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AHA and BHA exfoliating skincare acids explained

Did you know that your skin has a natural exfoliating cycle? On its own, it actually does a pretty good job of exfoliating itself – who knew!? But with maturing, UV exposure and pore-blocking substances on high rotation (sunscreen, make-up), that process can slow down dramatically. And that’s why we exfoliate regularly! Giving your skin a helping hand is always a good idea, and who doesn’t love an extra clean face and minimised pores?! Ahh yes, the goal of skin goals. 

Cue, regular exfoliation. Because exfoliation has long been the secret to radiant, younger-looking skin. The most common way to exfoliate away dead skin cells is through physical scrubs. But there is another way, and it doesn’t involve the physical labour. In fact, this highly effective way of exfoliating leaves behind the gritty scrubs and instead uses chemical acids to decongest and renew your skin. 

Both AHA (alpha-hydroxy acids) and BHA (beta-hydroxy acids) are natural acids used to treat many skin concerns from brightening the skin, reducing the appearance of fine line and wrinkles, and clearing acne too, all on top of polishing away dead skin cells. They’re often paired together as a powerful duo (more on that later). But how much do you really know about these two ingredients? Let’s get into all things chemical exfoliation, AHAs and BHAs, shall we? 
The lowdown on AHAs 

Alpha Hydroxy Acids (AHAs) are a series of acids, mostly derived from plant sources, that work on the surface level of the skin to peel away dead skin cells. They assist to gently exfoliate the skins surface by loosening the bonds that bind dead skin cells together, revealing a smoother and brighter appearance.  

AHAs primarily assist with: 

  • Dead skin cells 
  • Hyperpigmentation 
  • Age spots 
  • Dullness 
  • Dehydration 
  • Sun damage 

Types of AHA: 

  • Fruit enzymes 
  • Glycolic acid 
  • Lactic acid 
  • Citric acid 
  • Malic acid 
  • Mandelic acid 
  • Phytic acid 

We recommend: Purified: Purifying Cleanser (contains: lactic acid) 

The lowdown on BHAs 

Beta Hydroxy Acids (BHAs) are oil soluble, meaning that they have the ability to penetrate deeper into pores, really helping to clean out and dissolve excess sebum build-up, while preventing further decongestion and over-stretched pores. 

BHAs primary assist with: 

  • Blackheads 
  • Whiteheads 
  • Uneven skin tone 
  • Bumpy or rough skin 
  • Reducing the appearance of fine lines 

Types of BHA: 

  • Salicylic acid 
  • Willow bark extract 

We recommend: Harmony Radiance Boosting Toner (contains: willow bark extract) 

Why you should get AHAs and BHAs into your routine 

Now you know what they each do... can you get better results if you use them together? Absolutely! Together, these chemical exfoliants work in two ways – by removing the outer layer of dead skin cells that trap bacteria and sebum (AHAs), then, by penetrating the skin at a deeper level, assisting in dissolving skin debris that clogs pores which also acts as an anti-inflammatory to reduce the appearance of redness and breakouts too (BHAs). 

These two really are meant for each other! 

We recommend: Canvas: Resurfacing AHA & BHA Treatment (contains: AHA fruit enzymes: bilberry, orange, lemon cane, sugar cane, sugar maple, papaya, pineapple and BHA willow bark) 


And there you have it! You can avoid physical exfoliation by using a chemical acid product that does the work for you. AHAs essentially work on the outer layer of the skin, while BHAs get right into the mix of the pores. All you need to do is sit back, relax, and reveal fresher, more radiant skin!