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The unique power of AHA & BHA exfoliants

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Esse&co Beauty - Facial Treatments AHAs vs BHAss
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Why do you need AHA & BHA?

Every day our skin surface exfoliates dead skin cells but as time passes primarily as a result of age and unprotected sun exposure, this shedding process slows and may stop altogether. Our skin can start to become dry, dull or flaky. Loss of firmness, uneven skin tone, clogged pores, spots and wrinkles are other results of skin ageing process.

If you want radiant-looking, healthy skin, exfoliating should be in your skincare routine. Helping skin gently exfoliate its build-up of dead skin cells reveals the soft and hydrated skin hiding underneath. Using the best chemical exfoliant can make a world of difference to your skin’s appearance.

There are AHA and BHA and while neither acid is better than the other, they target different needs and skin types. Both AHAs and BHAs are chemical exfoliants that work to remove dead skin cells by breaking down the bonds which holds the dead skin in place. These acids are helpful in improving skin texture and tone and in reducing the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.

To work effectively, AHA and BHA exfoliants must be formulated within a narrow pH range. All of the exfoliants at Esse&Co Beauty are formulated to be as effective and as gentle as possible.

Additionally, AHA and BHA both:
  • diminish the look of lines and wrinkles
  • hydrate skin
  • make skin look and feel firmer
  • improve the look of dull, uneven skin tone
  • smooth rough, bumpy texture

But each also has unique properties that make them suited for different skin types and concerns.


AHA stands for alpha-hydroxy acid — a type of acid that is derived from sugarcane, milk or fruit.

As chemical exfoliators, AHAs work by peeling away the dead skin cells on the skin surface, revealing the fresh new skin cells underneath. AHAs have also been proven to be effective in reducing the visible signs of sun damage including creepy skin and wrinkles.

AHAs are generally recommended for normal to dry, sun-damaged skin, thanks to their ability to enhance natural moisturizing factors within the skin (BHA is also hydrating but it hydrates skin in a different way to AHAs).

Different types of AHAs:
  • Glycolic acid: The most common AHA. It is also the strongest due to its small molecule size but that makes it the most irritating too.
  • Lactic acid: The second most common AHA. It’s a gentler alternative to glycolic acid and can be appropriate for sensitive skin.
  • Mandelic acid: A mild AHA derived from bitter almonds. As it is weaker than lactic acid, it’s usually combined with other acids.
  • Malic acid: A mild AHA derived from apples. You’ll typically see it in combination with stronger AHAs.
  • Tartaric acid: An AHA derived from grapes. Instead of acting as an exfoliant, it is more often used to stabilize other acids’ pH levels.
  • Citric acid: An AHA derived from citrus fruits. Regulates ph. It is also used as a preservative.



its stands for beta-hydroxy acid. They are chemical exfoliators that soften and dissolve keratin, a protein that forms part of the skin structure. This helps to loosen dead skin cells, so they’re easily sloughed off. BHAs are organic carboxylic acids that work on skin’s surface and deep inside the pore. As these acids tend to go a little deeper into the skin than AHAs, BHA acids help your products absorb better.

they help to regulate keratinisation (cell turnover and shedding). Acne is associated with hyperkeratinisation, meaning the body is shedding skin cells too fast. BHAs slow down this process, so the cells function longer before they flake off (meaning they’re less likely to clog pores).

BHAs are gentle enough for sensitive skin types including those prone to redness or rosacea.

Different types of BHAs:
  • Salicylic acid: The most common BHA and also the strongest BHA. Salicylic acid decongests pores of dead skin cell build-up on the surface level, which helps reveal brighter skin. This form of BHA can also go beyond the surface of the skin and into the pore, where its secondary function as an antimicrobial comes into place to help treat existing acne and prevent future blemishes. It also has soothing properties and can correct uneven skin texture.
  • Betaine salicylate: derived from sugar beets. It is a gentler alternative to salicylic acid.
  • Salix alba or willow bark extract: extracted from plants. Although the salicin content converts into salicylic acid, it is much weaker.



How to Choose the best exfoliant:

When choosing between AHA and BHA, it comes down to the way in which you want the products to work along with your skin concerns. An AHA/BHA combo might work depending on your skin type but when your goal is to exfoliate just the top layer of your skin, you should be using an AHA. If your issues are deeper, like acne, we would recommend using either BHA or an AHA/BHA combination.

If you still not sure which acid is the best for you, we recommend booking a Skin Consultation with our Skin Experts. Years of experience as a Beauty Expert will help you choose the best skin routine for your concerns.

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