AHAs are alpha hydroxy acids and include glycolic, citric, malic, tartaric, and lactic acids. They are water-soluble acids made from sugary fruits and help exfoliate your skin. AHAs are known to be great for most skin types, even sensitive skin types, but it depends on the dosage. AHAs usually treat various skin concerns like acne, melasma, acne scars, hyperpigmentation, age spots, large pores, fine lines, wrinkles, etc. AHAs will exfoliate the skin's surface and can boost collagen production in the skin. Consistent AHAs in your skincare routine will result in a smoother texture, more even skin tone, smaller pores, and less prominent fine lines and wrinkles. Although there are many great benefits, there are still some side effects when using AHAs. Some side effects include peeling skin, itchy skin, a rash, burning sensation, swelling, etc.
BHAs are beta hydroxy acids and include salicylic, tropic, trethocanic, and beta-hydroxybutyric acids. They are oil-soluble acids and can get deep into the pores to remove dead skin cells and excess sebum. Since BHAs can penetrate the skin deeply, it's best suited for combination and oily skin types to balance the excess sebum production. BHAs are great for reducing the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, improving skin texture, and are primarily used to treat acne. Salicylic acid is one BHA acid that is especially great for acne-prone skin. It is proven to reduce and prevent acne and is more effective than benzoyl peroxide. However, like AHA, there are side effects when using BHA, including redness, peeling skin, flaky skin, and sensitivity to other products.
Both AHAs and BHAs exfoliate the skin but in different ways. They can improve the appearance of large pores, fine lines, wrinkles, hyperpigmentation, acne, and acne scars. They are both great at brightening your skin and fading hyperpigmentation, as they get rid of dead skin cells and exfoliate the skin on a surface level basis or a deeper level. They are both hydrating because they are humectants that help your skin retain moisture.
Some differences between the two are that AHAs will exfoliate the skin surface, while BHAs penetrate the skin deeply and deep into the pores. In addition, BHAs have antibacterial effects, which makes them great products for acne-prone skin types. And AHAs are better at repairing sun-damaged skin and improving any signs of aging, such as fine lines and wrinkles. AHAs can help improve acne's appearance, but BHAs actually reduce oil production and balance the skin out. Therefore, assisting oily skin types and reducing overall oil production in the skin. Lastly, BHAs can improve the appearance of large pores while AHAs don't affect pores. BHAs will help keep the pores clean, thus making them look smaller and not as large when filled with debris and dirt.