Everything you need to know about AHAs and BHAs - Skinora
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Everything you need to know about AHAs and BHAs

Alpha Hydroxy acids (AHAs) and Beta Hydroxy Acids (BHAs) are scientifically proven ingredients for their chemical exfoliation properties. They are both naturally derived acids with AHAs being found in sugar cane and citrus fruits whilst BHAs are found in plants such as the bark of willow tree. Whilst both AHAs and BHAs exfoliate skin to  stimulate a renewed skin surface, they achieve this in different ways. If you aren’t sure which one is better for your skin type, here is a guide covering everything you need to know.

What is the difference between AHAs and BHAs 

The key difference is that AHAs are water soluble whilst BHAs are oil soluble this affects the way in which they work. 

AHAs such as glycolic acid and lactic acid stay close to the skins surface because they are water soluble, as a result they are effective in exfoliating the top layer of dead skin cells that accumulates. BHAs like salicylic acid are oil soluble and so they can travel deeper into the skin layer because sebum exists deeper in skin. BHAs are particularly suited to acne or blemish prone skin.  

Skin naturally produces dead skin cells and sheds from its surface but over time and due to many factors including the sun, environment, and internal processes such as hormones this process of shedding skin cells slows down. As a result skin becomes dull, pores can become clogged and skin can appear dry and flaky. This is where AHAs and BHAs are highly beneficial for skin. AHAs unglue dead skin cells from the sin surface so they shed this in turn then allows the younger skin under the skins surface to be revealed. BHAs also exfoliate the top layer of skin to reveal a smoother skin surface but in addition they also exfoliate deeper in skin from within the pores and so can help to control acne, rough texture and signs of ageing.

The benefits of AHAs

They help to treat and prevent acne by removing surface dead skin cells. Over time these dead skin cells if not removed mix with sebum and trigger spots. AHAs will loosen these dead skin cells and loosens their link with the sebum.

They treat pigmentation. AHAs work by exfoliating the top layer of skin cells that are darkened with too much melanin. AHAs such as lactic acid and glycolic acid can also reduce the formation of melanin. 

They improve dehydration. AHAs increase the rate of skin cell renewal. This in turn helps to restore skin barrier function and s the skin surface is better at retaining moisture. In addition in removing the dead surface skin layer, AHAs increase the effectiveness of hydrating products ad moisturisers. 

They help to smooth skin surface by removing surface dead skin cells and debris and encouraging a new skin cell, AHAs help to smooth skin texture. 



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The Benefits of BHAs 

BHAs are beneficial for oily skin. They are attracted to oil and work by drawing out excess oils in the skin. They are also able to get into pores, unclog them and minimise their appearance. 

BHAs help to treat and prevent acne. They are able to penetrate deeper into pores and dissolve oil in side the pores to unclog them so treating and preventing breakouts.

They help to treat pigmentation by exfoliating the skin and stimulate a new skin cell surface so removing skin cells affected by pigmentation. BHAs have anti-inflammatory properties and are effective in treating pigmentation triggered by inflammatory processes such as inflammatory acne. 

BHAs help to smooth fine lines and wrinkles. They not only smooth skin surface through their exfoliation properties but also smooth fine liens and wrinkles. 

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To find out which acids are best for your skin, take your skin quiz. Our team of medical experts will help you create a customised routine for your specific needs using the best products in the market.


About the Author: Anna Puri

Dr Anna Puri is an Aesthetic doctor and GP with over 14 years experience in both the medical and aesthetic fields. She completed her undergraduate training at the University of St Andrews and University of Manchester. She continues to work both as an Aesthetic doctor at her clinics in Ascot and Kew and as a GP. Dr Anna brings her holistic approach to all aspects of the care she provides with a strong focus on advice and treatment that is specifically tailored to her patients expectations and needs. She has worked with cosmeceutical skin care brands and treated a wide range of skin concerns for over a decade. Dr Anna has a special interest in Antiaging skincare and procedures . Dr Anna's work has been featured in various magazines including Lux and The Aesthetics Journal. You can follow Dr Anna on the SkinoraUK instagram page and Skinora YouTube channel.

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Last update: March 31st, 2021

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