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Understanding the Difference Between AHA and BHA in Skincare Rejuvenation Clinic

In the skincare world, navigating the myriad of ingredients can feel like deciphering a complex code. Alpha Hydroxy Acid (AHA) and Beta Hydroxy Acid (BHA) are two key players often found in exfoliating products. While they share similarities in their exfoliating properties, understanding the differences of AHA and BHA is crucial for crafting an effective skincare routine tailored to your skin's needs.

AHA and BHA comparison

What are AHA and BHA?

Alpha Hydroxy Acid (AHA):

  • Derived from various plant sources such as sugarcane, grapes, and citrus fruits.
  • Common types include glycolic acid (derived from sugar cane), lactic acid (found in milk), and mandelic acid (derived from almonds).
  • Works by loosening the bonds between dead skin cells, promoting exfoliation and revealing smoother, brighter skin underneath.
  • Ideal for addressing concerns like dullness, fine lines, and uneven texture.
  • Typically recommended for normal to dry or sun-damaged skin types.

Beta Hydroxy Acid (BHA):

  • Salicylic acid is the most well-known BHA, derived from willow bark or synthesized from aspirin.
  • Unlike AHAs, BHA is oil-soluble, allowing it to penetrate into the pores and dissolve excess sebum, making it effective for treating acne and blackheads.
  • Exhibits anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties, making it suitable for acne-prone or oily skin types.
  • Helps to unclog pores, reduce inflammation, and prevent breakouts.
  • Can be less irritating than AHAs, making it suitable for sensitive skin types as well.

Key Differences:

Chemical Structure:

  • AHAs are water-soluble, meaning they work on the skin's surface to exfoliate dead skin cells.
  • BHAs are oil-soluble, allowing them to penetrate deeper into the pores to unclog and exfoliate from within.

Skin Penetration:

  • AHAs primarily work on the skin's surface, making them suitable for addressing surface-level concerns like dullness and fine lines.
  • BHAs penetrate deeper into the pores, making them effective for treating acne, blackheads, and congestion.

Suitable Skin Types:

  • AHAs are generally recommended for normal to dry or sun-damaged skin types.
  • BHAs are suitable for acne-prone, oily, combination skin types, and sensitive skin.

Targeted Concerns:

  • AHAs excel at addressing concerns like dullness, fine lines, and uneven texture.
  • BHAs are effective for treating acne, blackheads, and congestion and reducing inflammation and redness associated with breakouts.
AHA vs BHA infographic

Incorporating AHA and BHA into Your Skincare Routine:

  • Start with a low-concentration product to minimize the risk of irritation, especially if you have sensitive skin.
  • Use sunscreen daily, as AHAs and BHAs can increase sun sensitivity.
  • Incorporate AHAs or BHAs into your routine gradually, alternating between them to prevent over-exfoliation.
  • Consult a dermatologist or skincare professional for personalized recommendations based on your skin type and concerns.


Understanding the differences between AHA and BHA is essential for selecting the right exfoliating products to address your skin's specific needs. Whether targeting dullness and fine lines with AHAs or combating acne and blackheads with BHAs, incorporating these powerhouse ingredients into your skincare routine can lead to smoother, clearer, and more radiant skin. Learn more at My Rejuvenation Clinic, our Med Spa in Vienna, VA.

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Rejuvenation Clinic serves patients who want to look and feel their best. Our team is committed to providing a personalized beauty treatment plan for your specific and individualized goals. Schedule a consultation today to learn more about our personalized aesthetic services. Our state-of-the-art medspa in Vienna, VA, serves patients in Tysons Corner, and the surrounding area.

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