We all know how important it is to pay attention to what ingredients we’re putting on our skin, and if you’re as obsessed with the skincare and beauty world as we are, you’ve probably heard of AHAs (alpha hydroxy acids) and BHAs (beta hydroxy acids). What are these scary (they’re not actually that scary) sounding ingredients? These are both versions of chemical exfoliators that help break down and loosen the glue-like bond between dead skin cells.
The main difference between chemical exfoliators and physical exfoliators is when you’re using a physical exfoliator, you’re generally using something to scrub the face like dry brushes, face polishes, scrubs, or your Clarisonic brush.
On the other hand, chemical exfoliants tend to be more gentle on the skin because they remove the dead skin cells without physically rubbing the skin. They break down the sticky, glue-like bonds between dead skin cells allowing new skin to come to the surface and also allow your moisturizers and serums to penetrate deeper into the skin’s surface.
AHAs are naturally occurring in various fruits, cane sugar, and yogurts. They’re water soluble and most commonly found and used from fruit enzymes in pineapple. Papaya, pumpkin, grapes, cherries.
We like AHA exfoliators because they are more gentle on the skin than physical exfoliators like scrubs and polishes (not to say there isn’t a time and place for them).
You’ve probably heard of a type of BHA in your high school years: Salicylic Acid. Because salicylic acid is oil soluble, it can get down into pores and clear out what’s clogging them. This is why you’ll most commonly see this ingredient in acne prone and products for oily skin.
If you’re thinking about incorporating either of these acids into your skin care routine, it’s always best to introduce them gradually. Start with once or twice a week, and pay attention to how your skin reacts. Redness and slight tingling/burning is common, however it should subside after a couple minutes. If it's really burning and uncomfortable, wash off right away.
Sunscreen is always a given in any morning routine, but you want to take extra care to apply sunscreen after you’ve used an AHA or BHA as they do leave the skin more exposed to the sun’s UV damage.