What's the Difference Between AHA and BHA?

Image by Linh Pham

Image by Linh Pham

You hear a lot about needing to incorporate Alpha Hydroxy Acids (AHA) and Beta Hydroxy Acids (BHA) into your skincare routine, but what are they? What do they do for you? Wanted to break this down a little bit to understand the difference.


Alpha Hydroxy Acid, or typically referred to as AHA, are a group of naturally occurring, water-soluble acids found in sugary fruits. They are typically used in skincare products as an exfoliator but have other benefits. The acids that fall in this group are: Glycolic Acid (sugar cane), Lactic Acid (milk), Tartaric Acid (grapes), Citric Acid (citrus fruits), Malic Acid (apples) and Mandelic Acid (almonds).

WHAT WILL AHA Products DO for you?

Most known for their ability to reverse the signs of aging due to their exfoliating benefits — these acids are great at removing dirt and dead skin cells from the surface of your skin. Helps with: discoloration or hyperpigmentation, reduces blemishes, pore size, restores hydration, increases plumpness and fades wrinkles/fine lines.

A bit more about aha

  • Glycolic Acid goes deeper into the skin surface targeting wrinkles and acne. Typically does a good job at exfoliating dead skin cells to reveal newer skin underneath. Also helps with evening out skin tone and can boost collagen production.

  • Lactic Acid is a little less intense that glycolic and stays more on the surface of your skin. Makes your skin look brighter and lightly exfoliates the skin making the texture nice and soft. A good product if you want to target sun spots!

  • Tartaric Acid is an ingredient used in products to help with neutralizing the pH balance of a formula. Makes your skin smoother and gives it a nice glow!

  • Citric Acid, like Tartaric Acid helps neutralize the pH balance in skincare formulas. This formula exfoliates the skin, reduces the appearance of your pores, and it also helps with acne.

  • Malic Acid is a magical AHA. It’s not only is great for anti-aging and exfoliating, but it helps with de-clogging your pores reducing your break outs. It also increases collagen production, improves the elasticity in your skin and evens your skin tone.

  • Mandelic Acid is the more gentle of all the AHAs, but it’s a great multitasker! It helps with anti-aging by reducing fine lines and wrinkles, evens out skin tone and complexion, and is a great ingredient for reducing your acne because it regulates your sebum production.

    You can explore in more detail about these acids on the ingredient glossary page.


Beta Hydroxy Acid, or also known as BHA, are oil-soluble acids that work deep in your pores. Salicylic Acid (tree bark) falls within this category.

WHAT WILL BHA Products DO for you?

Known for treating acne by fighting bacteria. If you have oily skin, and want to reduce inflammation or target black or whiteheads, BHAs are where it’s at. It’s just a great ingredient that removes the stuff you don’t want on your face without stripping away the good oils. Also helps with sun damage.

A bit more about bha

  • Salicylic Acid is a great ingredient to fight acne because it does such a great job at de-clogging debris from your pores and it also has anti-inflammatory properties reducing any redness from acne or irritation in your skin.

    You can explore in more detail about these acids on the ingredient glossary page.

Exfoliation is the reason why I think it’s so important to incorporate AHA or BHA products into your routine. By exfoliating, you are removing a dead layer of skin that causes your face to look dull, clogs your pores causing acne, and makes your skin not as smooth.

I’m a big advocate for daily gentle exfoliation, it not only reduced the appearance of my pores, but significantly helped make the texture of my skin much smoother.

I highly recommend trying them out! You can get your daily dose of AHA/BHA from a wide range of products. They come in all forms from toners and serums, to cleansers and peels. I would pick what makes the most sense for you and your routine.

TIP: Make sure you’re using your SPF with these ingredients. They can make your skin a bit more sensitive to the sun. I would also recommending

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