AHA vs BHA: What is the difference?


If you are building a skincare routine, or you are already consistent with one, you may know that exfoliation plays a key role in maintaining a healthy and smooth skin appearance. By including exfoliating products in your skincare routine, you encourage the development of new cells by removing dead skin cells from the surface of your skin, enhancing hydration, and at the same time open the way for other products to penetrate further into the skin, improving their results and the skin’s appearance.
However, many people are still struggling to know the difference between the different chemical exfoliators and their respective playing roles on the skin. To make your life easier, we have prepared everything that you need to know about chemical exfoliators and Village 11 Factory® products.


What is AHA? (Alpha Hydroxy Acid)

The first group of chemical exfoliators AHA stands for Alpha Hydroxy Acid (do not let the name scare you, since they are gentler than scrubs or other physical exfoliants), and this category involves several ingredients, from which the most commonly used AHAs in cosmetics, and also the most researched ones include Glycolic Acid and Lactic Acid. Other AHAs gaining more popularity due to their low irritation effects are Mandelic Acid, Citric Acid, and Malic Acid [1].

AHAs are a set of water-soluble organic acids obtained mainly from sour milk (Lactic Acid), sugar cane (Glycolic Acid), and fruits (Citric Acid and Malic Acid). On an epidermis level, due to its acidic nature, AHAs reduce the pH of the skin and remove calcium ions from the bonds that hold the skin cells together, therefore allowing exfoliation to take place [2].

What are AHAs good for?

AHAs act on the surface layers of the skin, helping to treat pigmentation, fine lines and wrinkles, and uneven skin tone. If you tend to have sensitivity or irritation, the best option for you are the AHAs with larger molecular sizes, like Mandelic Acid or Tartaric Acid, since their penetration in the skin is slower and can help you build a tolerance to the ingredient.

AHA concentrations for beginners

It often takes some time to know which AHA works best for your skin, it is recommended to start your exfoliation journey with a low concentration of AHA product (2% ~ 5%) to see your skin’s response. Once your skin is adapted to AHAs, you can increase the frequency or the concentration to a low-to-mid level (2% ~ 10%) including different products: toners, lotions, gels, creams, etc.
Lactic Acid has been reported to help hydrate the skin when used topically in concentrations of 2% [3], and when used along with other AHAs it can work as an exfoliant, being a perfect combo with Glycolic Acid since it has been reported to enhance skin’s firmness and improve signs of sun damage.


What is BHA? (Beta Hydroxy Acid)

The second group corresponds to BHA referring to Beta Hydroxy Acids, a set of oil-soluble acids that can rapidly penetrate multiple layers of the skin [4], helping to unclog pores and remove excess sebum, being the perfect match for oily or pro-acne skin types.
The most commonly known and used BHA is Salicylic Acid; since it can reduce oil and is an excellent match for oily skin types, like AHAs can help to exfoliate dead skin cells and improve the skin's overall condition, yet due to its antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties is a better-suited option to exfoliate while avoiding over-drying skin.

Source: https://www.fda.gov/cosmetics/cosmetic-ingredients/beta-hydroxy-acids

BHAs concentration for beginners

FDA, CIR, and other cosmetic regulation-related organizations have established that the use of Salicylic Acid is completely safe when topically used in concentrations up to 2% [5], [6]. Therefore, you can start your exfoliation journey with low-concentrated products, and build your skin tolerance until you reach the desired results.

Choosing an exfoliant

Building your skincare routine with AHA & BHA ingredients

You must be wondering; how can you include these ingredients into your skincare routine without breaking out or drying out your skin? We have prepared an easy guide for you to follow:

  • Start incorporating products into your skincare routine that contain both AHA & BHA ingredients (1%~5%), one time per week during your skincare routine. To avoid dryness during the exfoliation process, make sure to complement your skincare routine with hydrating and nourishing ingredients (we recommend complementing with Village’s Hydro Boost line!)
  • After a few weeks, you can increase the usage up to 2 or a maximum of 3 times per week, building it according to your skin tolerance. Remember that over-exfoliating may break out your skin!

Can you use AHA & BHA every day?

YES! Here are some Village 11 Factory recommendations

  1. Get a fresh start:

  • Daily Gentle Exfoliating Gel Cleanser (suitable for beginners)
  • Contains 0.5% BHA ingredient to focus on pore cleansing
  • Mild formula for everyday use

  2. Prepare your skin:

Daily Exfoliating Toner (suitable for beginners) Contains 0.01% of BHA (Salicylic Acid) and 0.5% of AHA (Glycolic Acid-Lactic Acid) to gently help remove dead skin cells and regulate sebum production Mild formula for everyday use

  3. Target a smooth skin: 

Formulated with nourishing ingredients (suitable for beginners) Contains 5% of AHA (Lactic Acid 2.8% + Glycolic Acid 2.2%) and 0.01% of BHA (Salicylic Acid) 80% Natural Ingredients Mild formula suitable for everyday use.

  4. Take an extra step: 

Recharge your skin with moisture to get a brighter complexion with the Lemon mask, or help to reduce inflammation while balancing your skin with the Tea Tree mask. Both contains soothing ingredients to replenish skin hydration 89% Natural Ingredients

Protect your skin from UV when using AHA&BHA

Exfoliating ingredients can increase the sensitivity of the skin to sunlight, making your skin more prone to receive UV damage if it is exposed to the sun right after its application [2], therefore is recommended to include those ingredients during your night skincare routine, or if you want to add them during the day time, make sure to use a proper amount of sun protection product and re-apply every 2~3 hours to keep your skin safe.

  1. If you have dry skin type

Daily Mild Sun Fluid: 
Lightweight texture non-mineral sunscreen Nourishing formula including 11% of V11TM complex Helps to moisture and balance the skin condition

Perfect Airy Sun Cushion: 
Lightweight texture hybrid mineral & non-mineral sunscreen Soothing formula including 2% of V11TM complex and 5 plant extracts Helps to moisture and balance the skin condition

  2. If you have oily & pro-acne skin type

Daily Mineral Tone-Up Sunblock:
Creamy texture mineral sunscreen Smooth matte finish infused with V11TM complex Helps to moisture and balance the skin condition

Daily Fresh Sun Stick:
Easy blending smooth formula Gentle matte finish infused with V11TM complex Helps to moisture and balance the skin condition

  3. If you are looking for something more than just sun protection

Daily Mineral Tinted Sun Lotion Lightweight texture mineral sunscreen Gentle and natural veil of color Moisturizing formula including 2% of V11 complex Helps to moisture and balance the skin condition

Protect your skin from UV when using AHA&BHA

We hope that you could learn more about chemical exfoliators and that you are ready to start including them in your skincare routine!
Village 11 Factory® will help you to take care of your skin with natural ingredients while guiding you to use the ones that are the best match for your skin type!
If you have any questions or concerns, please contact us at info@pfdbrand.com

[1] Tang S-C, Yang J-H. Dual Effects of Alpha-Hydroxy Acids on the Skin. Molecules. 2018; 23(4):863
[2] Kornhauser A, Coelho SG, Hearing VJ. Applications of hydroxy acids: classification, mechanisms, and photoactivity. Clin Cosmet Investig Dermatol. 2010 Nov 24;3:135-42
[3] Omkar Sawant, Tabassum Khan. Management of periorbital hyperpigmentation: An overview of nature-based agents and alternative approaches. Dermatologic Therapy May 2020, Volume 33, Issue 4.
[4] Neubert R, Partyka D, Wohlrab W, Dettlaff B, Fürst W, Taube KM. Penetration of salicylic acid and salicylate into the multilayer membrane system and into the human horny layer. Dermatol Monatsschr. 1990;176(11):711-6
[5] Amended Safety Assessment of Salicylic Acid and Salicylates as Used in Cosmetics, Cosmetic Ingredient Review, Report June, 2019.
[6] Code of Federal Regulations, Department of Health and Human Services, Food and Drug Administration, USA.