA for anti-ageing products. As a result it helps to trigger cell turnover and boost production of collagen and elastin, and has anti-inflammatory properties that make it excellent for acne and rosacea too.

Lactic acid is great for skin prone to redness issues, rosacea, acne or sensitivity. Similar to glycolic, it attracts and retains moisture so it does not over-dry your skin while providing great exfoliation and brightening your complexion.

Using AHAs in skincare long term can have real benefits, it can help to make the epidermis thicker over time and increase collagen production.

AHA skincare can help protect and repair UV damaged skin but at the same time AHAs do cause photosensitivity so always wear a broad-spectrum sunscreen!!

What are BHAs (beta-hydroxy acids)?

BHAs are the stronger of the two, better suited to oily and acne-prone skin.

AHAs are water soluble, BHAs are oil soluble which makes them excellent if you are concerned about blackheads, whiteheads, and other acne blemishes. BHAs get down deep into your pores and don’t just eat away at the dead skin; they dissolve the oil, dirt and anything else blocking your pores.

The best known BHA is salicylic acid which is a derivative of aspirin a  popular anti-inflammatory.  Avoid skincare products containing salicylic acid if you are allergic to aspirin.

BHAs have the added benefit of making your skin better equipped to absorbs products. So, when you add your anti-ageing serums after a treatment there’s nothing in your beautifully clean pores to stop it absorbing and staying on – you get a longer lasting effect which can only be a good thing.

BHAs also increase the thickness of your skin, and boost collagen production like AHAs but they don’t have the same humectant (water attracting and retaining) properties so they can dry your skin out.

How to use AHAs and BHAs

AHAs are best for clients worried about loss of firmness, dryness or uneven skin. They are also the best overall for anti-aging.

BHAs are more effective for treating breakouts cause by acne or excessive oil production.

Should be applied after cleansing and toning.

Should not be applied directly on the eyelids or directly under your eye.

Serums and eye creams can be applied straight away, don’t forget sunscreen.

For more AHA and BHA advice, contact us.