AHA/BHA – A Breakdown

In my not so recent fascination with Korean skincare I came across AHA/BHA’s, now I’d heard of them before but the word ‘acid’ always scared me off, having very sensitive combination skin left me with the fear that I’d wake up one day with a full blown breakout. But I thought I shouldn’t judge it from its quite so scary name and the fact that I knew nothing about these acids or how they worked on the skin. After some serious research and trial error with a number of products I concluded that they aren’t actually as scary as they sound, and they have seriously beneficial properties for healthy looking skin.

The acid you’ll want to go for will depend on your skin on type, but I’d recommend the following;

  • Normal/Dry Skin: AHA
  • Sensitive/Oily Skin: BHA
  • Combination Skin: AHA/BHA combined product

So you can understand why I recommended the above and so you can decide for yourself which you think is more suitable for yourself, I have broken down the properties of both AHA and BHA below.


Fully known as Alpha Hydroxy Acid, they work by removing the stubborn dead skin cells which are kept attatched to the skin through weak bonds on the surface (those annoying patches of skin which look like wrinkled and almost as if they’re seperating under makeup). AHA’s are great alternatives to manual exfoliators which can aggravate sensitive skin and damage new skin underneath if the beads are too rough. Alongside being a great exfoliator consistent use of AHA’s helps to increase collagen production and thicken the epidermis which also battles aging skin.

Whilst the majority of AHA’s do very similar things the one you’ll want to use will again differ on your skin type. The most common forms of AHA’s are GlycolicLactic and Mandelic acid.

GLYCOLIC The most popular type of AHA, due to it’s small molecular size it can penetrate to deeper layers of the epidermis to repair the skin. However, this needs to be used with care as overuse can lead to irritation. Aim to go for one with a percentage lower than 10% when you first start using them and gradually increase the percentage as your skin begins to tolerate it. Good for those with normal, blemished skin and those prone to blackheads. 
MANDELIC Larger in molecular size in comparison to glycolic acid therefore doesn’t penetrate the skin as deeply, but therefore works over longer periods of time. Great for dry skin due to its humectant properties (helps to preserve moisture). It is also anti-bacterial and anti-viral and not as strong as glycolic acid which makes its ideal for acne prone skin.
LACTIC Derived from milk which makes it ideal for addressing issues such as eczema, roseacea and sensitive skin. Due to its humectant properties it won’t dry out the skin whilst it removes that dead layer of skin.


Better known as Beta Hydroxy Acid there is really only one main type, Salicylic Acid. Generally this is for those who have oily acne prone skin and find AHA’s a little too ‘weak’ on the skin. BHA’s are oil soluble therefore can battle oily skin and promote regeneration and work better than AHA’s which are water soluble.

Salicylic acid works by removing dead skin off the surface and cleaning out the pores to remove excess oil and dirt which can cause unwanted breakouts. Being derived from aspirin salicylic acid works great for a wide range of skin inflammations. However, BHA’s/Salicylic acid don’t have humectant properties so can dry out the skin, therefore anyone with dry skin BHA’s are really a no no.

Benefits and How to use?

Removing dead skin cells and removing gunk out of your pores allows for better absorption of any serums, acne products and moisturisers you apply leading to better looking skin and getting your moneys worth out of your products. If you’ve ever wondered why some products don’t work as well as you like it may be because your some of your products are being wasted on the dead skin cells still sitting on your skin which aren’t going to regenerate themselves.

Generally AHA/BHA’s should applied straight after cleansing so they can penetrate the skin and promote it’s repair, followed by the remaining of your nightly or daily routine. Alway wear sunscreen during the day when using any product containing AHA/BHA’s.


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Hi, Sameena here! I'm a beauty and skincare blogger. Thanks for reading this post, please follow or subscribe by email for relevant updates on new products and reviews!

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