Skin Acids: What are AHA’s and BHA’s

Alpha Hydroxy Acids, also known as AHA‘s, and Beta Hydroxy Acids, or BHA’s, are skin acids used as chemical exfoliators. These two function by peeling away the dead skin cells on the surface or your skin, revealing fresh new cells underneath. The most common AHA’s are glycolic and lactic acids, while the most common BHA’s is salicylic acid.


In a way, these two are similar because they do the same thing for you. Besides exfoliating and cleansing, both sets of acids also smooth out your complexion. They can also reduce the appearance of wrinkles, brighten dark spots, and provide extra hydration.


AHA’s are more mild and are mostly used on the top layers of the skin, while BHA’s can penetrate deeper. This is because BHA’s are oil soluble as opposed to AHA’s water solubility. BHA’s are able to push through the sebaceous  parts of the skin to go deeper. AHA’s also require a higher concentration to be more effective in comparison to BHA’s, and BHA’s can help control your skin’s oil production. The downside is that BHA’s can have harsher effects on the skin, whereas AHA’s are a lot more mild.

Which one is right for you?

Well it all depends on 1. Your skin type, and 2. the condition you want to treat. Those who have acne but have sensitive skin should opt for AHA’s because of their mild effects. People who have oily skin and want to keep their sebum production in control can look into BHA’s.

However, there is no cookie cutter treatment when it comes to BHA’s. Your dermatologist might use one then the other, or even combine both for a more effective treatment plan. A consultation with them will definitely put you on the right path on which skin acid to use, either with chemical peels, or with at home acid serums.