AHAs, BHAs and PHAs Decoded
When it comes to acids, you’ve probably seen a few acronyms popping up over and over – AHAs, BHAs and PHAs. Today, we’re jumping in to take a look at the three most common types of acids and how to use them in your routine.
Exfoliants have come a long way since your first apricot scrub. While exfoliating has always been a big part of skincare routines, these days the chemicals are taking the spotlight
AHA, BHA and PHA are the most common types of acids used in skincare today. If you’re using acids in your products, chances are it’s one of these three.
Alpha Hydroxy Acids (AHA) are the original gangster of skincare acids. Naturally found in fruits, water-soluble AHAs such as lactic or glycolic acids gently melt away dead skin cells. They also stimulate the cell regeneration process, making for great anti-ageing benefits. They are also perfect for drier skin.
AHAs can benefit pigmentation, help to even out skin tone, preserve moisture and even reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.
Beta Hydroxy Acids (BHA) are a gentler alternative to AHAs. Salicylic acid is the most commonly used BHA today. Containing many of the same benefits as AHAs, the fat solubility of BHAs dissolve oil and makes them effective on blocked pores, blackheads, whiteheads and acne. BHAs also have anti-inflammatory properties and soothe redness.
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The new kid on the block, Poly Hydroxy Acids (PHAs) work similarly to AHAs in that they also melt away dead skin cells. What makes PHAs different is that their molecules are larger. This means they take longer to work, which makes them perfect for light exfoliation on very sensitive skin.
They are even recommended for sensitive or easily irritated skin. For mature skin types, PHA is also a good option as it helps preserve collagen levels.
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It probably goes without saying, as you should already be using a high SPF product in your skincare routine, but if you want to introduce acids, then SPF is essential. Acids can work wonders with exfoliation, but they do make your skin more sensitive to the skin, so be religious about reapplying as well.
Combining them can cause irritation, so if you are prone to dry skin, sensitivity or redness, stick to just one. On the other hand, if you have oily skin, combining BHAs and AHAs may be safe and even beneficial. A word of caution though – if you notice any redness, sensitivity, or excessive dryness, that’s a sign to slow down with your acids. Cut back to using them 2- 3 times a week and alternate between your acids.
Think of layering acids like double cleansing – start with your oil-soluble BHA first, and then move onto your AHA. BHAs are typically formulated to be a pH of 3.5 and AHAs have to be formulated at a pH of under 4. You’ll want to use your BHA product first, not only because BHAs are lower in pH but also because they are oil soluble and AHAs are not.
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"When it comes to acids, you’ve probably seen a few acronyms popping up over and over – AHAs, BHAs and PHAs. Today, we’re jumping in to take a look at the three most common types of acids and how to use them in your routine."- Lauren Lee, Host of the Korean Beauty Show podcast
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