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Can You Tell Your AHA From Your BHA?

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Last updated: 11.23am, Wednesday 23rd March 2016 by PureLogicol Editor

We have all long finished our high school chemistry curriculum, yet the periodic table starts making a frequent appearance in our lives, the older we get. Anti-ageing skincare sometimes seems like it should come with its very own science lab assistants, instead of instructions. We have already shared basic knowledge of Antioxidants, hyaluronic acid and Vitamin C and yet, there is more.

When it comes to ageing skin, slowing skin turnover is what gets us. The new cells are not produced as fast and the old ones simply do not get replaced quickly enough, resulting in dull and lacklustre skin. Throw in the slower production of collagen, and the skin you are left with is also less resilient and has less “bounce”, amongst other things.

The solution?


Not a new concept, as we covered it here previously, yet one that requires further discussion. One typically employs physical or chemical means to boost cell turnover, yet the chemical kind seems to get a bad rap, as it appears innately more risky. Yet, with the right approach, leave-on AHA and BHA exfoliants for at-home use can actually be less damaging than your bead-y scrub from the drugstore.

AHA stands for “alpha hydroxyl acid” and BHA stands for “beta hydroxyl acid” and both can do wonders in helping you shift sun and acne pigmentation, unblock clogged pores, reverse signs of ageing, reduce appearance of wrinkles, boost hydration levels and collagen production.

What is the difference?

Your particular skin concerns may come into play, as well as your sensitivity, in addition to your overall regimen.

Generally speaking, AHA exfoliants are usually meant for those that aim to primarily zap sun damage. AHA penetrate and reverse damage done to the uppermost levels of skin, you see, where pigmentation typically lies. Note that this is not to say that AHA does nothing to boost the anti-ageing action that happen further in, as we mentioned above.

BHA on the other hand is usually considered ideal for those that battle the problems associated with oilier and problematic skin. BHA also has anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties that make it perfect for those that still suffer from acne and breakouts.

When it comes to the poor souls that have sun damage that runs simultaneously with first signs of ageing, well the popular notion of picking one, AHA or BHA, is actually unfounded. They can be successfully combined, as long as you can tolerate both, of course. But, in case you must pick one, go for BHA.

In general, despite what you believe, the instruction on use of AHA and BHA are not “rocket science”:

1. They mix well, provided your skin can tolerate it.
2. Your skin does not need to “wait” in between product applications; you can smother your moisturiser on top, as soon as you applied your exfoliants.
3. They can stay on your skin all-day and night, unlike an actual “peel”.
4. They can be applied around the eye area.
5. You can mix and match strengths, playing it up at regular intervals (say, once per week).
6. Both require religious use of SPF at all times (But you already knew that, right?).

Unlike your favourite drugstore scrub, they won’t damage your skin, as they do not contain particles with rough edges.

They will, however, provide benefits that go deeper than the very top skin layer, which is something a traditional scrub is physically incapable of doing.

Despite what you may have heard, they do not thin your skin in the long-term, as they simply do not penetrate deep enough to slow production of new skin cells.

So pick your chemical and start exfoliating for smoother, beautiful skin.

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