The AHA most commonly found is glycolic acid thanks to its ability to penetrate the skin quicker and easier, but lactic acid is also praised for being gentler. Whatever the type, they work as chemical exfoliants – diminishing the need for vigorous scrubbing on areas that often do more harm than good.


Should I be using it?

It’s a skincare fairy godmother for a range of skin types.

“They can be topically applied to the skin to commonly treat acne and improve the appearance of acne scars, photo-aged skin, and to also firm and smooth the skin. AHAs are suitable for almost all skin concerns and is a must have ingredient in your skin care,” says O’Gara. (Post continues after gallery.)

Ultra Even Skintone Serum Concentrate$96.00 per 30ml Available: Ultraceuticals online Liquid Gold$59.95 per 100 ml Available: Sephora Skinstitut Glycolic Scrub$30.15 on sale Available: Adore Beauty Online Paula’s Choice Skin Perfecting Gel$28 per 3.3 fl. oz. Available: Paulas Choice online ASAP Daily Exfoliation Facial Scrub$36.27 per 200ml Available: Australian Skin Clinic and Adore Beauty Online Mario Badescu Glycol Foaming Cleanser$23.00 per 177ml Available: Mecca Cosmetics Glycolic Fix Daily Cleansing Pads$34.99 per 60 pads Available: Priceline Pharmacy Dermalogica Daily Resurfacer, $105$105 for 35 pads, available at Dermalogica. Glam Glow Supermud Clearing Treatment.$98, available at Mecca La Prairie Cellular 3 Minute Peel$270, available at David Jones

While it’s also great in helping to deal with pigmentation and uneven skin tone, those with sensitive skin should take care, opting for gentler formulas, always patch-testing or avoiding all together.

“You should avoid using AHA skin care products when your skin is inflamed, red and extremely sensitive,” advises O’Gara.

When do I use it?

When exactly you’re meant to use it is another thing that can baffle. According to O’Gara it should be done post-cleansing.

“AHA skin care products are most commonly used in the evenings after having cleansed the skin and before you apply your moisturiser. It is, however, best to follow your specific AHA product’s directions for use for the most beneficial results,” she says.

Image: iStock

It’s best done at night because using AHAs can make your skin more photosensitive. Apply in the morning and spend just a few minutes in the sun and you’ll quickly know about it. This sensitivity lasts for a few days after application so even if you’re applying at night, make sure to follow up with a product containing SPF.

How often do I use it?

When you’re first starting out using AHAs it’s also generally recommended to use them just two to three times a week (because these ingredients are strong and your skin can feel a little irritated if it’s not used to it) before building up to more frequently or daily.

You really only need one AHA-containing product in your regimen at one time too. Yes, the visible results can make you tempted to double up but too many will just damage skin in the long term. After all, it’s your largest organ – take care of it. Speak to your doctor or dermatologist if you have any concerns.

Do you use AHAs? What’s your favourite product?

As spring starts to show its lovely face, I’m starting to take off my layers of clothing. And as I do so, one thing is very evident: My skin is covered with scales and flakes from the dry winter that’s behind us. You’d probably mistake me for a White Walker from Game of Thrones, which is precisely why I’m reaching for exfoliating body products immediately.

More specifically, I’m piling on the AHA-infused body products, because these guys literally melt away the layers of dead skin cells that are just cozily nestling on my arms and legs. A little skin-care refresher: “AHAs—or alpha hydroxy-acids—are fruit acids that exfoliate the skin to reveal new, younger skin cells beneath,” says Purvisha Patel, MD, board-certified dermatologist and founder of Visha Skincare.

It’s not just a key ingredient for the skin on your face, either. Dr. Patel—well, and a plethora of beauty brands—praise its powers for your body, too, for a number of reasons. “They are good for sun spots or skin discoloration, clogged pores, acne-prone skin, and a great anti-aging ingredient,” she explains. “As you exfoliate the skin, collagen gets produced, so it helps with fine lines and wrinkles.”

Or, you know, it also just literally dissolves the buildup of dead skin cells that have taken up residency on your body throughout the harsh winter months. Either way, it’s a good thing that so many skin-care brands have concocted AHA-spiked body serums and wipes and creams to handle the job. Consider these products—from brands like Ren and Skinfix—to be your spring skin saviors that’ll help your body prep for your seasonal dresses and jacket-free sleeves. You’re welcome.

As for your face, here’s everything you need to know about chemical exfoliating skin care. And this is what it’s *really* like to get a chemical peel, which has a slew of benefits.

10 best body skincare products

Buy now

REN Guerande Salt Exfoliating Body Balm: £23, REN

There are plenty of salt-based scrubs that will do a great job on rough patches, but REN brings a little spa-like luxury to proceedings that we love. Guerande mixes exfoliating grains of sea salt with almond, olive, peppermint, basil and rosemary oils to leave skin smooth and with a slight moisturised sheen left behind. For a more effective scrub, use it dry and wash off in the bath or shower; more sensitive skins will find it best applied to wet skin, where the warm water provides a little more slip between scrub and skin.

Buy now

The Chemistry Brand Hyaluronic Concentrate: £28, Escentual

The Chemistry Brand is part of the Deciem group, which is behind skincare-brand-of-the-moment The Ordinary. It takes a similarly scientific approach (though, sadly, with slightly higher prices). Its Hyaluronic Concentrate contains 19 per cent of the moisturising acid, which holds 1,000 times its weight in water and locks water on to the skin. It is a gel-like formula and sinks into skin incredibly quickly (sort of like applying hand sanitiser), comes in a big pump-dispensed bottle and is very good value for money.

Buy now

The Chemistry Brand Retin-Oil: £20, The Chemistry Brand

Retinol is the closest thing to a skincare miracle you’ll find: it increases cell turnover and encourages the production of collagen, improves the appearance of sun damage, lines, acne, scars and dark spots, evens out skin tone and smoothes texture. We’re obsessed with using it on our faces, so why not elsewhere on the body? Retin-Oil contains one per cent retinoid, plus vitamins C and E and fruit oils, and we found it helped reduce crease lines around the neck and bust and improve the appearance of scarring. We’d happily use it on our face; another winner from The Chemistry Brand.

Buy now

Rodial Bee Venom Body Serum: £65, Rodial

Rodial’s Bee Venom range (including a £180 serum!) is almost entirely for the face and gets its name from melittin peptide, the main component of actual bee venom, which plumps and firms – without the sting. The only body product in the Bee Venom range is this serum, which also contains anti-ageing retinol (see above), exfoliating AHAs and BHAs, and softening rose and honey: a real powerhouse combination. Our tester saw an improvement in lines on the bust and upper arms, plus general improvement in elasticity, smoothness and redness.

Buy now

Clarins Renew-Plus Body Serum: £41, Clarins

This has a slightly chemically scent, but there our niggles end. Milky enough to sink in almost immediately but still properly nourishing, Clarins Body Serum is cult for a reason. Apply morning and night to leave skin silky smooth, and to improve tone, redness and discolouration. We like to use it while on holiday to keep skin in good condition while tanning, and find it completely prevents peeling once you get home.

Buy now

Ameliorate Transforming Body Cream: £27.50, Escentual

Ameliorate is a hero brand made specifically for people with keratosis pilaris or those who struggle with very dry skin, and the body cream is the latest addition to the line. It has the same levels of lactic acid as the famous lotion, plus omega oils, shea and cocoa butters and squalene for serious hydration. It is thick so a little goes a long way; make sure skin is completely dry before applying or it will struggle to sink in properly. Applied twice a day to affected areas, it is the most effective combatant we’ve found against our KP.

Buy now

Murad Detoxifying White Clay Body Cleanser: £11.69, Amazon

We know that clay is great in cleansers or masks for drawing out impurities in the face, so why not the body? Upgrade your usual shower gel to Murad’s creamy body cleanser, which keeps pores clear without stripping moisture, thanks to a blend of oils and amino acids, plus root ginger for a pep-up.

Buy now

Aesop Breathless Body Treatment: £25, Liberty

We’ve got something of a body oil addiction and have a bathroom shelf stocked with everything from Elemis to Rodin, but Aesop Breathless is our favourite. Its blend of almond, macadamia, jojoba and orange oils smells at once heady and refreshing. It’s rich but sinks in well, so doesn’t leave your limbs sticky and greasy. Massage a few drops in, paying particular attention to dry areas, after any other products before you go to bed. We also like to use a little on our arms for special occasions to tame hair and give a light glow, or mixed with a body moisturiser to give it a hydrating boost (and eliminate a step in the routine).

Buy now

The verdict:

There’s something here for every skin concern, but our suits-all bargain buy is Nip + Fab’s Glycolic Fix Body Cream.

IndyBest product reviews are unbiased, independent advice you can trust. On some occasions, we earn revenue if you click the links and buy the products, but we never allow this to bias our coverage. The reviews are compiled through a mix of expert opinion and real-world testing.

An introduction to beta hydroxy acid (BHA), its benefits, side effects, and best products

When people refer to BHA or beta hydroxy acid, they are usually referring to salicylic acid, a common and effective topical treatment for acne or dandruff. But there are is more to BHAs or beta hydroxy acids than just salicylic acid or acne. So what exactly is BHA or beta hydroxy acid and what makes it such a notable topical? This guide explains the benefits, side effects, different types of beta hydroxy acids, and offer some recommendations for beta hydroxy products for skin and scalp problems.

What is bha or beta hydroxy acid?

BHA or beta hydroxy acid is 1 of 2 of the better known hydroxy acids available in skincare for improving skin texture, speeding up skin cell renewal, and cleaning out pores of acne etc. The other hydroxy acid is AHA or alpha hydroxy acid. To learn more about AHAs, read our guide to AHAs or alpha hydroxy acids here.

Unlike AHAs which are water soluble, beta hydroxy acids are oil soluble. This means that they are exfoliate the topmost layer of your skin and also penetrate deeper and exfoliate extra oil build up in your pores and breaking deep set comedones (bumps under your skin that will become acne). This makes BHAs great for treating whiteheads, and especially blackheads.

BHAs have no humectant properties and can be drying so they are great for people with oily skin because they don’t make your face more oily.

BHAs also do not increase photosensitivity. You can use BHAs even if you don’t wear sunscreen daily without making your skin more susceptible to sun damage.

Beta hydroxy acid is also has anti inflammatory and antimicrobial properties that make it a great acne treatment. Many people who report AHAs to be too harsh in that they irritate their skin find that BHAs are a gentler way to tackle acne. Certain BHAs like salicylic acid can reduce acne inflammation without causing irritation. So what makes BHAs gentler than AHAs?

The more concentrated an AHA or alpha hydroxy acid, the more powerful and penetrative it is. In contrast, beta hydroxy acids are most effective at very low concentrations. BHAs at only 2% or 4% concentrations work best to exfoliate dead skin, clean out your pores, and act as an anti inflammatory or anti bacterial.

This also makes beta hydroxy acid an ideal ingredient for a lot of different kinds of skin care, from lotion or cleanser to toners or mouthwash. You’ll even find it in shampoos and conditioner to deal with scalp issues like dandruff or seborrheic dermatitis. Other uses for beta hydroxy acid are as a preservative, hair conditioner, skin conditioner, and an antiseptic.

Beta hydroxy acids are a truly versatile skincare ingredient with multipurpose usage. And nearly anyone can use it for a host of skin or scalp issues because it works best at low dosages and so is a gentle product.

While it works best at low dosages, it also better benefits your skin or scalp if you leave it on for some time before rinsing it off. The duration of time can vary with product and use. However, depending on what you’re using the BHA for, leaving it on for 5 to 30 minutes helps your skin absorb it better and take advantage of everything beta hydroxy acid has to offer.

What are the benefits of BHA

How does BHA treat acne

Because beta hydroxy acid is oil soluble, it penetrates deeper than your skin’s surface skin and can clean out clogged pores that cause acne. Studies show that BHAs like salicylic acid are more effective and less irritating than AHAs in tackling whiteheads, blackheads, and acne.

In one study comparing the two side by side, 20 patients were recruited to use a BHA on one side of their face and an AHA on the other side of their face for 6 total treatments in 8 weeks. The results:

Both chemical peels were significantly effective by the second treatment (p<.05) and there were no significant differences in effectiveness between the two peels. At 2 months posttreatment, the salicylic acid peel had sustained effectiveness. More adverse events were reported with the glycolic acid peel after the initial treatment.

The patients used a low concentration of salicylic acid in this study and the AHA used was a higher concentration. Still, the BHA showed longer lasting results in tackling acne and was a gentler treatment for acne patients.

This is not to say that there is no place for using an AHA or using a BHA and an AHA together in your skincare routine. But to determine if you could benefit from an AHA, you’ll need to understand its benefits and side effects first. Use our guide to AHAs to learn more about alpha hydroxy acids.

How does BHA treat hyperpigmentation or inflammation?

Beta hydroxy acid also helps tackle inflammation caused by acne and hyperpigmentation caused by acne or other pigmentation on the skin’s surface. This is also known as post inflammatory hyperpigmentation or PIH or melasma.

Like AHAs, beta hydroxy acid helps speed up the skin cell renewal at the skin’s surface. This helps remove hyperpigmented skin layers for newer skin layers. AHAs may be more effective in this but beta hydroxy acids also show good results.

In one study, 45 patients with post inflammatory hyperpigmentation were treated with a retinoid called tretinoin and salicylic acid, a beta hydroxy acid. They were divided into groups with one group only using salicylic acid, another group on using tretinoin, and a third group using both in combination. The results of that study:

Combination of salicylic acid peel and topical tretinoin treatment showed significant clinical improvement of PIH than each treatment alone with no complications.

The groups that were using only salicylic acid or only tretinoin did not see notable results in reducing their post inflammatory hyperpigmentation. This is great evidence that salicylic in combination, with in this case tretinoin, can act as a powerful treatment to reducing post inflammatory hyperpigmentation.

Those of you who used to have acne and are now dealing with the aftermath know how difficult it is to reduce the post inflammatory hyperpigmentation to have a truly clear face, without acne and without acne scars and pigmentation. So this study is great news for people with post inflammatory hyperpigmentation.

How does BHA treat dandruff?

As beta hydroxy acid helps remove the top most layers of skin, it can also help treat dandruff on the scalp in the same way. Given the antibacterial, anti inflammatory, and the exfoliating properties of beta hydroxy acids, they can act to soothe itching and reduce dandruff, redness, and flaking.

One study pitted a shampoo with salicylic acid against a shampoo with zinc pyrithione, a popular ingredient in dandruff shampoos. The results:

Both shampoos were highly effective in reducing the dandruff. The combination of piroctone olamine and salicylic acid appeared to be slightly more effective than zinc pyrithione in reducing the severity and area affected by the scaling.

So salicylic acid can be as effective, if not more, than a zinc pyrithione in reducing dandruff. Zinc pyrithione is certainly more popular in dandruff shampoos today. Many people also find it is very harsh on their hair, but with not knowing of another alternative, continue to use it. Salicylic acid is gentler on the scalp without losing effectiveness and so could be a better option for you if you suffer from dandruff.

How to use a BHA

Beta hydroxy acid is an active, which means that it is an ingredient that has direct active action on the skin. Other actives include alpha hydroxy acids (AHA), Vitamin C, and Vitamin A (retinoids and retinol).

There is some controversy over this, but we believe that to benefit from an active, you should leave it on your skin for a short period of time before applying further products or washing it off/out. This time period allows the acid to make contact and penetrate your skin and do what it is intended. If you wash it off, you may not have allowed enough time for the acid to penetrate into pores.

BHAs work best in a low pH environment. When you add more products on top, you may change the pH of your skin to less acidic and so make the BHA less effective. If you’re using a BHA as a skincare product, you can even use pH adjusting toners to make sure your skin’s surface has an acidic environment when you apply your BHA for maximum benefit. We’ve linked some pH adjusting toners that help with this at the end of this guide, if you’re interested in those.

That’s essentially a very short and summed up explanation of how to use BHA. We’ll write a longer post on this and link it here when it’s ready if you’re interested in real studies that show the effectiveness of BHA wait times in low pHs.

So to that end, you’ll notice on dandruff shampoos, the directions will ask you to leave it on your scalp for a few minutes before washing it off. You may also notice skincare products with beta hydroxy acids will ask you to wait 5 to 30 minutes before applying the rest of your skincare routine or makeup routine. This is for good reason and you’ll see greater benefits to your skin if you give the product that wait time to work on your skin.

BHA side effects

While BHAs have been shown to be less irritating than AHAs and other actives, they can still have some adverse side effects.

Some people can experience redness, stinging/burning, itching, and general skin irritation after using beta hydroxy acid at certain concentrations.

This can be avoided by finding a concentration that works for you. Various formulas will have different concentrations and type of beta hydroxy acid. Unless you’re allergic to this ingredient, most people can find a beta hydroxy acid that works for them. If you’re unsure where to start, find a low concentration to use and then build up from there if you don’t know notice any side effects.

Also, please patch test if you’ve never used a beta hydroxy acid before. You can patch test on your neck or the inside of your elbow where the skin is soft and hairless. If you experience any of the above side effects during your patch test, there are good chances that you will feel that irritation on your face as well. You can look at a different product with a lower concentration and try again.

What’s the difference between BHA and AHA?

You may have already figured out most of the differences between beta and alpha hydroxy acids, but here’s a quick summary in case you’re unclear on any of the following:

Oil vs water soluble

AHAs are water soluble and attract water to your skin and are great for dehydrated skin. BHAs are oil soluble, can be drying, and are great for oily skin. However, anyone with any skin type can add either to their nighttime routine (when it doesn’t matter if your skin looks oily, or you can layer moisturizers on top in abundance) and enjoy their benefits.

Sun sensitivity

AHAs will make your skin more photosensitivity and BHAs will not. If you’re lazy about wearing sunscreen or do not want to wear sunscreen, you can use beta hydroxy acids without worrying about making your skin extra sensitive to the sun and sun damage.

Wrinkles and fine lines

Both AHAs and BHAs exfoliate your skin, and so both can help reduce wrinkles and fine lines. While AHA is a much strong exfoliator for wrinkles and fine lines, you’ll notice some improvement with your skin texture and pigmentation with a BHA as well.

Hyperpigmentation and inflammation

BHAs are gentler than AHAs and so are less irritating. BHA has been shown to be effective treatment for hyperpigmentation and inflammation caused by acne. However, both can be also used together to improve pigmentation, skin texture, and renew your skin.

What are the different types of BHAs

The most popular form of BHA we find in skincare and haircare products is salicylic acid.

There are also derivatives of salicylic acid like salicylate, betaine salicylate, and sodium salicylate.

Other less common forms of BHA include willow bark extract, beta hydroxybutanoic acid, tropic acid, and trethocanic acid.

If you enjoy the benefits of any of these beta hydroxy acids, you can also look at azaelic acid. While it is neither an AHA or a BHA, it is an active ingredient that offers many of the same benefits like improvement pigmentation, inflammation, acne, and skin texture like a BHA. Many people find that it is a BHA amplified and at lower doses/percentages, it is similarly gentle on the skin.

Best BHA Products

Here are some of our tried and tested recommendations for products with beta hydroxy acid for skincare and for dandruff. You may not find these at a drugstore, but they’re all online. Since BHA is best used at a low concentration, there are many beta hydroxy acid products available over the counter with no need for a prescription.

Since BHAs are pH sensitive, you can also choose to use a pH adjusting toner before you apply your skincare. In the next section, see our recommendations for affordable pH toners.

Salicylic acid serums for skincare – acne, hyperpigmentation, inflammation

1.COSRX BHA Blackhead Power Liquid

This is one of the most gentle BHAs we have tried. The active ingredients include alix Alba (Willow) Bark Water, Butylene Glycol, and Betaine Salicylate at 4% which is the BHA derivative. This is an Asian Beauty product by COSRX, a well-reviewed dependable Korean brand. Highly recommend.

Read more reviews of Cosrx BHA Blackhead Power Liquid here.

2. Paula’s Choice Skin Perfecting 2% BHA Liquid

Another great go to BHA with 2% salicylic acid by Paula’s Choice, a US based brand. Paula’s choice is a popular brand that offers a host of skincare products that aren’t just good markting but also effective. We have found that Paula’s Choice Skin Perfecting 2% BHA Liquid is particularly good at eradicating blackheads on the nose or chin area.

Read more reviews of Paula’s Choice Skin Perfecting 2% BHA Liquid here.

3. Skin Medica AHA BHA cream

This is a AHA and BHA combination product and so requires daily suncreen use if you want to use it. It should also be used as part of your night time routine. Skin Medica combines a 30% AHA solution with a 2% bha in the form of salicylic acid. It can be used as a 10 minute mask and then washed off or kept on as part of layered night time routine.

We’ve found that with a few uses, there is a noticed increased brightness, hydration, and a visible reduction of acne scars or sun damage. There is no smell to the product and the cream consistency feels rich yet absorbs quickly.

Read more reviews of Skin Medica AHA BHA cream here.

Salicylic acid face washes

Face washes with salicylic acid as an ingredient are very popular, esp for those who suffer from acne. They’re seemingly easy to use and can be inserted into nearly anyone’s evening or morning routine because a face wash is easier to use than a serum that requires a wait time. But the wait time is the also reason we wouldn’t recommend a lot of salicylic acid face washes over a serum or lotion. A face wash doesn’t give the salicylic acid a lot contact time on your skin to act. As we discussed in this guide, the contact time allows the acid to work and penetrate your skin. So between a face wash or a serum/lotion, we recommend using a serum/lotion that you leave on your skin for an extended period.

There is one group that could benefit from a face wash – those of you with sensitive skin who cannot tolerate acids on your skin. A salicylic acid face wash can still allow for short term contact, which should not irritate your skin or irritate it less. Here are a few popular choices:

1. Neutrogena Oil-Free Acne Face Wash With Salicylic Acid

2. CeraVe Renewing SA Cleanser 8 oz Salicylic Acid Cleanser

3. Philosophy Clear Days Ahead Oil-Free Salicylic Acid Acne Treatment Cleanser

Salicylic acid shampoo for dandruff

If you’re looking for a dandruff shampoo with a gentle BHA to help reduce redness, itch, and flaking, these shampoos utilize salicylic acid and its derivatives to target dandruff without stripping your hair of its moisture:

1. Neutrogena T Sal Therapeutic Shampoo – Has 3% salicylic acid

2. Selsun Blue Naturals Dandruff Shampoo – Has 3% salicylic acid

3. Avalon Organics Anti Dandruff Shampoo – Has 2% salicylic acid

4. MG217 Psoriasis Shampoo and Conditioner – Has 3% Salicylic Acid

ph adjusting toners

Want to reap the full benefits of a BHA in your skincare routine by making sure your skin is at the correct pH level for your BHA? You can use one of these toners to prep your skin after cleanser, and just a few minutes before applying your BHA

1. COSRX Natural BHA Skin Returning A-Sol

2. MIZON Aha & Bha Daily Clean Toner

Azaelic acid

Intrigued by our mention of Azaelic acid as a stronger better BHA-like acid? Azaelic acid is far more popular as a drugstore produce in Europe than in the Americas or Asia but is gaining in popularity as people find out about its amazing skin benefits. We have found that Azaelic acid does nearly everything a BHA does but with even greater results.

Unlike BHA, the higher the percentage of Azaelic acid the stronger it is. However, it is best to start with a lower percentage and build your way up, because otherwise you may experience several peeling or can end up with a damaged moisture barrier.

Here are some products you can try for azaelic acid:

1. Curology – offers a formulation tailored to your skin and issues with a focus on anti-acne and anti-aging. It’s essentially a telederm service in which you get a prescription after you upload some photos of your skin. They will start you off with a gentle low concentration formula to make sure you don’t irritate your skin, and if you feel that it is going well then you can check in with your assigned dermatology provider to up your prescription in a few weeks.

It’s also very cost friendly, averaging out to $19.99/month for a tailored formulation for your skin.

2. Ecological Formulas Melazepam Cream – 20% azaelic acid

3. GIGI Bioplasma Azelaic Cream – 15% azaelic acid

Ever wonder if there is the best AHA product on the market for your acne ravaged skin?

After using the best AHA’s and BHA’s of the most top-ranked glycolic acid products and Salicylic acid products for acne, skin discoloration and aging fine lines, the QRxLabs’s Glycolic Acid 20% Resurfacing Pads with Vitamins B5, C & E, Green Tea, Calendula, Allantoin – which also exfoliates the surface skin and reduces fine lines and wrinkles won our pick as the best glycolic product with AHA, best suited for treating acne-prone skin types.

This AHA skincare product is better for all skin types, including oily, and dry combination skin. If you’re dealing with acne skin scars and discoloration, the Paulas Choice Skin Perfecting Gel is a purifying glycolic AHA skin toner that removes skin discoloration, fine lines, while also targeting acne-causing bacteria and dead skin cells. This is one of the best AHA toners capable of effectively removing all sebum oils, unclogging pores and accelerating skin cell turnover.

What percent AHA should I use?

10 to 15 percent(10-15%) of Alpha Hydroxy acid also commonly known as AHA is an ideal percentage of AHA believed to be effective skin ingredient widely used in over the counter toners and topical skin creams.

With the 10-15 percentage concentration of alpha hydroxy acid, you should be able to treat acne, without irritating your skin. On the other hand, you have BHA toners and creams where BHA stands for Beta Hydroxy Acid is another over the counter skin toner ingredient.

AHAs are water-soluble acids made from sugary fruits. They help peel away the surface of your skin so that new, more evenly pigmented skin cells may generate and take their place.

So, what percent AHA should I use?

Use 10 to 15 percent of your chosen AHA is the best percentage to be used a maximum concentration that can be sold over the counter, while anything beyond 10 and 15 percent concentration of AHA or BHA can only be prescribed by a dermatologist.

And for best results with your 10-15 % AHA toner, make sure that you are applying your new Salicylic acid or glycolic products every other day until your skin gets used to them.

I mention Salicylic acid here because we are looking at AHA and BHA to find what works best for your skin type as the best toner.

Is salicylic acid a BHA?

Yes! Salicylic acid is a bonafide BHA commonly known as Beta Hydroxy Acid (BHA). Salicylic acid is a multifunctional natural occurring extract ingredient from acidic sugary fruits popularly used in skincare products like toner and cleansers, so it addresses many of the systemic causes of recurring acne breakout in skin types prone to flareups.

If you want an effective skin exfoliating BHA as your primary base for your acne skincare routine, then the benefits of Salicylic acid toner as an exfoliant is what you need to help you shed dead skin in a way similar to how skin acts when we are younger.

When used appropriately, Salicylic acid toner will rejuvenate your skin cell turnover while also reducing the risk of side effects, such as irritation.

What does AHA do for your skin?

While AHAs are widely used in the skincare industry, very few people using toners and creams with alpha hydroxy acid actually know what it does to their skin, and why they need it more than they did as teenagers.

As a teenager, your body is actively replenishing dead skin cells at a much faster rate. However, as we age, the body’s ability to turn cells and repair chapped skin slows down dramatically, requiring all the help it can get to look smooth and glowing.

And the question here is, What does AHA do for your skin?

Here’s what AHA does for your skin:

  • It prevents Acne-prone skin from flaring up.
  • AHA also helps to treat and prevent acne-ravaged skin effectively.
  • And, if you have recurring acne, you will love AHAs as they are good at targeting cheek acne, jawline acne, and forehead acne.
  • AHA’s also are your best exfoliating agent to make sure you can keep acne and pimples at bay as these two are triggered from your enlarged pores getting clogged from sebum oils, dead skin cells and acne-causing bacteria which is prevalent in people with combination skin types.
  • AHA’s also regulates skin oiliness and dryness in combination skins which are synonymous for being reactively secreting oils which trap dead skin cells, and, oil (sebum), and in the process offering acne-causing bacteria a conducive environment to flourish. …

The great news is that you can use AHA products on other acne-prone areas, including your backside and chest

Is 10 glycolic acid effective?

Yes! Glycolic acid with a 10 percent (10-15% glycolic acid) concentration is effective enough to help you nurture your acne-prone skin, helping it to prevent cheek and jawline acne flare-ups.

However, the majority of people also wonder if AHA is safe enough for use on a daily basis…

So, is it safe to use AHA and BHA every day?

No, AHA and BHA is not safe to use it every day, instead, use it sparingly on a once every other day skincare routine which should be good enough to cleanse your skin and prevent it from recurring acne flare-ups.

The only time you go beyond the once every other day use of your AHA and BHA is when your dermatologist has crafted a skincare program for your acne. And, as they are qualified and armed with dermatology expertise, they may sometimes formulate an AHA or BHA with a much higher concentration of alpha hydroxy acid beyond 15%.

As some of your acne skin care products also come packed with other potent active ingredients like retinoids and antioxidants, it is essential that you are mindful of their unintended consequential effects they may have though it is safe enough to use BHAs (Salicylic acid), daily.

Drunk Elephant T.L.C. Framboos Glycolic Night Serum

Drunken Elephant TLC Framboos is probably one of the top best even serum with a 12 percent glycolic acid-infused in this premium serum for those looking for an effective nighttime skincare food, so that you can wake up to a thoroughly refined and resurfaced skin as Drunken Elephant TLC Framboos glycolic night serum works by gently dissolving dead skin cells and helps your skin get re-invigorated so it produces the much-needed natural collagen. …
And, if you love highly hydrating skincare products, you will also love this glycolic evening serum as it is a refreshing, hydrating gel that resurfaces dull, overly clogged pores from dead skin cells by gently lifting all the dead skin cells off your pores, to reveal an even-toned and glowing skin.

  1. Drunk Elephant T.L.C. Framboos Glycolic Night Serum
  2. Alpha Skincare Renewal Body Lotion 12% Glycolic AHA
  3. Mario Badescu Glycolic Acid Toner
  4. Skin Laundry Brightening Serum with Glycolic Acid
  5. Glycolix Elite 10% Moisturizing Cleanser
  6. Strivectin Advanced Acid Resurface Glycolic Acid Skin Reset Mask
  7. Cane + Austin Miracle Pad+ 30% Glycolic Facial Treatment
  8. Paula’s Choice Skin Perfecting 8% AHA Lotion
  9. Caudalie Vinoperfect Overnight Glycolic Cream
  10. Kate Somerville ExfoliKate Cleanser Daily Foaming Wash

Cetaphil Restoraderm Skin Moisturizer – Uses – Benefits Guide 2019
Is Cetaphil Daily Facial Cleanser good for oily skin?-Cleanser Guide 2019
Which Is Better CeraVe or Cetaphil Moisturizer For Acne Prone Skin And Eczema

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10 effective skincare products that use exfoliating acids to reduce acne and make your skin clearer, softer, and more even

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  • AHA and BHA are acids that exfoliate the skin.
  • AHA is best for dry skin and surface-level skin concerns like acne scars. BHAs are best for oily and acne-prone skin types.
  • You can use both by buying products with both ingredients, or by alternating products.
  • Below are 10 AHA/BHA products worth checking out, and where you can find them.

Exfoliation is an essential part of a good skincare routine. It helps to slough off dead skin and facilitate new cell turnover, keep pores clean (and skin clear), and promote blood flow and collagen production. It also makes your skin look younger, healthier, and helps produce the much-desired glow.

One type of exfoliation that’s gaining traction is acids — specifically AHA and BHA — thanks in part to mainstream brands such as Drunk Elephant, Dr. Dennis Gross, and Peter Thomas Roth. Drunk Elephant has cult-favorites like the T.L.C. Sukari Babyfacial and T.L.C Framboos Glycolic Night Serum, Dr. Dennis Gross has Alpha Beta Daily Peels, and Peter Thomas Roth has AHA/BHA Clearing Gel. These acids can combat acne, erase dark spots, and blur fine lines.

So what are AHAs and BHAs, what do they do, and who should be using them?

Alpha Hydroxy Acid (AHA) represents acids derived from a natural substance like sugar cane, milk, almonds, or grapes. They work by breaking down the glue holding your skin cells together, urging along the skin’s natural shedding process. BHAs penetrate deeper into the skin, but the effects of AHAs are primarily felt on the skin’s surface. If you have surface-level skin concerns like red marks from past acne, this constant sloughing off of dead, dull skin cells is helpful for hyperpigmentation.

AHA is also good for dry skin. It’s made up of molecules that love water, and it helps improve the skin’s moisture content.

Beta Hydroxy Acid (BHA) is best for acne-prone skin and those with deeper skin concerns since BHA penetrates further into the skin. While AHAs love water, BHAs love oil. They can bypass the oil that clogs pores and dissolve the mix of sebum and dead skin that leads to acne, as well as stabilize the lining of the pore (which contributes to acne). BHAs clear up blackheads, whiteheads, and have anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties. This umbrella term includes the popular anti-acne ingredient of Salicylic Acid. BHAs also exfoliate the top layer but are best bought for their deep penetrative qualities.

Dr. Dennis Gross Alpha Beta Extra Strength Daily Peel before and after pictures which combines AHA and BHA. Sephora

Can’t decide between addressing hyperpigmentation and dry skin or your acne? Use both AHAs and BHAs. It’s the acidic one-two punch of treating dark spots, sun damage, and fine lines as well as acne and deep, clogged pores. Shop products that contain both ingredients, or alternate between your AHA product and your BHA product nightly or weekly.

It’s important to use sunscreen after exfoliating since your skin will be photosensitive, and to pay attention to how your skin is reacting. It’s always a good idea to run products by your dermatologist, and that’s especially true if you have sensitive skin and want to double check which strength of each acid is best for you.

5 Things to Know About Lactic Acid in Skin Care

Look around your kitchen and you’ll find a handful of natural health remedies, from cough-soothing honey to puffy eye-reducing cucumbers. In fact, your refrigerator may hold a real-life fountain of youth: milk. It contains lactic acid, which is the key to healthy, smooth skin.

Lactic acid is an alpha hydroxy acid (AHA). AHAs are acids derived from foods, and, as it turns out a type of acid that’s safe to apply to our skin. Citric acid, for example, from citrus fruits (lemons, oranges, etc.) is an alpha hydroxy acid. Lactic acid is found in sour milk, but you may have also heard of or tried other AHAs, such glycolic acid, from sugar cane, which is also a popular ingredient in anti-aging topical skin care products.


AHAs applied topically and regularly to your skin help reduce the appearance of aging, and they can be an especially good remedy against fine lines, wrinkles and other signs of premature aging from sun damage. Let’s talk about five important benefits — and the drawbacks — of adding lactic acid to your skin-care routine, beginning with improved skin texture.

It’s clear that going too hard, too frequently with hardcore acids can disrupt your skin barrier, leaving it vulnerable to irritation and other conditions. However, we’re not suggesting you forget about chemical exfoliation altogether – even if you’ve been burned before. Cue glycolic’s gentler sister: lactic acid.

Here’s everything you need to know about using lactic acid on your skin…

Rosdiana Ciaravolo

What is lactic acid?

‘Lactic Acid is a natural AHA (alpha hydroxy acid) known to accelerate cell turnover while helping with moisturisation,’ explains Somerville.

Derived from milk or fruit sugars, this exfoliating ingredient possesses larger molecules than glycolic, meaning it won’t penetrate the surface of your skin as well, leading to a lighter degree of exfoliation.

Lactic Acid Serum The Inkey List £5.15 ExfoliKate Intensive Exfoliating Treatment Kate Somerville £72.00 Lactic Acid 10% + HA The Ordinary £5.80 Deep Exfoliating Mask Sensitive Skin Dr. Sebagh £59.00

What can lactic acid do for the skin?

According to Somerville, the list of lactic acid’s benefits is lengthy: ‘It’s great for eliminating acne and diminishing the look of wrinkles, discolouration and psoriasis. It’s also great for exfoliating because it dissolves the dead top layer of skin without causing irritation.’

What skin types can benefit from lactic acid?

Thanks to its softly-softly approach, lactic acid is a great choice for people who find glycolic too intense. Those with extra-dry, sensitive, or reactive skin should pay close attention, as it’ll offer the same exfoliating qualities as glycolic, minus the irritation.

These gentle properties undoubtedly make lactic acid a safer option for reactive skin, and a whole host of dermatologist-approved brands have jumped on the bandwagon, offering an array of lactic-powered products. If you’re totally new to the game, it pays to start small and slowly build up a tolerance.

Prebiotic Foaming Facial Cleanser Gallinée £13.90 Alpha Beta Ultra Gentle Daily Peel Dr. Dennis Gross Skincare £89.00 Copper Peel Omorovicza £95.00

How to use lactic acid

So, what’s the best way to harness this easy-going exfoliator in your daily routine? Lactic acid isn’t restricted to exfoliators – it’s now a key component in gentle cleansers, body treatments and even hand creams.

A cleanser containing lactic acid is a great introduction to the ingredient, as they generally stay on the skin for less time than a serum or moisturiser. Then, there’s a whole world of treatments to explore, from serums and moisturisers to exfoliating wipes and even body creams (brilliant for smoothing keratosis pilaris). Exfoliate away – your skin will thank you for it.

Transforming Body Lotion With A Hint of Colour Ameliorate £19.50 C-Scape High Potency Body Lotion DCL £45.00 Iso Urea Lait La Roche-Posay £13.30 Related Stories

This is why you should be using lactic acid in your skin care routine

Image zoom Getty Images / Anna Bliokh / Sephora / Dermstore / Alyssa Morin / HelloGiggles

Ask anyone with stunning skin what their secret weapon is, and chances are they’ll mention using products with lactic acid. This ingredient delivers amazing results in a short amount of time. And luckily for skin care lovers, most of our favorite brands have lactic acid infused into their products.

There are a few different acids that are popular in skin care right now: AHAs, BHAs, and PHAs. Lactic acid is part of the AHA (Alpha Hydroxy Acid) family, and it’s a powerful exfoliant that not only reduces acne breakouts, but it also diminishes the appearance of wrinkles and other signs of aging.

We spoke with dermatologist Dr. Joyce Imahiyerobo, who gave us a breakdown of what lactic acid is and why we should include it in our skin care routine. She said, “Lactic acid is an AHA, which are acids derived from natural plant substances such as sugar cane, milk, and grapes, which is why they are referred to as fruit acids.”

She added:

“Unlike BHAs, they are actually water-soluble, water-loving molecules. They work as exfoliants and help to shed dead skin cells by melting the intercellular glue that holds the cells together. They also stimulate collagen, which helps to reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, making them great for rejuvenating aging skin.”

The higher the percentage of lactic acid in a product, the more intense it is. When combined with soothing ingredients and a balanced pH, the lactic acid isn’t painful. You’ll feel a slight tingle and a bit of a sting. If anything, it should feel satisfying because it means the acid is permeating the skin.

So who should be using lactic acid in their skincare routine? Dr. Imahiyerobo said:

“AHAs, like lactic acids, are great for those who wish to rejuvenate their skin and to fight the signs of aging. AHAs can also be helpful for those who want to reduce the appearance of sun spots and hyperpigmentation. As with any skin acid, those with sensitive skin may want to avoid lactic acid as they may result in excessive dryness and redness.”

When using chemical exfoliants, it’s imperative to use sunscreen anytime you step outside. AHAs make the skin extremely sensitive to the sun. This will increase signs of aging if you don’t take any precautions. So slather on that sunscreen and pack a hat before you head on out.

Since so many products contain lactic acid, we rounded up 14 of our favorites to get you started on your search.

Image zoom Dermstore $105 Sunday Riley SHOP IT Opens a new window

Considered the holy grail of skin care, this clarifying, line-smoothing lactic acid treatment has a very high potency. It immediately exfoliates dull, dead skin cells and reveals smoother, fresher, plump skin.

2The Ordinary Lactic Acid 10% + HA

Image zoom Carousel $6.79 The Ordinary SHOP IT Opens a new window

You can’t beat the price of this product. It combines lactic acid with purified Tasmanian pepperberry to help reduce the inflammation and sensitivity that can come with exfoliation.

3Dermadoctor Ain’t Misbehavin’ Healthy Toner with Glycolic & Lactic Acid

Image zoom Sephora $39 Dermadoctor SHOP IT Opens a new window

Refresh your skin with this rejuvenating toner to reveal a vibrant, healthy complexion.

4GlamGlow SuperMud Activated Charcoal Treatment

Image zoom Sephora $59 GlamGlow SHOP IT Opens a new window

Snag this fan-fave, skin-clearing mask that is formulated with six acids to help minimize pores and clear skin.

5Kate Somerville ExfoliKate Intensive Exfoliating Treatment

Image zoom Sephora $24 Kate Somerville SHOP IT Opens a new window

Beloved by celebs and beauty lovers alike, this dual-action exfoliator can be used once or twice a week to reveal glowing, radiant skin. Lactic acid and fruit enzymes work together to give you dramatic results.

6Dior Capture Youth Collection

Image zoom Sephora $95 Dior SHOP IT Opens a new window

This skin care product is made with vitamin C and AHAs to brighten and even skin tone. The lactic acid helps reduce shine and refine pores.

7Dr. Brandt Skincare Microdermabrasion Age Defying Exfoliator

Image zoom Sephora $79 Dr. Brandt Skincare SHOP IT Opens a new window

This cult-fave exfoliator softens imperfections and reveals clear, bright skin while diminishing the appearance of fine lines, acne marks, and skin discolorations.

8Murad AHA/BHA Exfoliating Cleanser

Image zoom Murad Canada $39 Murad SHOP IT Opens a new window

This highly active cleanser includes a trio of exfoliating acids and jojoba beads to revitalize skin daily.

9Ren Clean Skincare Ready Steady Glow Daily AHA Tonic

Image zoom Ren Clean Skincare $35 Ren Clean Skincare SHOP IT Opens a new window

Get your daily dose of clean bioactive extracts to exfoliate and balance your skin naturally.

10Tata Harper Clarifying Mask

Image zoom NK Space $68 Tata Harper SHOP IT Opens a new window

Treat yourself to this complexion-clearing treatment made with AHA superfruits and quartz sand micro-crystals – how luxurious!

11Drunk Elephant T.L.C. Sukari Babyfacial

Image zoom Drunk Elephant $80 Drunk Elephant SHOP IT Opens a new window

Get a salon-quality facial with this powerful peel that includes 25% AHA and 2% BHA. It has a blend of glycolic, lactic, tartaric, citric, and salicylic acids. Use it once or twice a week to enjoy that famous baby-soft skin.

12OleHenriksen Invigorating Night Transformation Gel

Image zoom OleHenriksen $48 OleHenriksen SHOP IT Opens a new window

This anti-aging serum with potent AHAs gives you an even tone and smooth texture.

13Skyn Iceland Nordic Skin Peel with Alpha-Beta Complex

Image zoom Skyn Iceland $45 Skyn Iceland SHOP IT Opens a new window

These double-duty pads exfoliate flaky skin, clean dirt and oil, and diminish fine lines without irritation, thanks to an infusion of calming emollients.

14Aesop Parsley Seed Cleanser

Image zoom Aesop $43 Aesop SHOP IT Opens a new window

Your face will feel insanely fresh and clean thanks to this clarifying facial cleanser. It removes surface impurities and offers a mild exfoliation.

  • By Lourdes Avila Uribe

Alpha hydroxy acids are derived from fruit acids and are among some of the best ways to exfoliate your skin. By breaking down the bonds that hold the cells together, they help slough off the dead skin cells, loosen dirt, makeup, and clogged pores to reveal smooth skin beneath. There are several types of fruit acids that you can find in skincare products today, and they also can be easily made with a few fresh ingredients at home.

Just be sure you are following any fruit acid treatment or mask with the proper sunscreen, the last thing you’ll want to do is subject those fresh skin cells to sun damage!

5 AHA Face Masks You Can Make At Home

1. Lactic Acid

Lactic acid is one of the more gentle fruit acids, ideal for sensitive skin and fighting acne. Lactic acid is commonly found in milk and other fruits, this yogurt and grapefruit mask can be applied weekly for optimal benefits. Lactic acid is a great introduction to alpha hydroxy acids and can be a good test to your sensitivity to fruit acids.

2. Tartaric Acid

Tartaric acid is naturally found in grapes and bananas, and when applied topically it can smooth the skin, enhancing your skin’s natural glow. Champagne, which is derived from grapes, is an easily available source of tartaric acid, and this detoxifying treatment is a great choice for a light alpha hydroxy mask.

3. Citric Acid

Citric acid can be found in various citrus fruits such as oranges, lemons, grapefruit, and limes. Citric acid has many benefits for the skin, from lightening pigmentation and acne spots to improving the overall texture of skin. Try this lemon and milk facial mask to inject some citric acid into your beauty routine. Often citric acid can be found in astringents and skin lightening products.

Avoid limes, though, as exposure to sunlight 48 hours after lime juice touches your skin can set up some predisposed people to a nasty dermatitis.

4. Malic Acid

Malic acid is most abundantly found in apples. It can reduce signs of aging, help alleviate acne, brighten skin tone, and promote collagen production. Serving as a humectant, malic acid also retains moisture and can be used for sensitive skin types as it has a balanced pH and typically won’t affect your skin’s natural pH level. You can enjoy malic acid as a treatment in an apple cider vinegar peel.

5. Glycolic Acid

Glycolic acid is one of the most effective rapid exfoliators available, making it a common choice in most anti-aging products. It’s derived from sugar cane and has tremendous success regenerating the surface layers of the skin. Using a few ingredients from home, this glycolic acid mask can be applied once a week.

Glycolic acid use should be a gradual increase in intensity, so limit in length of time on skin in the beginning, or extend the frequency of application if you find your skin sensitive. Many people with sensitive-skin or rosacea-prone skin can have a bad reaction to glycolic acid so avoid it if you fall into this group.

Glycolic Acid Facial Mask

  • 2 tablespoons raw organic sugar
  • 2 tablespoons raw honey
  • juice of ½ lemon

You’ll want the sugar to be as fine as possible, so if it’s coarse you’ll want to use a coffee grinder or blender to break it down. Then combine the sugar and honey in a bowl. Squeeze the juice of half a lemon and mix well. Apply to the face and neck, avoiding the eye area. Rinse with warm water after 5-10 minutes. In the beginning start with just 1-2 minutes and gradually increase time.



Happy Wednesday All, I want to share with you a new DIY lactic acid face mask I do at home for pennies on the dollar! This is new in my lineup as one of the many face masks I make at home.


DIY Natural Lactic Acid Mask (Powdered milk is a natural source of lactic acid and when applied to the skin it is very effective in smoothing, toning and tightening the skin. Great for people with large pores! When paired with apple cider — a natural alpha hydroxy acid — the results are pretty amazing)

Prep Time 4 minutes Cook Time 16 minutes Total Time 20 minutes Servings 1 Author URABLANKSLATE – LORI TAURASO


  • 1 tbs Powdered Milk – I used Bob Red Mill Milk Powder Premium
  • Organic Apple cider Vinegar start off with teaspoon adding more until you have a smooth paste – may add more powdered milk vise vera until just right


  1. Mix until paste – smooth over clean dry gace with bursh or finger tips. Leave on for 12 – 20 minutes. Remove with warm wash cloth and warm water. Follow with moisturizer and sunscreen if your going outside soon.

  2. Note: My face got hot and red I was surprised. Because I’m all about acids and exfoliants – but it was HOT Mamma! Went down after about 30 minutes – so be warnned do at night before bed or when your not in a rush just to check how your skin reacts. As always – this is just what I did check with your doctor or dermatologist prior if concerned.

This mask instantly tightens my skin, gives me a good “glow.” Cant wait to try it out on Mike – he’s been loving all the TLC lately with all the facials, foot soaks etc. and being my guinea pig. He says he now understand all my drawers full of things – it takes some work and appreciates what I do for my skin…. Awe sweet ( really think he just wants more spa stuff done to him ) If you try this out please share with me your thoughts – HUGS to you all!

Now the after – forgive the goofy selfie – but loving my skin – no filter – no retouch just sunshine and good clean living!

What Makeup I used today

  • Clinique 3step am & pm wash , toner, moisture
  • Maybelline NY Master Prime Blur + Illuminate with SPF 30 ( new really liking this for mature skin – bit illuminating too – no disco ball!
  • Clinique Super City Block 40 (right next to my eyes too – no traveling)
  • Mix a little Giorgio Armani luminous silk foundation #5.25 and drop of Tarte Amazonian clay full coverage foundation mix blend
  • MAC allover Mineralize skinfinish in Med. Golden
  • MAC blush Rosy Outlook
  • Two Faced Chocolate Soleil med/deep matte pwdr sides of nose and jawline
  • Maybelline Dk blonde brow pencil for eye & lip liner
  • Clinique high lengths mascara – black – always black
  • Buxom Full on lipstick in “Athens”
  • Buxom Plumpline lip liner “Stealth” mix both and fill in Gloss on top
  • MAC Studio Fix Prep + Prime to set it all

Remeber do something nice for yourself today!


Lactic acid in lotion

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