Alpha hydroxy acids and beta hydroxy acids are two beneficial skin exfoliants found in many face washes/toners/and anti aging remedies. Many of you may even be using them without knowing so! These are great ingredients to incorporate into your skin care regimen but to really get the full benefits you must know what skin types each ingredient is geared specifically to.
Why are they beneficial?
As you know, your skin naturally sheds off billions of skin cells off each day. However, not all skin types exfoliate at the same rate. Factors such as sun damage, aging, acne prone skin, etc. can slow down the exfoliation process. Usage of chemical exfoliants (like BHAs/AHAs) can help your skin speed up this process and result in smoother skin with less hyper pigmentation.
Okay, so what are the differences between them?
Alpha hydroxy acids are water-soluble, i.e. you should not be using them in tandem with any products that contain oils. If you do this will cause AHAs to not work as effectively. AHAs are also better suited to people with dry skin because they are humectants. Humectants are substances that are able to attract and retain moisture from the air. They have this ability thanks to the higher amount of hydroxyl ( -OH ) groups they contain, which allow hydrogen to bond with water.
Some AHAs include lactic acid, citric acid, and glycolic acid.
Beta hydroxyl acid (the most commonly used is salicylic acid) is oil soluble and you can use it with any products containing oils and it will remain effective. BHA is better geared towards acne prone skin because it is better at penetrating pores and “unplugging” them.
Some things to remember…
Some negatives of using chemical exfolliants is that they carry the chance of initial purging (they will cause acne). This occurs because the rapid exfoliation of skin brings plugged pores more rapidly to the surface, resulting in acne (that would have taken longer to rise) popping up more frequently than usual. Remember that this is only temporary and usually ceases within a month.
Another important fact is that BHAs/AHAs significantly raise your skin’s sensitivity to UV light. If you decide to use products containing these ingredients make sure to always use sunscreen!