Know Your AHAs And BHAs Before Adding Them To Your Skincare Routine

Know Your AHAs And BHAs Before Adding Them To Your Skincare Routine


New Delhi: We all crave for that perfect glowing skin, and to achieve that we keep on trying a variety of products. Some of them suit us quite well leaving our skin nourished and bouncy while others don’t have a similar effect. Using actives as a targeted treatment is a big step in one’s skincare routine. Two such actives like AHA and BHA, which you all have heard of, should be carefully researched before adding them to the routine. But, before that, let’s know what actives are:

What Are Actives In Skincare?

Skincare actives are compounds that have been scientifically proved to improve the feel, look, and behaviour of your skin. They essentially alter the structure of your skin at the cellular level. Active components also renew, protect, nourish, heal, and hydrate your cells. 

In contrast, inactive ingredients are components employed in the creation of a product. Inactive ingredients include scents used to make a product smell lovely and emulsifiers used to give moisturisers texture. These substances have no natural benefits for your skin. 

In Asian skincare, inactive compounds are crucial since they work with the active ingredients. They can make a product look, smell, and feel nice, but the true worth of a product is found in its active components, which provide natural advantages. Active ingredients can do a lot of things, from smoothing wrinkles to clearing acne. It will just depend on what kind of ingredient and how much of it is present in the product for you to reap its benefits. 

What Are AHAs And BHAs?

AHA and BHA are hydroxy acids that people use to treat skin conditions such as acne. People also use hydroxy acids for cosmetic purposes to improve the skin’s appearance. AHA stands for alpha-hydroxy acid, while BHA stands for beta-hydroxy acid.

AHAs include five naturally occurring organic acids: glycolic acid, citric acid, malic acid, tartaric acid, lactic acid. “AHAs are known for their ability to exfoliate the outermost layer of the skin, promoting cell turnover and revealing a brighter complexion. They can also help to reduce the appearance of fine lines, uneven skin tone, and acne scars,” said Dr. Shweat Iyengar, Founder and thought leader Skinsense.

BHAs include salicylic acid, beta-hydroxybutanoic acid, tropic acid, and trethocanic acid.

“Unlike AHAs, BHAs are oil-soluble, which means they can penetrate deep into the pores and help to unclog them. This makes BHAs particularly beneficial for individuals with oily or acne-prone skin. BHA exfoliates not only the surface of the skin but also inside the pores, preventing the formation of blackheads and whiteheads. It also possesses anti-inflammatory properties, making it an effective ingredient for reducing redness and inflammation associated with acne,” Dr. Shweat Iyengar further added.

Ingredients In AHAs And BHAs And Their Function:

According to Dr. Akriti Mehra, Consultant dermatologist and Founder of Derma decode, “Their main function is to exfoliate the skin- which literally means to remove the dead upper of the skin lallowing the newer brighter layer from below to regenerate. This leads to a brighter and smoother texture.”

She also mentioned what common AHAs include and the uses of the ingredients:

1. Glycolic acid- the strongest, and one of the most effective tools for pigment and scar improvement. As it’s a potent molecule, it’s better to be careful while introducing into your routine. Start slow and with low concentration and frequency. It’s used commonly for scalp exfoliation in dry dandruff as well. 

2. Lactic acid- commonly called the milk peel. One of the best exfoliants for dry / sensitive skin.

Talking about BHAs, she said, “Salicylic acid is the most common BHA ( beta hydroxy acid ) used in skin care. The main function is acne control and decreasing the comedowns ( whiteheads and blackheads). Serums and face washes with low concentrations of salicylic form an important part of oily skin routines. These are also used for oil control in the scalp.”

Things To Keep In Mind Before Including AHAs And BHAs Into Your Routine:

Before you add them to your routine, you should be aware of your skin type and the concern you are using them for.

In this regard, Samhitha G Inturi, CEO, 3AM India said, “Depending on the intensity of the concern on the skin, you need to check for the recommended percentages. Using high percentages of AHA and BHA can do more harm than good. It may leave your skin inflamed and red. Also, the way these actives will work will vary from skin type to skin type. A certain percentage that is suitable for normal skin types may not be so for sensitive skin types.”

“Though BHAs can be applied in the morning, AHAs are generally recommended at night. If you are using them together, apply the serum at night for better results. Remember to follow up with a generous layer of moisturizer and sunscreen to avoid sunburns. Exposing it to direct sunlight may cause inflammation or redness,” she further went on to say.

Talking about AHAs Samhitha said, “If AHA is used separately in your skincare routine, remember not to overuse it. Most importantly, start by building up a routine with AHA and BHA every other day, as your skin takes time to get used to these actives. Unless recommended by your doctor, avoid using them on a daily basis, especially if used in high percentages.”

DOs And DON’Ts While Using AHAs And BHAs:

Dr. Shweat Iyengar listed out some DOs and DON’Ts to keep in mind while using AHAs and BHAs


  • Patch test: Before applying any product containing AHA or BHA all over your face, do a patch test on a small area of neck to check for any adverse reactions. This will help  determine  if your skin tolerates the product well.
  • Start with low concentrations: If you’re new to using AHA or BHA, begin with products that have lower concentrations. This allows your skin to adjust gradually and minimizes the risk of irritation. You can gradually increase the concentration as your skin becomes accustomed to the ingredient.
  • Follow instructions: Always follow the instructions provided by the expert. Each AHA or BHA product may have specific recommendations regarding application frequency, duration, and contact time with the skin. Adhering to these instructions will ensure optimal results and minimize the chance of irritation.
  • Use sunscreen: Both AHAs and BHAs can increase the skin’s sensitivity to the sun, making it more susceptible to  irritation and damage. Therefore, it’s mandatory to apply a broad-spectrum sunscreen with  SPF 30  during the day to protect your skin.


  • Overuse: Using AHA or BHA products excessively can lead to skin irritation, dryness, and peeling. Follow the recommended frequency of use provided by the expert
  • Combine too many exfoliating products: Avoid using multiple exfoliating products simultaneously, especially if they contain AHAs or BHAs. Using too many exfoliants at once can potentially strip the skin’s protective barrier and cause irritation. 
  • Use on broken or irritated skin: Avoid applying AHA or BHA products on open wounds, broken skin, or areas with active inflammation. These acids can exacerbate irritation and delay the healing process.
  • Neglect moisturization: While AHAs and BHAs can be beneficial for exfoliation, they can also be drying. It’s important to apply  a suitable  moisturizer after using these products to hydrate and nourish the skin, helping to maintain its oil moisture balance.

It is important to pay attention to how your skin reacts to AHA and BHA products. If you experience persistent irritation, redness, or other adverse effects, discontinue use and consult with your skin doctor.


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