If you have ever bought a product to treat the signs of aging, or battle oily skin chances are you have used either a beta or alpha hydroxy acid.
Alpha hydroxy acid examples
- Tartaric Acid (grapes)
- Citric Acid
- Glycolic (sugar)
- Lactic Acid (milk)
Beta Hydroxy Acid
- Salicylic Acid
Why are they so great!? What’s the difference between AHA’s and BHA’s?
Alpha Hydroxy Acids
As you get older your skin renewal process slows, you might notice that your skin looks dull, feels dry, and has an uneven skin tone. This is where using a product containing an AHA would come in! Alpha hydroxy acids are powerful exfoliants that when incorporated into your skin care regimen will help your skin brighten up and minimize fine lines. Alpha hydroxy acids help diminish the appearance of hyperpigmentation and blemishes. They have moisturizing humectant and emollient qualities so your skin feels soft and smooth. AHA’s may cause skin irritation so incorporate them into your skin care routine at night and gradually. Be sure to wear sunscreen because AHA’s increase your skin’s sensitivity to UV light.
Beta Hydroxy Acids
If you have oily skin or skin prone to blackheads and breakouts, you would use a product containing a Beta Hydroxy Acid such as Salicylic Acid. Beta Hydroxy acids are oil soluble so they penetrate deep into the skin unclogging any sebum filled pores. Salicylic Acid has antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties which are great for someone with acne prone skin. Salicylic Acid is gentler than AHA’s but may still cause skin irritation and be drying so be sure to use a good oil-free moisturizer and incorporate slowly into your routine if you find your skin is sensitive.
Start slow! If you are new to using products containing AHA’s use them once a week at night. If you have sensitive skin use a product containing lactic acid since it is a bit milder than glycolic acid.
Aha’s can cause irritation, redness and itchy skin so I would suggest using them at night once a week until you see how your skin reacts and then gradually increase usage if you feel the need.
You must wear sunscreen! Aha’s are powerful exfoliants and they reveal new fresh skin, you don’t want to burn that new baby skin which will just lead to more wrinkles and hyperpigmentation and you don’t want a sunburn! Aha’s increase your skin’s sensitivity to light.
If you are looking for a product to treat breakouts or oily skin, most over the counter products contain 2% of Salicylic Acid. Salicylic acid can be drying so I think only if you have oily skin prone to breakouts and blackheads should you use it every day.
Select an aha product that also contains emollients, humectants, and vitamins These ingredients will help keep your skin feel smooth, moisturized an protected!
If you are using Salicylic Acid and you have combination skin, trying washing with an SA cleanser in your t-zone and a gentle cream cleanser on the rest of your face.
Don’t overdo the products! Everything you use on your face, cleanser, moisturizer, serum, toner, wipes, etc. Does not need to contain a hydroxy acid. You can end up with dry skin that is overproducing oil or red irritated skin. Start slowly with one product.