Chemical Exfoliants: AHA vs BHA

Do you use a chemical exfoliant? Skip the scrubs. AHAs and BHAs are by far the best way to go. They help to reduce the appearance of lines & wrinkles, help to hydrate the skin and are known to treat acne. Manual exfoliation is dead; use an exfoliating acid as it is the key to more youthful, glowing skin. Read on to find out more!

Chemical Exfoliants: AHA vs BHA, Which is Right for You?

Chemical Exfoliants: AHA vs BHA, Which is Right for You?

If you have been reading Set to Glow for a while you would know that I started the blog to share my wealth of knowledge on health, wellbeing and skincare after being quite stick when I was 30 years old. Because of this Set to Glow's philosophy is to create honest reviews of brands and great products that I love or believe in.

In The Link Between Diet and Skin Health I explained some of what I went through when I was in hospital. In previous posts I have mentioned that I have had trouble with my skin. As a teenager, then when I was sick and later on when I had a bout of dermatitis. I wish I knew what I know now about diet when I was a teenager struggling with my skin. The simple solution then was to go on antibiotics. There are a time and a place for antibiotics; however your skin can greatly benefit from healthy eating all year round.

I am also still using probiotics, zinc tablets and mostly eat foods that are anti-inflammatory. An anti-inflammatory diet includes antioxidant foods, minerals and essential fatty acids. Foods that heal your body and satisfy your palate, you can remove the inflammation-causing offenders without feeling deprived.

When you are treating your skin from the inside out, you need a gentle but effective skincare regime to support the holistic treatment plan. Even the most terrible cases of pustular acne can be cured this way. As I can attest to; when I was sick I got pustular acne on my cheeks quite badly and I used the above method to cure it. It took time, but when it was cleared it stayed gone. Which is often the difference between a quick fix bandaid approach and my recommentation of the holistic approach.

Chemical Exfoliants: AHA vs BHA, acne.org 10% Glycolic Acid Lotion, Neostrata Ultra Smoothing Lotion, The Ordinary AHA 30% + BHA 2% Peeling Solution

Chemical Exfoliants: AHA vs BHA, acne.org 10% Glycolic Acid Lotion, Neostrata Ultra Smoothing Lotion, The Ordinary AHA 30% + BHA 2% Peeling Solution

When I was getting better from being sick I cut out mostly everything from my beauty routine. I used a simple cleanser like Cetaphil, Redwin Sorbelene and/or Purastat 5 Gel Cleanser. I moisturised with Sorbelene again and I treated spots with acne spot gel during the day. At night I would slather on Glycolic lotion to my face and body. Glycolic acid is found naturally in sugar cane and it reacts with the top layer of skin, breaking it down by dissolving sebum and other substances that bind cells together. Dead skin cells are sloughed off revealing smoother, brighter, younger looking skin

Glycolic is an AHA and it is the holy grail for exfoliation, effectively removing the outermost layer of dead cells from the complexion, revealing brighter, fresher skin. Products that contain Glycolic Acid are used often to treat scarring, skin discolouration and signs of aging, like fine lines and wrinkles.

Chemical Exfoliants: AHA vs BHA, The Ordinary AHA 30% + BHA 2% Peeling Solution, 30ml

Chemical Exfoliants: AHA vs BHA, The Ordinary AHA 30% + BHA 2% Peeling Solution, 30ml

What is the Difference Between an AHA and a BHA?

There is really no arguement, a leave-on AHA (alpha hydroxy acid, such as lactic or glycolic acids) or BHA (beta hydroxy acid, which is salicylic acid) exfoliant can make a world of difference in your skin’s appearance. Paula's Choice suggests that both AHA and BHA exfoliants work in a similar manner to reveal smooth, radiant, hydrated, youthful-looking skin.

"When in a proper formulation, AHAs (e.g., glycolic acid and lactic acid) and BHA (salicylic acid) act to unglue the sticky bonds that are holding the dull, dead skin on the surface longer than it needs to be there. Once those bonds are broken or unglued—gently and evenly—skin sheds naturally and imperceptibly. So, although you won’t actually see your skin shedding, you will soon see the smoother, younger-looking skin hiding beneath!"

Both AHA and BHA diminish the look of lines and wrinkles, can make skin look and feel firmer, hydrate and increase skin’s smoothness and improve dull, uneven skin tone and rough texture. AHAs are water soluble and are preferred for normal to dry, sun-damaged skin, while BHA is oil soluble and preferred for normal to oily, clog-prone and bump-prone skin.

I have never had particularly oily skin so I choose to use Glycolic (AHA). Glycolic lotion is also more readily available over the counter.

Chemical Exfoliants: AHA vs BHA, Applying Glycolic Lotion

Chemical Exfoliants: AHA vs BHA, Applying Glycolic Lotion

AHA and BHA Over the Counter

If you check out any online beauty stores you will notice that you can buy both AHA and BHA over the counter. For example, I use Neostrata Ultra Smoothing Lotion which is 10% Glycolic and since I have had practice, I can leave it on overnight. Neostrata also has a 100mL Foaming Glycolic Wash that includes 18% Glycolic Acid to smooth skin texture and 2% Lactobionic Acid to gently increase cell renewal. You can probably tolerate 18% glycolic acid in a wash as it only sits on your skin for a while before getting washed down the sink.

Which brings me to my next point. I would probably recommend leave on products that include AHA and BHA because they don't get washed down the sink. However, if you are a new user, you will need to start applying and then maybe washing off so that your skin gets used to it.

NIP + FAB have various glycolic products all with lower levels the acid included in them too.

If you have lots of blackheads and spots but no deep, closed comedones, salicylic is the best choice for you. Burt's Bees Anti Blemish Spot Treatment is mostly salicylic acid-based and FORMULA 10.0.6 have overnight treatments with Salicylic Acid in them. Salicylic won't be as sensitising and is less likely to dry you out. Again, don't overuse it — doing too much actually makes things much worse.

Again sometimes it is just down to personal preference on whether you choose an AHA or BHA product to loosen the dirt and un-clog your pores. You can also go a step further and have a stronger AHA or BHA peel at a professional skin clinic. I used clinic visits for peels and laser treatment in order to combat left over acne and scars from my pustular acne period.

Which do you use? AHA or BHA? And do you have a favourite product? Or do you still think manual exfoliation is the go? Comment at the end of the post - I love hearing from you all!

Chemical Exfoliants: AHA vs BHA; Glycolic Acid Benefits

Chemical Exfoliants: AHA vs BHA; Glycolic Acid Benefits

Chemical Exfoliants: AHA vs BHA; The Complete Guide to AHAs and BHAs for Skin Renewal

Chemical Exfoliants: AHA vs BHA; The Complete Guide to AHAs and BHAs for Skin Renewal

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