Learning about Alpha Hydroxy Acid (AHA) and Beta Hydroxy Acid (BHA) helps when selecting a peel and is great for general skin care knowledge. The biggest difference between the two hydroxyl acids (BHAs and AHAs) is their lipid (oil) solubility. Alpha-Hydroxy Acids (AHAs) are water soluble and Beta-Hydroxy Acids (BHAs) are oil soluble.
BHAs are able to penetrate deeper into pores, which contains sebum and helps to control exfoliation of the dead skin cells that build up inside the pore. Salicylic Acid is the only BHA known for the treatment of acne and acne-prone skin types.
Choosing Between AHA and BHA
The skin’s condition, thickness, past UV exposure, and ethnicity, ability to have down time, budget, are among many factors in the decision-making process.
AHAs and BHAs are oft used together to great effect. This leads to a deeper peel. Consult the Combining Products section for more information.
AHA is the gold standard. Derived naturally from sources such as sour milk (lactic) or sugar cane (glycolic), AHA will aid in cell renewal, reducing superficial lines, address minor hyperpigmentation, and are pretty mild with no down time.
BHA (Salicylic) is very beneficial in clearing blocked pores, skin brightening, refining texture, eliminating p-acne bacteria, and is an amazing anti-inflammatory.
Overuse of any chemical can exacerbate any condition so a prudent approach will yield great results. Factors that will play a role in the overall result are pre-treatment and post care, overuse, and thickness of the stratum corneum to name a few. These treatments will work best when done in a series.