You’ll be hard pressed to find anyone who doesn’t have some form of AHA or BHA in their skincare collection. Yes, these acids have made their way firmly into our daily routines, and our hearts with the impressive number of benefits they delivery for the skin. Having said that, are they too good to be true? Can you really have too much of a good thing? Can you even mix AHA and BHA?
That is exactly what we will be getting to the bottom of in today’s blog post, but if you’re still a little confused with what AHAs and BHAs here is a little more information about the benefits are and the results you can expect to see when using these potent ingredients on the skin.
What are AHAs?
Alpha hydroxy acids, also known as AHAs, are a collection of acids that provide an array of various skincare benefits and chemical exfoliation. The most popular are glycolic acid, lactic acid, malic acid, and mandelic acid, but there are many more available to use. AHAs tend to work on the outer surface of the epidermis sloughing away the build-up of dead skin cells revealing, brighter, vibrant skin. You will also find that signs of ageing, such as fine lines and wrinkles are notably reduced, hyperpigmentation and dark spots appear improved, and the complexion is left with an all-over luminous finish. You can find out more about AHAs in our dedicated blog post.
What are BHAs?
Beta hydroxy acids, also known as BHAs, are the potent cousins of AHAs. They work in a similar way but are known for having a smaller molecular size meaning they can work further down in the skin and unclog the pores of impurity build-up. Salicylic acid is one of the most used BHAs and although it has a reputation for being highly potent and sometimes very drying to the skin, it’s very effective at combating blemishes, acne, and other breakouts. It is often considered BHAs are too potent for those prone to sensitivity with a dry skin type, instead opt for a gentler acid, such as the popular AHA, lactic acid. Find out more about salicylic acid over on our dedicated blog post.
What can you not mix with AHA BHA?
With ingredients that are as highly potent as AHAs and BHAs, there are some ingredients that are best avoided to mix. This is mainly due to the various pH levels of these ingredients often causing an imbalance in the skin’s natural pH level which results in a sign of redness, irritation, flaky patches of skin, and other side effects that can feel uncomfortable for the skin. Below are some of the main skincare ingredients that you shouldn’t mix with AHAs and BHAs.
- Vitamin C
- Benzoyl Peroxide
- Physical Scrubs and exfoliants
This doesn’t necessarily mean you should avoid using these actives in your daily skincare routine, it’s just a case of using them on alternative days to prevent irritation but deliver the best results.
Should I use AHA or BHA first?
When using both acids together, start with your BHA as it tends to work in the lower layers of the dermis, it can reach the pores without combating any barriers created by AHAs or other actives. Whilst the BHA works at clearing out the pores the AHA you apply will focus on the outer surface and help rid the skin of a build-up of dead skin cells.
It is important to ensure you wait for at least 30 to 40 minutes in between applications as this ensures the ingredient is absorbed, and the pH levels of the skin are rebalanced and prepared for the next application. By doing this, you can avoid any flare-up in irritation or discomfort for the skin.
Can I mix AHA and BHA with niacinamide?
Yes, you can, using AHA and BHA with niacinamide, it just requires a little consideration about when to apply each of these powerhouse ingredients to the skin. To really reap the rewards, its best to alternate the days you are using them, for example, you can use an AHA enriched toner during your morning routine and follow this in the evening with a serum packed with niacinamide after using a salicylic acid cleanser. This is just an example of how you can use all three, you can also opt for using them during the same routine, just ensure you leave about 30 minutes in between applications.
If you wanted to know more about niacinamide, check out our blog post about what not to mix with it.
Can I use BHA and salicylic acid together?
Not really, this is because salicylic acid itself is a BHA and if you were to apply too much of the similar acid to the skin, you’ll find it’s a recipe for disaster. What I mean by this is the fact that using a BHA with salicylic acid will result in the skin becoming extremely dry. The oil the skin barrier needs to remain healthy will be stripped from the skin surface weakening it to the exposure of free radicals, such as pollution, UV rays, central heating, harsh climates, and other environmental aggressors. With this comes a lot of skin damage, from signs of premature ageing, dark spots, hyperpigmentation, and a dull lack lustre complexion.
Can you use BHA in the morning and AHA at night?
Both acids can be used day or night, it really boils down to the formulation each acid are blended in to as this will determine if they need to be applied for the evening. The added benefit of using an acid enriched product in your night-time routine is the fact that the formula can work uninterrupted by any exposure to free radicals that encounters your face daily. The bonus for using an AHA or BHA in the morning is the beautiful luminosity it gives to the complexion. One important factor to remember however, is the fact that using AHA and BHA can increase the photosensitivity of the skin so always make sure you apply a daily SPF of 30 and above to protect the skin.
So, hopefully this has answered a few questions you had about mixing AHAs and BHAs together. Don’t forget if you ever have any concerns, consult with your doctor or dermatologist before applying anything to your skin. If you are wanting more skincare tips and tricks, why not come and follow us on Instagram.