Written by @shannonbruno

Chemical exfoliants have been such an important step of my skincare routine for so long. Having oily, acne prone skin with a lot of hyper-pigmentation and scarring, I have tried my fair share of both natural and synthetic AHAs (alpha hydroxy acids) and BHAs (beta hydroxy acids) over the years. These two acids work so well both individually and together and have done so much for the health of my skin! I’m here to share my knowledge on the differences between them and hopefully inspire you to want to use these ingredients in your own routine, no matter what skin type or concerns you have.


My personal true love! I started incorporating AHAs into my skincare routine six years ago, and since then have never gone a day without using it.

AHAs are water-soluble compounds that work to chemically exfoliate the surface layer of the skin by breaking the bonds that holds dead skin together. They include Glycolic, Lactic, Mandelic, Citric, and Tartaric. Glycolic molecules are smallest in size than other acids, so it penetrates deep into the skin providing the most thorough exfoliation.

If you have dry or mature skin, AHAs can help to reduce fine lines and dullness. If you have oily or acne prone skin, AHAs can help to prevent dead skin from clogging pores, reduce hyper-pigmentation and scarring, and kill bacteria due to its antimicrobial properties.

*Those with sensitive skin may want to patch test or build up your tolerance from a low concentration*


Having mostly relied on AHAs, I only recently started to use BHAs in my routine. That may surprise you since I am acne prone, but I know this ingredient is loved by so many for acne and oil control.

BHAs are oil-soluble compounds that chemically exfoliate into pores, dissolving sebum build up and preventing blackheads and texture. You can also get the same effect with consistent AHA use, but those who already have blackheads and small bumps may find BHAs helpful. The main type of BHA is Salicylic Acid which has significant anti-inflammatory effects, making this ingredient best for acne prone skin.

Both AHAs and BHAs can be included in all types of products (except oils) – masks, cleansers, toners, serums and moisturizers. Acids also increase photosensitivity, so never forget to wear your SPF, as you should!

Good luck on your skincare journey, everyone!


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