Effectively Incorporating AHAs, BHAs, and PHAs in Your Skincare Regime

Today’s beauty aisles seem like a miracle out of a chemistry lab. When it comes to obtaining smooth, even-toned, and radiant skin, using different acids on your skin may seem intimidating initially, but they’re the real silver bullet. Determining which acid to apply according to the type of skin is crucial to incorporate these into your beauty regimen.

Recognizing the acids infused in your products as well as how they work will help you find the right anti-aging mix to develop a program that delivers the effects you desire. The purpose of this essay is to help you understand the most common types of acids with their associated activities.

But first, let’s understand the process of exfoliation

Exfoliation is the removal of dead cells from your skin’s surface layer. While some individuals feel it enhances their skin’s look, it is not for everyone. If done incorrectly, it may cause more harm than benefit. If you want to exfoliate, make sure you do it carefully to avoid damaging your skin or causing greater redness or acne outbreaks.

Because not all types of exfoliation are suitable for all skin types, it’s crucial to think about your skin type prior to deciding on an exfoliation method:

After using the solution, sensitive skin may hurt or burn.

Normal skin is flawless and unaffected by environmental factors

Dry skin might get, itchy, and irritated.

Oily skin may get greasy and shiny.

Combination skin may have a little of both oily and dry.

Why is exfoliation necessary?

Mechanical and chemical exfoliation are the two basic ways of at-home exfoliation, and the method you pick should be based on your skin type. Mechanical exfoliation involves physically removing dead skin cells using a tool, like a sponge or brush, or scrub. Chemical exfoliation dissolves dead skin cells gently using chemicals like alpha & beta hydroxy acids.

Chemical VS physical exfoliants

Physical exfoliants, such as face scrubs, can make a noticeable change right away, but they can also be extremely harsh and abrasive. Dryness, irritation, or micro-tears throughout the skin may result based on the way you cleanse your face.

Chemical exfoliants are small-molecule acids or catalysts that enter the skin (to differing depths) to loosen or destroy dead cells. This permits them to be readily wiped away thereafter. Chemical exfoliants are less irritating and more uniform in their exfoliating action than physical exfoliants because of their nature.

Also read: Everything You Need To Know About Hyaluronic Acid!

These acids also have other skin advantages, such as decreasing wrinkles and fine lines. Collagen stimulation can be aided by AHAs. BHAs possess anti-inflammatory qualities and aid in sebum regulation, whereas PHAs are antioxidants with moisturizing characteristics.

Why use acid exfoliators?

Exfoliation helps unclog and clear pores, which is especially beneficial for acne-prone skin. Glycolic acid, Salicylic acid, and malic acid are chemical exfoliants containing Alpha and Beta Hydroxy Acid that can function in tandem with other comedolytic topical skincare treatments including benzoyl peroxide, sulfur, and retinol/retinoids. Exfoliation on a regular basis can also help patients undergoing skin lightening therapy achieve a brighter, more even skin complexion.

So, what exactly is pH? And why is it important to choose the right value?

Potential hydrogen (pH) is a measurement of a substance’s acidity or alkalinity (base). Everything has a pH level, from our skin to the items we utilize to the liquid we wash with.

Having a basic understanding of the skin’s pH balance can be useful when selecting a new skin-care good (or when experiencing breakouts) for a range of reasons, such as being able to determine whether a commodity is distorting your normal pH and, as a result, not performing well for your complexion.

Read more: Are Your Skin-Care Products PH- Appropriate?

What’s up with these acronyms?

Because they have a hydroxy group situated in the alpha position, AHAs or Alpha Hydroxy Acids serve as both exfoliants and humectants. This broad family includes glycolic acid, lactic acid (derived from sour milk), citric acid (derived from citrus fruits), malic acid (derived from apples), tartaric acid (derived from grapes), and phytic acid (from rice).

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Beta Hydroxy acids (BHAs) are carboxylic acids that have one hydroxyl group linked to the carboxyl group’s Beta -position. Beta hydroxy acid is mostly used to exfoliate the skin. It causes the epidermis (the skin’s outermost layer) cells to become “totally unhinged,” allowing flaking skin cells to peel off and make way for new skin formation.

PHAs are carboxylic acids forming an alicyclic chain or having two or more than 2 hydroxyl groups connected to carbon atoms, such as lactobionic acid. The presence of a minimum of one hydroxyl group at the alpha-position is required. When a sugar molecule is attached to the PHA structure, a polysaccharide termed lactobionic acid is formed. PHAs and PHBAs have been shown to have several skin advantages, making them excellent components for dermatological and cosmetic operations.

Now that we’ve covered the basics, let’s dive right into it!

The universe of acids is categorized into three groups: Beta Hydroxy Acids (BHAs), Alpha Hydroxy Acids (AHAs), and the dark horse, Polyhydroxy Acids (PHAs). You are sure to come across one of these three classes of acid if you are intrigued about skincare exfoliators

Continue reading for an explanation of what AHA, BHA, and PHA are, what they do, and how to employ them in your beauty regimen

Get ready to dazzle!

What should I know about AHAs?

Alpha hydroxy acid (AHA) is an acid that dissolves in water and is obtained from natural sources like milk and fruits. AHAs are useful in dermatology because they cleanse the skin, removing dead skin cells while also encouraging new cell development. The usage of AHAs might cause a visible difference in cases of fine lines, blemishes, and sunburns.

AHAs are made with pH levels that are relatively lower than usual, which is about 4.7. The pH of AHAs is usually around 3.0-4.0. This weakens the chemical bonds that bind dead cells together, allowing them to be washed away easily with water.

What are its uses?

Decaying skin cells make your body feel rough and coarse and raises the risk of fine lines and wrinkles. Exfoliation, on the other end, softens and even brightens your skin. Cleansing, abrasive brushing, and face cloth exfoliation methods, on the other hand, do not function as effectively as chemical exfoliants. Mechanical exfoliating treatments can be harsh and damage the skin.

AHAs are helpful for people who want to “refresh” their skin. They do this by removing the topmost layer of dead cells to reveal fresh, healthy ones beneath. When taken for a long period, AHAs have been found to boost collagen and elastin production in the skin.

How to use it?

Exfoliation is prominent with all AHAs. Even so, the effects and applications of various acids might differ somewhat. The maximum concentration of the AHA you choose should be between 10% and 15%. Consistently apply these products, until your skin becomes used to them. This will also lessen the likelihood of unpleasant side effects like inflammation.

The intense exfoliating effects of any AHA, regardless of which one you use, make your skin increasingly susceptible to the sun. To avoid burns, skin discoloration, and an increased risk of skin cancer, use sunscreen every morning.


  1. Glycolic acid

The most popular kind of AHA is glycolic acid. It’s also derived from a plant that’s readily available: sugar cane.

Glycolic acid helps to exfoliate the skin and increase the production of collagen. As a result, it can be used to treat a wide range of skin issues. Furthermore, due to its antibacterial capabilities, It may even effectively deter acne outbreaks.

Glycolic acid can be found in a variety of peels and skincare treatments. It basically has the smallest molecular size of all the AHAs and is the most efficient at penetrating the skin. Unfortunately, it is also the most irritating, thus it is really not recommended for people with sensitive skin.

Read more: Is Alpha Arbutin Safe for the Skin? Read to Know

Glycolic acid helps to distribute the pigment or melanin from the uppermost layers of your skin by increasing cell turnover. This leads to a healthier, more even visage as well as the appearance of discoloration and blemishes being reduced.

  1. Lactic acid

Produced from milk, lactic acid is an AHA comprising of a bigger molecular size than that of glycolic acid, making it milder on the skin and an excellent choice for those with sensitive skin. It cleanses the skin by accelerating cell turnover, although it doesn’t penetrate as thoroughly as glycolic acid. Lactic acid has anti-aging properties because it lowers the appearance of wrinkles and fine lines, improves skin texture, and boosts luminosity.

Lactic acid moisturizes the skin by binding water to its surface layers. Lactic acid’s hydrating characteristics make it ideal for individuals who have dull, dry skin.

  1. Mandelic acid

Produced from almonds, Mandelic acid is an AHA with a larger molecular size than lactic or glycolic acid, resulting in a gentler exfoliation. It’s excellent for people with sensitive skin.

This skincare acid additionally contains antibacterial effects, which might be beneficial for treating acne. Mandelic acid also aids in the reduction of post-inflammatory discoloration, which can cause post-acne scarring and markings.

  1. Malic acid

It is a mild AHA that helps eliminate dull, scaly skin and discoloration. It is obtained from apples and some other fruits. Malic acid is frequently coupled with several other AHA exfoliants to boost their efficacy, as a result of being less efficient than other AHAs such as lactic and glycolic acid.

  1. Tartaric acid

It is a mild alpha hydroxy acid (AHA) with antioxidant properties that helps shield your skin from damage caused by free radicals. It’s produced from grape extracts and may aid with UV damage and acne symptoms.

  1. Citric acid

It is a gentle alpha hydroxy acid (AHA) that exfoliates and eliminates dead skin cells. Citric acid, like malic acid, is less efficient than other AHA exfoliants, hence it is frequently combined with some other AHA cleansers to improve product potency. It’s also used to modify pH levels in cosmetic formulae.

What should I know about BHAs?

Beta hydroxy acid, or BHA, is a kind of acid that comes from natural sources such as wintergreen leaves and willow bark. BHAs assist to eliminate dead skin cells and encourage new cell development by exfoliating the skin. This can aid in the unclogging of pores, the treatment of acne, and the prevention of future outbreaks.

BHAs are oil-soluble and operate identically to AHAs. BHAs exfoliate the skin’s surface in the same way as AHAs do, but unlike AHAs, they also go inside the pores. BHAs are therefore appropriate for people who have acne-prone or oily skin.

What are the skincare benefits of BHAs?

BHAs permeate the skin, dissolve oil and thoroughly cleanse the pores. Since they can readily dissolve the sebum that’s stuck in the pore lining, they help eliminate blackheads and whiteheads.

BHAs are generally mild and can be used on the majority of skin types, but if you’re new to acids or have sensitive skin, start cautiously and use them in lower quantities.

How to use it?

BHAs are intended to be used daily, but you are advised to use them sparingly at first to get your skin used to them. Even though BHAs do not end up making your skin as sun-sensitive as AHAs, you still should use sunscreen every day. This will assist in the prevention of additional solar damage.


  1. Salicylic acid

The most prevalent BHA in personal care products is salicylic acid. A maximum of 2% concentration in over-the-top treatments will cure breakouts and even rejuvenate the skin.

Salicylic acid removes skin cell build-up inside pores, which can cause blackheads and whiteheads to form. Salicylic acid also acts as an anti-inflammatory, thus it can assist with acne and skin diseases like rosacea by reducing redness and irritation.

What should I know about PHAs?

Polyhydroxy acid (PHA) is a milder form of acid that is comparable to BHAs & AHAs but is milder on the skin. It’s a go-to solution for individuals with sensitive skin because it’s less likely to trigger skin irritation or burning.

Read more: How To Read Labels In Skin Care Effectively

PHAs are identical to AHAs, but their molecules have slightly been modified for less exfoliation. These offer many advantages, such as anti-aging and hydrating characteristics,  without being abrasive on your skin.

What are its benefits?

PHAs also have antioxidant capabilities that help combat free radicals and prevent cellular harm, making them a wonderful choice if you have wrinkles or hyperpigmentation on your skin.

Glycation, a process in which sugar molecules diminish skin suppleness and cause sallowness, can be reduced by PHAs. PHAs have been proven to be acceptable for those with rosacea and atopic dermatitis, along with sensitive skin.

How to use it?

While PHAs are deemed to be mild, it’s always a smart option to use chemical exfoliants slowly at first. Start by applying the product to a small area of your leg or arm and leaving it on for several hours to see how it reacts. If you have an allergic reaction or discomfort, stop taking it. However, if no response occurs, you can begin applying it to your face.


  1. Lactobionic acid

Lactobionic acid is generated from milk sugars. It may help to battle the indications of aging, unclog pores, and level out skin tone, according to anecdotal evidence. It’s also supposed to keep your skin appearing youthful by preventing collagen degeneration. More research is needed, however, to demonstrate its usefulness as an anti-aging component.

  1. Galactose

Milk sugars are used to produce galactose. It’s however not as well-known as the other PHA. It’s described as a light exfoliator. It hydrates your skin while also removing scar tissue cells from the surface. Galactose may help decrease dark patches and hyperpigmentation, according to anecdotal data.

Characteristics In comparison with BHAs, AHAs are more mild and moisturizing, and they exfoliate skin in a slightly different way. Because BHAs are oil-soluble, they may break through the moisture on the skin and enter further into the pores to exfoliate thoroughly. Because PHAs are larger, they don’t penetrate as deeply into the skin, resulting in a gentler exfoliation.
Benefits Smoothens skin and diminishes hyperpigmentation, reduces fine creases, wrinkles, clears pores. Eradicates germs, balances oil production, cures acne, diminishes pores, and smoothens the skin Smoothens and moisturizes skin, restores the damage, sustains collagen synthesis. 
Good for skin types ranging from dry to normal acne-prone people and those with greasy and oily skin Those with dry, dehydrated, or sensitive skin, as well as those who are unfamiliar with chemical exfoliants
Usage Depending on your skin, you may apply it 2-3 times a week or even every day. Depending on your skin, you may apply it 2-3 times a week or even every day. Depending on your skin, you may apply it 2-3 times a week or even every day.
Types glycolic acid, mandelic acid, lactic acid, tartaric acid, malic acid, citric acid Willow bark extract, Betaine salicylate, and Salicylic acid Lactobionic acid, Gluconolactone, Galactose oxidase

Are there any alternatives?

Azelaic acid is one of the most popular skincare acids. It’s unique in that it doesn’t fit into either the AHA or BHA categories.

It’s made by yeast that naturally grows on our skin and is the cure to a slew of skincare problems.

Read more: Useful Anti-Aging Tips You Need To Know Right Away

Azelaic acid has several intriguing properties that make it an excellent choice for some skin problems. It’s a tried-and-true ingredient that’s been shown to help with redness, inflammation, rosacea, and post-acne red marks. It also has some antioxidant and antibacterial qualities, as well as moderate exfoliating capabilities.

It’s a terrific option if your skin doesn’t react well to AHAs or BHAs, or if your skin needs a boost. Use it simultaneously with your favorite chemical exfoliator.

Which one should I use?

For balanced skin: 

You might profit from both AHAs and BHAs if you have healthy, harmonious skin with a good moisture barrier and aren’t encountering any severe breakouts or discomfort from your regular skincare routine.

For dry skin:

A moisturizing AHA might be an excellent option for you to explore if you have dry skin. You may also try including a BHA to assist exfoliate your skin, but bear in mind the irritation factor of BHAs on sensitive skin, so proceed with caution.

For combination skin:

BHA is your best choice if your skin looks flaky but still generates an oily T-zone. To assist limit oil production, start by applying it exclusively on the greasy T-zone. On the remainder of your face, use a light exfoliating AHA.

Oily skin:

For oily skin, salicylic acid is the ideal option since it possesses oil-soluble characteristics that allow it to penetrate pores and cure acne effectively. You may also combine AHA and BHA to reduce the production of oil and minimize blackheads and whiteheads.

Acne-prone skin:

BHA is your best option for big pored acne-prone skin. It effectively removes dead skin cells, leaving your skin soft and your pores smaller. Enhance cell turnover and reduce breakouts by using AHAs like glycolic acid.

Sensitive skin:

For sensitive skin, you should begin with a PHA, which is the gentlest of all the acids. PHAs also have hydrating characteristics, which makes them ideal for individuals with dry or itchy skin.

Note: If you need products tailored to your skin type, do not forget to visit Skininspired where you can choose the products that are exclusively made for you! Skim and search by skin type, concerns, and more and build the best skincare routine!

Should I worry about sunscreen?

Remember to apply your SPF after chemical exfoliation, since your skin will be more vulnerable to UVA rays. After integrating acids into your beauty routine, it’s critical to wear a wide spectrum (SPF 30+) sunscreen. If exfoliating treatments, such as AHAs and BHAs, are being used on the skin, SPF is essential. Following these sorts of treatments, the skin seems to be more prone to damage and pigmentation changes, and pigmentation might potentially worsen if SPF is not used.

So, can I mix and match these products?

Yes, to put it succinctly. Several products exist that mix acids in one step. The mix you pick is dependent on your skin’s requirements.

A treatment containing a combination of AHAs & PHAs was shown to be effective in restoring the state of dry skin to usual within 2 weeks in one case study. In another clinical trial, using PHA SPF 15 during the day and AHA lotion at night for 12 weeks reduced hyperpigmentation and improved skin brightness dramatically.

Because they act in comparable pH circumstances, AHAs and Vitamin C work well together. This mixture can help to reduce the appearance of wrinkles while also illuminating and rejuvenating the skin.

What mistakes should I avoid?

Speaking with a skilled skin care therapist is the best and safest approach to guarantee you’re picking the proper hydroxy acid mixtures for your skin. You can also check the product instructions for further information. Alternatively, start with acids with total doses of less than 3% active acid. Make it a point to use it twice a week, to begin with.

Read more: How To Read Labels In Skin Care Effectively

After that, you should use moisturizing and hydrating ingredients. This can help restore your skin’s pH to an ideal range of 4.7-5.5, preventing dryness and irritation.

Well, since I’m a newbie, which one should I start with?

The response will differ depending on your skin issues. If you’re worried about your skin’s sensitivity, start with PHAs. PHAs have been demonstrated to be safe for clinically sensitive skin. Contemplate a product that contains both AHAs & PHAs.

If you’re new to incorporating AHAs into your regimen, start with lesser doses of active acids, such as 0.5 to 2%, applied 2 or 3 times per week. Even if the proportion of active acid in your product isn’t stated, you can gradually boost the pace of use.

The bottom line!

You will find an acid-based skincare solution for every skin type and skin issue that delivers chemical exfoliation to keep your skin healthy and clean. All you have to do now is select the one that is best suited for you. Choose an AHA for cleaning and illumination, a BHA for acne management and blackhead eradication, and a PHA for mild exfoliation that doesn’t irritate like harsher exfoliating acids.

Thank you for visiting, and till we meet again, keep your skin glowing! For more information visit our website