Exfoliating Acids Explained: AHAs, BHAs and PHAs

Exfoliating Acids Explained: AHAs, BHAs and PHAs

Posted by Rebecca Hopkins on

If clear, radiant and healthy skin is your skincare goal, then you should be exfoliating regularly. Gone are the days of a physical gritty formulas we used in the 80s and 90s. To slough off dead skin cells, you can now choose from three forms of exfoliating acids. Neither acid is better than the other, but they do target different skin concerns and types.

What is a liquid exfoliant?

Chemicals like Alpha Hydroxy Acids (AHAs) and Beta Hydroxy Acids (BHAs) and PHAs (Polyhydroxy Acids) are used in skincare to sweep away dead skin cells, leaving skin smoother and more radiant. The active ingredients are far more effective at removing dead skin cells on the surface of your skin than physical exfoliants, and used correctly, won’t damage your skin’s barrier.

What’s the difference?

AHAs – work by breaking down the glue holding your skin cells together, urging along the skin’s natural shedding process. AHA’s effects are primarily felt on the skin’s surface so surface-level skin concerns such as red marks from past acne or hyper-pigmentation benefit from the constant sloughing off dead, dull cells.

BHAs - works on the upper layers of the skin, encouraging dead skin cells to shed to reveal the healthier and more radiant layers underneath. It’s also able to penetrate the skin’s natural oil allowing it to exfoliate and ‘unclog’ pores (break down the ‘glue’ that holds skin cells together and hence ‘blocks’ pores) and help reduce them in size.

PHAs - have a large molecular structure so penetrate the skin at a slower rate and don’t travel as deep as AHAs or BHAs. Instead, they gently remove dead skin cells and any debris on the surface to reveal softer, smoother skin with a more even skin tone.

Can you use AHAs, BHAs and PHAs in your routine?

Yes! All three have very different benefits. Use AHAs for sloughing dead skin cells and brightening, BHAs for deep cleaning pores and PHAs to gently minimise breakouts daily.

It’s really important to note that everyone’s skin reacts very differently to acids, so we would always recommend patch testing and testing your tolerance before you start using lots of acids – the last thing you want to do is damage your skin’s barrier by over exfoliating.

If you want to use PHAs and BHAs on the same day, we recommend using them only on problem areas, such as the T-Zone.

Our AHA Glow Mask is wonderful to use two to three times a week in your normal skincare routine.

The bottom line is ALWAYS follow with a hydrating serum and moisturiser to lock in moisture and help protect the skin’s barrier.

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