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The Difference Between AHA and BHA Exfoliants- Everything You Need to Know

If you suffer from acne and clogged pores, you may be looking into different types of exfoliants. During your research, you’ve most likely been recommended chemical exfoliants and have become aware of two types: AHAs and BHAs. While this is absolutely an important distinction, its meaning may not be immediately obvious. If you’re still unsure of the difference between the two, keep reading! We’ll tell you everything there is to know AHA and BHA exfoliants.

What is a Chemical Exfoliant?

A chemical exfoliant is a type of skincare product that helps you remove dead skin cells non-abrasively. They’re a great alternative to physical exfoliants, especially for those with sensitive skin. Physical exfoliants work by using small grains of material to rub dead skin cells off your body. While this is effective, the rough texture can be too much for some skin types, and may cause redness or irritation. Chemical exfoliants still allow you to get rid of dead skin, but typically lead to less irritation. Chemical exfoliants can be further divided into two types that we’re going to be talking about: AHA and BHA.

What Are AHA and BHA Exfoliants?

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AHAs and BHAs are two types of acids that are commonly used in chemical exfoliants. Though they both serve as exfoliants, there are some slight differences. On a more scientific level, there are differences in chemical composition, but that’s most likely not the information you’re after. The differences that matter most to you lie in their intended uses and effects. Before you get into those, though, be sure you know how to tell the two apart.

How to Tell the Difference

AHA and BHA exfoliants

If you’re unsure about being able to distinguish AHA vs. BHA, there’s no need to worry. Chemical exfoliants are classified as AHAs or BHAs based on their active ingredients, so all you have to do to tell the difference is check the back of the bottle. According to the FDA, AHA exfoliants always have one of the following active ingredients.

1. Glycolic acid
2. Malic acid
3. Lactic acid
4. Tartaric acid
5. Citric acid

BHA exfoliants, on the other hand, will always use one of these active ingredients.

1. Salicylic acid
2. Beta hydroxybutanoic acid
3. Tropic acid
4. Trethocanic acid

Before you purchase a chemical exfoliant, be sure give the ingredient label a quick glance so you know you’re buying the right kind.

Which is Better?

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You’re probably wondering whether you should use an AHA or BHA exfoliant in your skincare routine. As with most skincare products, the answer depends on your skin type and what you want the product to accomplish. In this case, the key consideration is how deep your skin issue runs.

AHA exfoliants do most of their work on the surface of the skin, so they do their best work against surface-level issues like blackheads. BHA exfoliants, on the other hand, pierce through oils and go below the surface of the skin, so they’re great for unclogging pores. While both types of chemical exfoliants will help with both surface and subsurface skin issues, they won’t be as effective if used outside of their ideal circumstances. If you want to ensure your issue is solved, be sure to get the right type of exfoliant for your specific skin issues.

The Best Chemical Exfoliant for Sensitive Skin

While your skin issue is the most important consideration to find the best chemical exfoliant, there’s also the matter of skin sensitivity. No matter how many issues your chemical exfoliant solves, it’s not worth much if it’s causing entirely new issues to crop up. Some AHAs and BHAs are more potent than others. While this is great for clearing up acne and blemishes quickly, stronger acids can wreak havoc on highly sensitive skin.

If you have sensitive skin, be sure you’re getting one of the gentler chemical exfoliants. While they may not work as quickly, they’ll still get the job done, all without redness or irritation. An exfoliant’s gentleness depends on two factors: the active ingredient and the concentration thereof. If you want to have as gentle of a product as possible, look for exfoliants with lower concentrations of weaker acids.

How to Exfoliate Safely

Woman applying beauty mask AHA and BHA exfoliants

Once you’ve picked out your perfect exfoliant, be sure you know how to use it safely. Improperly using an exfoliant can lead to irritation, redness, and peeling, especially if you tend towards sensitive skin. The most important thing to pay attention to is how often you exfoliate. While exfoliating keeps your skin clear and your pores unclogged, exfoliating too often will cause the protective barrier of oils on your skin to break down. 

To prevent this, you need to give your skin time to rest in between applications. We recommend only applying AHAs and BHAs two to three times a week. Every skin type is different, though, so if you want to be extra careful, consult your dermatologist and work with them to hash out an application schedule that works for you. As long as you use due caution, you’ll have clear, glowing skin in no time!

Looking for more great skincare tips, tricks, and products? Feel free to visit our site at NinthAvenue today!

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