Let’s talk about one of the most important steps in your skincare routine and probably one of the least understood – chemical exfoliants. You must have heard the terms AHAs, BHAs, and PHAs floating around and it’s time to know what they are and what they do! I absolutely love chemical exfoliants. They’ve helped me reduce my post-acne scars, bring life to my skin, and teach me the importance of regular exfoliation. I do admit that I can get overexcited at times and use them more than needed, but the first step to a good exfoliation routine is properly understanding these acids and which one you should be opting for.
Let’s start off by getting to know how chemical exfoliants work. By now, everyone must obviously (unless you’re a skincare newbie, which is totally fine too) know that with acids, you don’t have to buff on your skin to get rid of dead cells. So how do they work if you’re not physically scrubbing the dead skin away?
It loosens the bond that holds dead skin cells together. It’s somewhat like unsticking the glue that exists between two skin cells. This helps dissolve the top layer of your skin to give birth to fresh, new skin, which is brighter, healthier, and makes you look youthful.
Alpha Hydroxy Acids (AHAs)
AHAs are extracted from natural substances and are, hence, gentle and suitable for all skin types. The important thing to remember about AHAs is that they are water-soluble – they can’t penetrate into pores. This ensures that only the top most layer is exfoliated but and great news for people with sensitive skin!
What skin types can benefit from this?
– It’s great for people who turn into ripe tomatoes if they use harsh products!
– It’s also great for tackling dry skin
Types of AHAs
There exist several types but I’ll be talking about the 2 most commercialised ones, the ones you’ve probably heard a lot about but are probably thinking what on earth do they really do for me?
1. Glycolic acid – if you haven’t heard of God knows how many toner on the market with glycolic acid, then you’re probably living under a rock. This penetrates the skin better than most AHAs and helps fasten the cell regeneration process. I’ve personally only tried one glycolic acid toner (the famous one by Pixi Beauty) and Lord, was I disappointed. It really didn’t do much for me, but it’s quite possible because I’m used to stronger acids.
2. Lactic acid – this is less irritating on the skin (follow me here, sensitive skin peeps). Lactic acid moisturises while exfoliating, hence, is the preferred acid in the AHA family for people wth dry skin.
Products that contain AHAs
Beta Hydroxy Acids (BHAs)
BHAs are oil-soluble, and hence, can really get into your pores and work at a much deeper level to exfoliate and remove dirt, oil, and dead skin from your pores. It helps greatly in clearing out excess sebum and keeping those unwanted zits away.
Not so surprisingly enough, BHAs are used in a lot of acne fighting products, as BHAs also have anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial properties. So, they calm down redness, fight the bacteria, and keep sebum secretion at a low level! BHAs are a God send for people with acne or pimples, and even milia.
The most famous BHA is, surprise, surprise, salicylic acid. If you have suffered from any type of acne, ever in your life, you have heard of salicylic acid and it’s benefits. However, it is to be noted that Salicylic acid won’t improve your skin long-term. It’s a short-term solution to your problems. It’ll fight the acne, but won’t prevent it from coming back if you stop use.
What skin types can benefit from this?
– Acne-prone oily skin
– If you have blackheads, salicylic acid helps to drive them away.
Products that contain BHAs
Poly Hydroxy Acids (PHAs)
So now, you must be wondering, what on earth are PHAs? They’re newbies to the skincare game but many brands have been quick to adopt it as a featured ingredient.
The difference is that PHAs have larger molecular size than AHAs and BHAs, which means that it doesn’t penetrate the skin as well, and provides exfoliation with minimal irritation. It’s like the baby sister in the family. This works exclusively on the skin’s surface and is perfect for people who are lost about which acid to try and are newcomers to the chemical exfoliation game.
Have you guys learnt something new? I know I did while doing this research. Being aware helps you make smarter decisions about product choices and not ruin your skin in the process. List some of your favourite chemical exfoliants in the comments below!