You may or may not have heard these terms before. If you haven’t don’t worry. Personally, I have only recently learned about what they are, what they do, and how/when they should be used. Which is what inspired me to share this information, because I also learned you are most likely already using these hydroxy acids. You should know what they are.
With everything else you’re told you need to put on your face now we’re gonna throw a bunch of acid in the mix? Yes, yes we are. As mentioned, you have probably already been using them and you don’t know because some products don’t list themselves as an AHA or BHA. Rather, they just list specifically what acid it is or don’t list anything at all. We’re going to go over the what, why, when, and hows of all of them and who knows maybe this is the key to that persistent skin issue you haven’t been able to solve. Alright, time to drop some science on you!
*I am not a doctor. I do not claim the recommendations found in this article will cure any ailment or disease. This article is intended for informational and entertainment purposes only*
*This post may contain affiliate links, read my full disclosure here.*
So what is Alpha/Beta Hydroxy acid exactly?
Alpha hydroxy acid
AHAs are acids that are naturally found in foods or plants although that can be, and are commonly synthetically made. These include:
Citric acid — found in citrus fruits
Glycolic acid — found in sugar cane
Lactic acid — found in sour milk and tomato juice
Malic acid — found in apples
Tartaric acid — found in grapes
Beta hydroxy acid
Salicylic acid (This is probably familiar to you)
The significant difference between the two is that AHAs/alpha hydroxy acids are water soluble. They work on the surface of the skin.
BHAs/beta hydroxy acids are oil soluble and work on the surface and inside the pores. They are then respectively recommended for those who have oily skin and can be more effective in combating acne.
What do they do?/Why do you use them?
Both work as a ‘chemical exfoliator.’ They get under the naturally occurring shedding dead skin and lift it away. This helps to reveal more vibrant and even skin tones because you’ve removed the dulling layer(s) of dead skin. Another use, which you’ve probably already guessed is to treat acne. Other treatments include: diminishing fine lines and wrinkles, hydration, increasing the firmness of the skin, and to smooth skins texture.
A few cautions…
Most over the counter products contain a safe daily use amount of 10% or less. Increasing to 10-50% concentrations require limiting the use significantly and 50-70% concentrations should only be applied by or with a dermatologist present. It’s important to remember that these are chemical acids and should be used as directed to avoid things like chemical burns and scarring OUCH! Common side effects include redness, irritation, photosensitivity(prone to sunburns) and flaking skin. When I first started using the Pixi Glow Tonic (5%) my skin was red and stung ever so slightly. However, I had never used a concentrated AHA before. Following the second use those side effects diminished significantly and by the third application, they were gone. Always remember to use a sunscreen if you plan to go out in the sun after applying an AHA/BHA. A great one I like you use is Aveeno Protect + Hydrate Face Sunscreen because I’m all about that hydration and 50 SPF yo!
When can you apply AHA/BHAs?
Like mentioned above most over the counter products are at or below 10% and therefore safe for an everyday use whether it’s in a cleanser, lotion or toner. I was applying the glow tonic two times a day in the morning and the evening. I’ve recently purchased a pore refining AHA/BHA combo so I’ll have to see based on the product and my skin’s reaction what my frequency is.
How do you apply AHA/BHAs?
You can apply them multiple different ways and it’s entirely up to you how you do it. While peels are the most results-producing method, they aren’t really daily friendly or for when you’re on-the-go. Most common methods are through cleansers, lotions, and toners. This is where you also need to decide which acid you want to apply as well. If you have oily skin then a BHA/Salicylic acid might be your best bet. Neutrogena Oil-Free Acne Moisturizer is a great simple lotion to start out with. If you’re looking to add it to when you wash Mario Badescu Acne Facial Cleanser would be great. If you love all the products you’re currently using and rather add to your routine, The Ordinary 2% Solution serum would be a good choice.
Most AHAs are used for pretty much all the same things. Fine lines/aging, dark spots, sun damage, and acne. The difference comes in when you are going into higher concentrations and maybe your skin doesn’t take well to glycolic acid but does just fine with lactic. Glycolic acid is the easiest to find so I’ll list some products for that. Another Mario Badescu product is the Mario Badescu Glycolic Acid Toner. Along with the Pixi Glow Tonic mentioned before you could also cleanse using the Pixi By Petra Glow Mud Cleanser. If you got a little extra cash to splurge and looking for some real firepower you can opt for the Peter Thomas Roth 10% glycolic lotion.
Of course, everyone and everyone’s skin is different. Although, you can go in with a little more confidence when you pick out products now that you actually know what it is you’re putting on your face!