Without question, a leave-on AHA (alpha hydroxy acid) or BHA (beta hydroxy acid) exfoliant can make a world of difference in your skin’s appearance. We’re often asked which one is best, and the answer is less complicated than you might think.
But first, let’s answer the question, “Why exfoliate?”
In essence, exfoliating removes dead skin cells. This improves the texture and appearance of your skin (makes it look nicer), reduces breakouts (makes it behave nicer) and can improve absorption of other skincare products you’re using (making it all-around better).
There are benefits to scrubs and other products that exfoliate in the ‘normal’ way, also known as physical or manual exfoliators. They can help remove dirt and dead skin from the surface of your face. Giving your face a good scrubby-scrub with a flannel or gritty cleanser is satisfying and makes your skin feel squeaky clean.
However, what you don’t realise is that facial scrubs with physical exfoliants are often too harsh if you have acne and/or sensitive skin.
Have you been using a generic facial scrub and noticed your skin is red and sensitive afterwards? Or, worse, are you using a face scrub and feeling like your acne won’t go away? This may be because physical exfoliators inadvertently pick up bacteria that can then spread to other parts of your face — causing even more breakouts.
If you are looking to exfoliate gently yet effectively, AHAs and BHAs are better options.
AHAs work on skin’s surface and are water soluble. They’re generally preferred for normal to dry, sun-damaged skin, due to their ability to enhance natural moisturizing factors within the skin. They’ve also been proven effective in reducing the visible signs of sun damage.
BHA works on skin’s surface and inside the pore; it’s oil soluble, so it’s most often preferred for normal to oily skin prone to bumps, clogs, blemishes, and enlarged pores. BHA also has natural skin-calming properties, so it’s gentle enough for sensitive skin prone to redness and/or rosacea. This well-rounded, gentle ingredient is even suitable for skin prone to milia.
See, the difference isn’t so complicated — and chemicals aren’t so scary! If used correctly, you can look forward to better skin health.