AHAs vs BHAs

What are AHAs and BHAs?

AHAs (Alpha Hydroxy Acids) and BHAs (Beta Hydroxy Acids) are both types of hydroxy acids that chemically exfoliate the skin. They do this by breaking down the glue between skin cells so they can be sloughed off. AHAs and BHAs are found in exfoliating products, often for anti ageing, pigmentation and acne. As well as skincare, we also use AHAs and BHAs in skin treatments.

Skin Peels

Benefits of using AHAs and BHAs



AHAs and BHAs dissolve dead skin cells, exfoliating skin without using harsh abrasive products. Some scrubs can cause irritation to the skins barrier resulting in inflammation.


Smoothes Skin

By breaking down the bond between surface rough textured skin cells and dissolving dead skin, our skin texture will be smoother.


By reducing the thickness of the stratum corneum (top layer of skin), light is easier reflected.

Increased product absorption

Product absorption is affected by excess dead skin cells, by removing these dead skin cells, our products work more effectively.

Lines and Wrinkles Refined

By smoothing our skins texture, lines and wrinkles appear softened.


What’s the Difference?


Types of AHAs


Glycolic Acid

Derived from sugar cane, this is the smallest sized AHA molecule. This means it can penetrate our skin the fastest.

Glycolic acid is used in many skin peel treatments and homecare products. It is the most effective AHA.

Benefits of Glycolic Acid:

  • Reduces hyperpigmentation
  • Anti-ageing
  • Stimulates collagen
  • Brightening


Lactic Acid

Derived from milk, Lactic acid is less irritating on our skin than Glycolic as it is a slightly larger molecule, meaning it doesn’t penetrate as quickly.

Benefits of using Lactic Acid:

  • Reduces hyperpigmentation
  • Hydrates skin
  • Smoother skin texture


Malic Acid

Derived from apples, a bigger molecule than Lactic acid makes it even less irritating on our skin. This acid needs to be combined with other acids to benefit the skin.

Benefits of using Malic Acid

  • Improves skin texture and tone
  • Brightening
  • Less irritating than Lactic acid

Tartaric Acid

Derived from grapes, this acid has antioxidant properties. Like other AHAs it’s main function is to exfoliate, but it needs to be combined with other acids to really benefit our skin. Best for targeted exfoliation, whilst maintaining skin’s PH.

Citric Acid

Derived from citrus fruits, citric acid has antioxidant properties. It has a low PH so can be irritating in high percentages. Used in skincare most often as an antioxidant and to brighten, also known for its anti inflammatory and anti ageing properties.

Mandelic Acid

Derived from bitter almonds, this is the largest sized AHA molecule, meaning it has the slowest penetration. It is suitable for sensitive skins as it gently exfoliates improving skin texture and tone.

AHAs in Skincare

Dermaquest Peptide Glyco Cleanser

Combining 15% Glycolic acid with lactic acid and peptides, this treatment cleanser exfoliates and smoothes skin, refining fine lines and wrinkles.

Dermaquest Dermaclear Cleanser

An antibacterial cleanser with Mandelic acid to reduce and prevent breakouts.

Dermaquest Skinbrite Serum

With Lactic acid and peptides to reduce pigmentation and brighten skin.


Dermaquest Retexture Serum

1% Retinol, combined with 3.5% Glycolic acid to boost exfoliation and brighten skin.

Dermaquest Mini Pumpkin Mask

Lactic and Mandelic acids are combined with pumpkin pulp in this weekly at home skin peel.

Dermaquest GlycoBrite Hand and Body

10% Glycolic acid smoothes rough textured skin, brightens & hydrates.

SkinCeuticals Glycolic 10 Renew Overnight

10% glycolic acid overnight treatment to smooth and brighten skin.


Types of BHA


Salicylic Acid

Derived from willow bark, this antibacterial acid, dissolves skin debris that block pores whilst reducing inflammation of acne. Salicylic acid is also used to help reduce ingrown hairs.

Azelaic Acid

Derived from barley, wheat and rye. This acid is used to exfoliate and unblock pores. It’s anti inflammatory so can also be used on sensitive skins. Used as a topical treatment for Rosacea.


BHAs in Skincare

Dermaquest Dermaclear BHA Cleanser

A treatment cleanser with 2% Salicylic Acid to prevent and treat acne.


Dermaquest Dermaclear Serum

Acne treatment moisturiser with Salicylic, Glycolic, Lactic and Azelaic acids.

Dermaquest Dermaclear Mask

Acne treatment mask to unblock pores and reduce inflammation.

Dermaquest Dermaclear Pads

2% Salicylic acid, applied directly to spots, unblocks pores and reduces inflammation.

Obagi Clenziderm Cleanser

2% Salicylic acid acne treatment  cleanser, prevents and reduces breakouts whilst regulating oil production.

Epionce Purifying Wash

0.6% Salicylic acid gently reduces breakouts whilst calming inflammation.

Epionce Lytic TX Sport

Treatment lotion with 2% Salicylic acid and added Azelaic acid gently smoothes skin, clearing pores whilst calming inflammation.

SkinCeuticals Blemish+Age Defense

Salicylic and Glycolic acid treats breakouts whilst exfoliating and smoothing skin.


Using AHAs and BHAs

When using AHAs & BHAs always follow your Skincare Specialist’s advice. It is important to only use as directed and ensure you are protecting your skin with a broad spectrum, high protection SPF.


Are all AHA and BHA products the same?

No, we only use cosmeceutical products. Cosmeceuticals are different from regular over the counter cosmetics as they are:

  • Higher strength
  • Medical grade formulations
  • Extensively clinically tested and researched
  • Able to penetrate deeper in the skin

Book your Online Consultation where we can discuss which AHA or BHA products work for you.