Acids in Detail: What Are AHAs, BHAs, And PHAs In Skincare?

Dr. Deepti Prasad
Medically Reviewed By:

Dr. Deepthi Prasad, MBBS.

Written by Our Editorial Team


Incorporating acids into your skincare routine may seem to be petrifying. But as per experts, acids such as AHA, BHA & PHA are an elixir for your skin. Regular exfoliation is required to maintain healthy and glowing skin, improving the texture of your skin. The skincare industry is flooded with new product categories featuring new skincare ingredients, and determining what suits your skin type can be a meticulous task. If you are new to skincare, you may hesitate to introduce acids into your skincare routine due to concerns about potential skin irritation or damage. Don't worry; we are here to help you out. In this article, we will unravel everything about acids and how to incorporate acids in your skincare routine to improve your skin's overall health and appearance.

What Is AHA?

Alpha hydroxy acid, or AHA, is a mild chemical exfoliate that gently removes dead skin cells, debris, and grime from the skin's surface. It is a water-soluble acid beneficial for people with dry and sensitive skin. Glycolic acid is the most famous AHA in skincare which levels out the skin, removes dead skin cells, reduces pigmentation, and exhibits anti-aging benefits. AHAs are primarily used in face wash, cleansers, and facial serums. Other AHAs used in skincare:

  • Lactic acid
  • Tartaric acid
  • Malic acid
  • Hydroxycaprylic acid
  • Citric acid

Skincare Benefits of AHA

  1. AHA boosts collagen production, evens out wrinkles and fine lines, giving you youthful skin.
  2. It works by inducing the process of apoptosis, which leads to the self-destruction of the damaged skin cells, thus reducing pigmentation.

What Is BHA?

Beta hydroxy acid or BHA is a mild exfoliant derived from sugary fruits and is beneficial for people with oily skin. Beta-hydroxy acid is a fat-soluble acid, hence can easily penetrate deeper into the layers of the skin and unclog the pores, reducing pimples, acne, and blackheads. BHAs are primarily used in acne treatment formulas. It controls excess sebum production and reduces the appearance of large pores. Common BHA used in skincare:

  • Salicylic acid
  • Beta Hydroxybutanoic acid
  • Trethocanic acid
  • Tropic acid

Also Read : Salicylic Acid: A Few Things You Should Know!

Skincare Benefits Of BHA

  1. Being fat-soluble, BHAs are the preferred ingredient in skincare routine for oily skin as it controls excess oil production on the T-zone of the face, which is prone to acne and pimples.
  2. Its anti-inflammatory and antibacterial property helps control acne and has a soothing effect on red, inflamed skin.
  3. Salicylic acid is the primary ingredient in many face washes and facial cleansers formulated for oily skin and is commonly used in the skincare routine for oily skin.

What Is PHA?

Poly hydroxy acid, or PHA, has a molecular structure that is greater than AHA and BHA, so it does not readily penetrate the skin. Due to this property, it remains on the skin's surface, gently exfoliates it, and keeps it hydrated. PHAs benefit people with sensitive skin; it helps with dry skin conditions such as rosacea and eczema. PHA used in skincare:

  • Gluconolactone
  • Malto-bionic acid
  • Lacto-bionic acid

Skincare Benefits Of PHAs

  1. It is beneficial for sensitive skin types and can be used to exfoliate the skin gently without causing skin irritation.
  2. PHAs act as a humectant and exhibit antioxidant properties that improve the skin's barrier function, thus protecting your skin from external damage.

How To Include Them In Your Skincare Routine?

Skincare products

These acids can prove to be your skin's BFF if appropriately used. Experts say you can combine AHA, BHA, and PHA-based skincare products in your regular skincare regime. Make sure you are using the product according to your skin type. AHA benefits dry and rough skin, whereas BHAs are good for oily, acne-prone skin, and PHAs work well with sensitive types.

Also Read : If You Don't Use Acids In Your Skincare, It's Time You Do

Many skincare brands have developed formulations combining these acids in varying concentrations to provide you with the benefits of both exfoliants. Our AHA+ BHA Exfoliating Foaming Facial Cleanser offers the best of both worlds as it has both AHA and BHA in their product for maximum skincare benefit. The AHA effectively sloughs off dead skin cells, grime, and debris from the skin surface, restoring the skin's hydration level. On the other hand, BHA reaches deeper into the skin's pores, clarifies the skin, and unclogs the pores, effectively fighting major skincare issues such as acne and hyperpigmentation. This facial cleanser contains allantoin and arginine for anti-aging benefits, imparting a youthful glow.

Buy ThriveCo Exfoliating Facial Cleanser


Review Shared By Amit Kumar

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However, it is essential to note that the strength of the exfoliating effect depends on the concentration and pH level of the product. Over-exfoliation can cause skin irritation, inflammation, dryness, breakouts, and peeling. Experts suggest using AHA-based chemical exfoliant at night helps protect your skin from photosensitivity. If you need to use multiple acid formulations, separating them between your daytime and nighttime skincare routines is best.

Think no further if you want problem-free, radiant, youthful skin. Including chemical exfoliants in your regular skincare routine can do wonders for your skin and help you with blemishes, dark spots, and hyperpigmentation. It also helps restore the hydration level of your skin. You can consult a dermatologist if you are unsure which chemical exfoliant works best on your skin.

Also Read : Dermatologists Recommend These Ingredients For Every Type Of Skin

About Doctor :

Dr. Deepthi Prasad

Dr. Deepthi Prasad specializes in Dermatology, Cosmetology, and Aesthetic Dermatology and has been practicing for over 15 years. After completing MBBS from Dr. NTR University of Health Sciences Andhra Pradesh in 2009, she earned a MD in Dermatology, Venereology & Leprosy from Osmania Medical College in Hyderabad in 2014.



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