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AHA vs. BHA: Which is better for your skin?

AHA vs. BHA—it's a battle of acids! Which will prevail? This isn't a contest where there's only one winner though—it all depends on your skin goals and skin type.

Time for an "aha" moment about the latest and greatest ingredients in skincare! AHAs and BHAs are nothing new, but their role in skincare has much improved from the past.

This isn't your mama's questionable acid peel skincare. Not only are AHAs and BHAs safe and gentle, they're also so effective your inner goddess will shine through your flawless pores in no time.

What are AHAs and BHAs?

Let's get down to the science of AHAs and BHAs and how they help you achieve that glowing skin we're all after. Neither is superior to the other, but each has its own uses and benefits.

What are BHAs?

BHA is the acronym for beta-hydroxy acid, a group of organic carboxylic acids, derived from willow bark that also have effects on the skin's surface and deep inside your pores. BHAs are oil-soluble and best suited for normal to oily skin and for those of us plagued by blemishes or enlarged pores.

BHAs are effective for calming inflammation, redness, or rosacea. They’re also highly effective at penetrating oily pores. This, combined with their bacteria fighting properties, is why BHAs are one of the main ingredients in acne skincare.

What ingredients are classified as AHAs?

  • Glycolic acid
  • Lactic acid
  • Tartaric acid
  • Citric acid
  • Malic acid
  • Mandelic acid

What ingredients are classified as BHAs?

  • Salicylic acid
  • Salicylate and sodium salicylate
  • Willow bark extract
  • Beta hydroxybutanoic acid
  • Tropic acid
  • Trethocanic acid
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Do AHAs and BHAs have shared benefits?

They sure do! Both BHA and AHA benefits include:

What are the key differences between AHA and BHA?

While AHA and BHA have some similar uses for skincare, they also have key differences.


  • Is water-soluble
  • Increases resistance to ultraviolet light damage
  • Exfoliates and helps regenerate skin
  • Smoothes and evens pigmentation
  • Is safe for most skin types
  • Boosts natural moisture


  • Is fat-soluble
  • Is an aggressive exfoliant
  • Penetrates pores deeply
  • Fights acne
  • Is best for normal to oily skin
  • Calms inflammation

How do you choose between AHA and BHA?

To AHA or BHA, that is the question! Which hydroxy acid is best for you and your skin?

When should you use AHA?

If you have normal to dry skin and want a product that helps restore moisture, combat aging, and improve the appearance of sun damage, your game plan includes AHAs.

AHAs improve:

  • Fine lines and wrinkles
  • Mild hyperpigmentation
  • Age spots
  • Melasma
  • Scars
  • Uneven skin tone
  • Dry skin

When should you use BHA?

If your skin is on the oily side and you want a product that works on a deeper level to help combat acne and improve deep sun damage, look for BHAs.

BHAs improve:

  • Acne
  • Enlarged pores
  • Deep-set wrinkles
  • Rosacea
  • Bumpy, rough skin
  • Clogged, oily pores
  • Persistent redness

Can you combine AHA and BHA?

Photo of two skincare serums being held up by woman in orange turtleneck

Yes! Together, AHAs and BHAs address issues like clogged or enlarged pores, deep wrinkles, and rough, bumpy skin. Although a combination of AHA and BHA may irritate sensitive skin, a product with a balanced formula is probably fine for most skin types. Alternatively, use an AHA product in the morning and a BHA product at night.

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