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Understand the difference between AHA & BHA

Daily exfoliation is your ticket to radiant skin. Why? Because it removes dead skin cells, revealing a fresh, glowing complexion.

You may have come across some traditional exfoliation methods – scrubbing cleansers and cloths are well-known options. But you can also opt for exfoliating ingredients like alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs) and beta hydroxy acids (BHAs).

In this article, we’ll explore the difference between AHA and BHA, explain their benefits, and guide you on how and when to incorporate these powerful ingredients into your routine.

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What are AHA and BHA?

Your skin goes through a natural exfoliating process, but factors like ageing and sun exposure can slow this down. It can never hurt to get a little boost from an exfoliating product.

AHAs and BHAs are two complexion-boosting exfoliants used in skincare that pave the way to smoother, softer skin. Even if you haven’t heard of them, you may have used them already – AHA and BHA ingredients are found in everything from cleansers to serums.

AHA meaning: alpha-hydroxy acids

Alpha-hydroxy acids, or AHAs, are sometimes called fruit acids as they come from plant sources.

You may have heard of one of the most common types of AHA: glycolic acid (which is actually derived from sugar cane!). Other well-known examples are lactic acid (from milk) and citric acid (from fruits like lemon and orange).

Who can use AHAs, and why would they want to?

They’re especially suitable for normal and dry skin types.

They’re able to penetrate the top layer of the skin (aka the epidermis) to encourage natural exfoliation. That means they can also reduce the appearance of fine lines!

BHA meaning: beta-hydroxy acids

Now let’s turn to BHA, or beta-hydroxy acid.

You might have also come across BHAs – one popular form is salicylic acid.

Who can use BHAs, and why would they want to?

Because they’re oil-soluble, BHAs are a good choice for normal to oily skin. They’re deeply exfoliating and can smooth rough, bumpy skin.

Like AHAs, BHAs are derived from plant-based sources, though formulas like salicylic acid are often laboratory-created for peak cosmetic benefit.

“I am using the Garnier anti-blemish serum with AHA+BHA charcoal every morning and evening after showering and my usual facial cleansing… I have blemished, oily skin and kept getting blemishes. Now the blemishes appear reduced.. What I also think is really great is the fact that my skin is no longer so oily. After just a few days, my skin already felt well cared for and soft. I think the Ganier Serum is a great combination of active ingredients and is a great value for money. I can 100% recommend it.”

- Rafael

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What’s the difference between AHA and BHA?

While both contribute to a smoother, more balanced complexion, there are a couple of differences:

Water soluble Oil soluble
Work on the skin’s surface to treat wrinkles Clear up clogged pores and oily skin
Suitable for sensitive skin, and conditions like psoriasis and cystic acne Suitable for dry skin types
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“This serum is proving to be a real game-changer in my skincare routine. It’s a very potent blend of effective ingredients to improve blemish-prone skin. The formula enriched with AHA and BHA smooths skin's surface, leaving it looking more radiant. It is enriched with niacinamide and charcoal, and helps minimise pores and gives a refreshing feel. The serum is non-greasy and lightweight so it absorbs quickly and provides a great base for a moisturizer. As a result, it’s perfect for my morning or nighttime regime and has really helped clear up my skin.”

- Bella

Can you use AHA and BHA together?

Both have their own benefits, so you might be wondering what an AHA and BHA combination does for skin. Is it recommended?

There are many products that include both AHA and BHA ingredients. While AHAs are better for dry skin and BHAs are better for oily skin, if you have normal or combination skin you can benefit from using both at once.

A product containing both might also be a good fit if you’re dealing with several skincare issues at once. For example, if you want a targeted treatment for both clogged pores and wrinkles, using AHA and BHA together can help.

As with any new steps to your skincare routine, the key is to start slowly with lower doses to avoid irritation, and build from there.

It’s also important to consistently use a broad-spectrum sunscreen when you’re using AHAs and BHAs. This is because exfoliating can make your skin more sensitive to the light (aka photosensitive), so it’s vital to prevent sun damage.

Discover Garnier’s face serum with AHA and BHA

Combining these two powerhouse ingredients in one formula, Garnier’s 4% AHA + BHA & Niacinamide Charcoal Face Serum is suitable for blemish-prone skin. The formula is enriched with AHA, BHA, Niacinamide and Charcoal. It targets blemishes and unclogs pores, whilst smoothing the skin's surface. It purifies and leaves the skin mattified for a clear, glowing complexion. The serum is suitable for sensitive skin types and is also suitable for people who may be prone to acne.

So, at what point in your skincare regimen should you use our AHA + BHA serum? It’s a post-cleanse product, meaning that you should use it after you’ve used your facial cleanser, but before you apply moisturiser.

“This gentle daily serum helps improve the look of my visible imperfections for blemish-prone and sensitive skin. On first use my skin felt even and mattified. This charcoal serum is very lightweight and easily absorbs in the skin and is great for combination skin. My skin feels smooth. I have post acne marks and this serum is definitely helping gradually fade them. The amazing combination of AHA/ BHA and niacinamide is perfect for combination/blemish prone skin. Love the bonus of it being vegan formula and approved by Cruelty Free International.”

- Desi

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AHA and BHA ingredients offer benefits for nearly every skin type. You can check out more Garnier skincare ingredients here to discover products tailored to your unique concerns. Put your best face forward, every day.