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AHA vs BHA: Acids In Skincare

AHA vs BHA: Acids In Skincare

AHA vs BHA in skincare products. Why do we use it? How do we use it? And most important which one is better?

Exfoliating skin is one of the most important steps in order to achieve clear skin. Although there are many different ways to remove dead skin cells, chemical exfoliation became the most popular treatment for tired and dry skin.

There are 2 different types of exfoliating acids, that can make this process easy and convenient for everyone. AHA and BHA exfoliants are widely used in the skincare industry by estheticians and dermatologists. Even more, AHAs and BHAs can be safely used at home. With that in mind, we have created a full guide on how, when and which chemical exfoliator should you use for your skin type.


Alpha Hydroxy Acid better known as AHA is a water-soluble acid found in foods and sugars. Such as Glycolic (sugar), Lactic (milk), Mandelic (almond), Tartaric (grapes), Malic (apples) acids.



Beta Hydroxy Acid better known as BHA is an oil-soluble acid found in plants. Such as Salicylic acid (willow tree).


What are the benefits of hydroxy acids?

AHAs and BHAs act as exfoliants. As a result, products containing hydroxy acids can speed up new skin cell generation, and help to improve fine lines, acne scars, and hyperpigmentation.

AHAs and BHAs use in skincare

Hydroxy acids are common in skincare products such as:

  • Toners
  • Cleansers
  • Serums
  • Moisturizers
  • Facial Peels

How do hydroxy acids help to have clear skin?

Alpha and beta hydroxy acids can be very powerful in achieving a clear skin. Usually chemical exfoliants are used to peel the upper part of epidermis. While repeating this process, you can clear the previous sun damage, acne scarring,roughness, age spots and uneven skin tone. Chemical exfoliants are also helpful in keeping your pores empty and clean.

AHA vs BHA: which one is better?

Although both AHA and BHA act as exfoliants, they may be used for different purposes. To choose the right hydroxy acid for you, you must look at your skin type, current skin concerns, sensitivity, and the goal you are trying to achieve.

You may even use both AHA and BHA in your skincare, however, we recommend you to be very careful when mixing 2 different hydroxy acids. And we have discussed how to do it right here: Can you use AHA and BHA together?

To have a better understanding of when and how AHA vs BHA can be used, let’s have a look at each one in more detail.


Gently exfoliates skin’s surface. Works only on the top layer of the skin, therefore helps to remove dead skin cells.

Suitable for sun-damaged, dry, and sensitive skin.

Safe concentration 8% – 25%

AHAs can be used daily.

AHA examples: Glycolic, Lactic, Malic, Mandelic.


Penetrates deep into the skin due to smaller molecules. Stimulates skin cells, cleans excess sebum, and keeps pores clean.

Suitable for oily, combination thick, acne-prone skin.

Safe concentration 0.5% – 5%

BHAs can be used 1-3 a week.

BHA examples: Salicylic is the most common BHA used in skincare

Can you use AHA and BHA together?

Yes, Alpha and Beta hydroxy acids can be used together. As a matter of fact, you will find many skincare products that contain both types of acids in one.

However, it is important to keep in mind that products like these are very well formulated, so it does not irritate the skin.

Over-exfoliating skin is not a good thing and can easily create irritation, redness, and sensitivity. If you really want to use both products, our advice would be to keep AHA-containing products such as serums and toners for everyday use, and for better results add BHA-containing products such as chemical peel once a week.

Editor’s Picks

Watermelon Glow PHA+BHA Pore-Tight Toner

Watermelon Glow PHA +BHA Pore-Tight Toner - Glow Recipe | Sephora |  Cosmetic fashion, Beauty skin care, Beauty skin care routine

This unique toner by Glow Recipe has both exfoliating and hydrating benefits. BHA combined with very gentle Polyhydroxy acid, Hyaluronic acid, and watermelon extract creates a real treat for your skin. Watermelon Glow toner is not very intense so it is a great choice for beginners in using BHAs and works wonders when trying to achieve a healthy and dewy skin look.

Drunk Elephant T.L.C. Framboos Glycolic Night Serum

Drunk Elephant T.L.C. Framboos Glycolic Night Serum reviews, photos,  ingredients - MakeupAlley

Glycolic night serum by Drunk Elephant uses a combination of alpha and beta hydroxy acids including glycolic, tartaric, lactic, citric, and salicylic acids. This mixture of goodies really checks all the points on your list for a good skin exfoliant. The Drunk Elephant night serum is also packed with nourishing ingredients such as raspberry and cactus extract, therefore provides lots of hydration.

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