With all the skincare products on the market it can be hard to know which ones can work together successfully, so how do you know when you’ve got too much of a good thing? For example, AHAs and BHAs (Alpha Hydroxy Acid and Beta Hydroxy Acid) are two of the most effective exfoliators out there, but can AHA and BHA be used together? The short answer is yes, but you’ve got to know how and what each one does. That’s why, in this article we’ll discuss whether AHA and BHA can be used in skincare together, what AHAs vs BHAs actually are, and everything else you need to know about these very effective acids!
IN A NUTSHELL
Main Takeaways: Although it may seem as if using AHAs and BHAs together is a lot of acid on the skin, they can easily be used together with great success.
Good to Know: No matter how you use AHAs and BHAs, you must make sure you use sunscreen with them as exfoliation makes the skin more vulnerable to sun damage.
Recommended Products: Prince Charcoal Detox Mask.
What are AHAs and BHAs?
If you’re not familiar with AHAs and BHAs (Alpha Hydroxy Acids and Beta Hydroxy Acids), they are both acids that can be used on the skin. Used mainly (but not exclusively!) to exfoliate, they help get old, dead skin off the face; not only so new, healthy skin can shine through, but so other products, like moisturizer and makeup, go on more evenly. That said, AHAs and BHAs do different things and have different benefits so let’s look at what they do and how they do it.
What are AHAs?
AHAs or Alpha Hydroxy Acids are water-soluble acids that help exfoliate or take off the top layer of skin to reveal healthy, new skin. Found naturally in milk, fruits, and sugarcane, AHAs not only make skin look radiant but younger, they help diminish the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. Although the term “acid” may sound intimidating, AHAs are generally considered very gentle.
Not only do AHAs exfoliate the top layer of skin, they also hydrate the skin! It might seem strange to think that something might be able to both take off old, dead skin and hydrate it at the same time, but it can!
Glycolic acid is a great example of an AHA because it both exfoliates the skin and hydrates it. Aside from the fact that it takes off the top layer of skin, exposing new, healthy skin, glycolic acid is a humectant. This means it helps draw moisture from the deeper levels of the skin up to the top layers, plumping up dry skin while helping reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.
If you really want to see glycolic acid in action, try our Prince Charcoal Vegan Detox Mask! This “spa in a jar” as we call it, lifts out impurities in the skin while cleaning and nourishing it. And if you have problems with uneven texture, it’s brilliant for smoothing the skin without drying it out! (It also smells fantastic!) We recommend using it a couple of times a week but you can gauge how often you need it based on your skin type — oily skins might want to use it a bit more often.
In general, dry, mature, or sensitive skins have a tendency to gravitate towards AHAs like glycolic acid because they not only exfoliate so gently, they moisturize as well, soothing the skin and taking care of the flaking caused by dryness. That said, any skin type can use AHAs so if you have oily skin, don’t let that stop you.
What are BHAs?
BHAs or Beta Hydroxy Acids are another kind of acid that’s used on the skin. BHAs actually come from different kinds of bark, and although they also exfoliate like AHAs, BHAs are just a little stronger, getting deep in pores and unclogging them thoroughly. Although the fact that they really get in the skin to exfoliate makes them very effective, it also means it might take a little more time for your skin to adjust to them so don’t freak out if you experience a little breakout or even some flaking at first!
An example of one of the most effective and popular BHAs out there is salicylic acid. Found in many exfoliants, it gets into pores on a serious level, taking with it dirt and oil. If you’ve ever used salicylic acid you probably know that it also works incredibly quickly--as in, overnight quickly--and seriously preps your skin for moisturizer or makeup by getting all that old, dull skin off so you can start with a blank canvas (if you’ve never used an exfoliant that’s as strong as salicylic acid, you’re going to be amazed by how much more effective your moisturizer is!).
Oily skins have a tendency to love BHAs like salicylic acid because they are so great at unclogging pores and keeping skin free of the oil that tends to irritate oily skin. That said, they’re also great for dry skins since they allow moisturizer to work so much more effectively.
Can AHAs and BHAs be Used Together in Skincare?
By this point, you might be wondering if you can use both AHAs and BHAs together. The short answer--yes! In fact, they can really give skin the one-two punch by doing a surface cleaning (that would be the AHAs) and then going much deeper into the skin (enter BHAs) and taking out the dirt and gunk that really gets stuck in pores.
If you’re worried about the idea of using one acid on top of another, don’t! In effect, AHAs and BHAs perform two different jobs--think of it this way: you would probably never take a wet mop and try to clean a floor without sweeping it first--and you would probably not worry about whether or not it was too much cleaning. AHAs and BHAs work very much the same way.
They do two different jobs and approach them differently. AHAs take off the dead skin that’s sitting on the top layer of your face. BHAs are more aggressive, literally loosening up the bonds that hold dead skin together for a much deeper cleaning.
That said, if you do start using an AHA and a BHA together, don’t be shocked if you find your skin peeling a bit or even a little flakiness at first. When you first start using any product you can find that you need to let your skin adjust to it, but that’s especially true of exfoliants. If you do find that your skin is irritated or flakey, you might want to try using a little less or alternating their use (as in, use one only in the morning, the other only at night or alternate days for each).
One thing you MUST make sure to do (with any exfoliant but especially with something like salicylic acid) is to wear sunscreen if you go outside. Getting rid of old, dead skin makes skin look healthy and radiant, but it also makes it more vulnerable to skin damage. Make up the difference by putting on sunscreen when you go outside--you’ll be much less likely to experience sun damage!
We recommend giving it at least 27 days before giving up on any product so if you can put up with a little flaking it’s probably worth it to have healthy, glowing skin in the end!
So if you were wondering if it’s OK to use AHAs and BHAs together, we say go for it! We think you’ll find they compliment each other beautifully and that your skin will be all the better for it!