By Isabelle Hahn
The recent launch of Glossier’s Solution has taken over Instagram, with all your favorite influencers toting the magic benefits of the new, toner-esque product. The main ingredients? The latest trends in exfoliation: Alpha Hydroxy Acids (AHAs) and Beta Hydroxy Acids (BHAs).
But what are AHAs and BHAs? They aren’t your typical exfoliators because they don’t have physical elements that scrape at your skin to target dead skin cells. Instead, these acids stimulate rapid cell turnover and are widely used to treat forms of acne, clogged pores and decrease the appearance of unwanted hyperpigmentation. AHAs are also used to minimize fine lines and soften the appearance of skin, while BHAs help to balance your skin’s oil content.
Both types of acids are naturally occurring. The most common Beta Hydroxy Acid is something you probably already incorporate into your routine: Salicylic Acid. Common Alpha Hydroxy Acids include Glycolic, Lactic and Citric Acid.
While these acids have been picking up speed and popularity on the commercial market, they’ve been around since the 90s, and skin care professionals have been using them in chemical peels for ages – because they work.
These ingredients are widely used in medical practices because they offer consistent and predictable results for both aesthetic and therapeutic use. Using them with consistency is the key to glowing skin since the dead skin cell layer is constantly replenishing itself.
Turning to acids to exfoliate (instead of abrasive, physical scrubs) eliminates the potential micro-tears and irritation that physical scrubs can give your skin. Many scrubs also contain plastic microbeads, which are harmful to the environment. The industry shift to chemical ingredients makes sense, and as long as you don’t overuse acids and protect your skin with SPF, it is very unlikely that they will irritate your skin.
Serums, gels and liquid preparations containing lower pH levels (or that are more acidic than your skin) typically offer more efficacy as opposed to creams containing a higher pH level when it comes to products with AHAs/BHAs. Many professionals also agree that cleansers with AHAs and BHAs aren’t in contact with your skin long enough to make any lasting difference.
If you look closely at your favorite skin care companies, you’ll probably notice that they have their own products ranging from peels to daily cleansers containing Alpha and/or Beta Hydroxy Acids. You may not have even noticed that it was an ingredient. First Aid Beauty’s Facial Radiance Pads ($30) use AHAs to brighten the skin’s appearance, exfoliate and improve texture.
The Ordinary Peeling Solution ($7.20) is a mask that contains 30 percent AHAs and 2 percent BHAs.
Thank you to Candace Fortson, Aesthetician at the Dermatology Center of Dallas.