Let’s continue The Korean Beauty for Beginners series with detailed posts on your favorite ingredients. Today we will cover the two ingredients that we get the most questions about AHA & BHA.
Physical VS. Chemical exfoliators
Both AHA & BHA are so-called chemical exfoliants. Chemical exfoliators gently slough off dead skin cells with active ingredients such as Salicylic or Lactic acid. Physical exfoliating products include scrubs, exfoliating mitts, and cleansers, that often contain small particles that create friction to help exfoliate the skin. Friction can cause irritation or micro-tears on the skin, making it less suitable for those with acne-prone or sensitive skin. A big difference between these two is the frequency of use. You would use a scrub once a week and see results instantly, but you might be damaging your skin at the same time. The frequency of using chemical exfoliants completely depends on the percentage you are using. View the table below for a suggestion on how to use these popular Korean AHA and BHA products.
How to use the AHA BHA Clarifying Treatment Toner
Can be used daily after cleansing. Spray directly onto (dry) skin or use a cotton pad to swipe the toner over the face. Also a great option for body acne!
How to use the BHA Blackhead Power Liquid
Can be used multiple times a week. Apply to the whole face after cleansing or after using a pH adjusting toner. Start slowly by using once a week then increase frequency when necessary.
How to use the Clear Skin 8% AHA Essence
Use once or twice a week after cleansing on dry skin. Preferably wait 30 minutes afterward before applying any other skincare. If you feel too much sensation when using it for the first time, rinse off after 10 minutes.
What is AHA?
Alpha Hydroxy Acid is a water-soluble chemical exfoliant that treats dry, dull, and patchy skin. AHA dissolves the binding material that holds together dead skin cells, making room for new skin cells to reach the surface of the skin. When you have too much dead skin, it can be hard for skincare products to penetrate and be effective.
What are the benefits of AHA?
New skin cells make your skin appear brighter, less dull, and even out the complexion. Clear skin aside, AHA is known to thicken the epidermis (upper skin layer) and increases the collagen production. Some types of AHA such as Lactic acid can also help with redness.
Different types of AHA
Glycolic Acid is the most popular and common AHA because of its small molecular size. Because of its small size, it easily and effectively penetrates the skin. The downside is, it can also easily irritate your skin if you use it too much. Start with a lower percentage once a week. You can also rinse it off after a few minutes to get used to the product.
Lactic Acid,derived from milk, works great for tackling redness. Those with Rosacea or sensitive skin will benefit the most from this AHA. Its molecular size is bigger than the size of Glycolic Acid, but not as big as with Mandelic Acid.
Mandelic Acid has anti-bacterial and anti-microbial properties, making it great for those with acne-prone skin. Because it’s molecular size is the biggest of all of these AHA’s it takes longer to get into action but it makes it less irritating.
What is BHA?
Beta Hydroxy Acid is a popular acid for solving pore-related issues. It is most effective for acne-prone and oily skin types since it’s an oil-soluble active. BHA deeply sinks into the pores to remove excess oils and dirt, and clean out the pores.
Salicylic Acid is known for its anti-inflammatory properties, making it great for calming angry skin. Salicylic acid has all the great benefits of AHA, including brightening, firming, and increasing collagen production. However, Salicylic Acid doesn’t posses any humectant ingredients like AHA. Those with dry skin should be a little more cautious using salicylic acid and follow up with hydrating products to prevent the skin from drying out.
Can I combine AHA & BHA?
Unless you are a skincare pro, we recommend staying with one active at a time. Because acids can cause photosensitivity, we recommend using them at nighttime only. Follow up with sunscreen every morning to protect your skin and prevent pigmentation. Slowly introduce new acids into your skincare and preferably alternate AHA, BHA, and other acids like vitamin C in different routines. For those with oily skin, combining AHA and BHA might be beneficial, some products even contain both ingredients in one! Those with sensitive or dry skin should proceed with caution, minimizing irritation and drying of the skin.
Hope this was helpful!