Whether you’re new to skincare or a seasoned skinthusiast, no doubt you’ve seen these acronyms on your various lotions and potions. AHA, BHA and the newer PHA acid toners have exploded on to the market, becoming the latest complexion-perfecting must-have. But what do they all mean and which one should you be using?
What are AHA, BHA and PHA Acid Toners?
These letters refer to alpha, beta and poly hydroxy acids, which are derived from various natural sources. They exfoliate dead skin cells that can cause dullness and breakouts, and help to promote cell turnover. This layer of dead skin cells prevents the skin from effectively absorbing other skincare products, like serums and creams, and can potentially clog pores. Consequently, incorporating acids into your daily routine will tighten pores, improve overall skin texture and amp up your glow. So which one is best for your skin type?
Alpha Hydroxy Acids
AHA’s smooth the skin and can reduce fine lines and wrinkles, making them perfect for people with mature, or prematurely ageing skin. They’re also a great option for dry skin as alpha hydroxy acids are hydrophilic, meaning they attract water, allowing them to lock moisture in to the skin.
Look out for glycolic acid, derived from sugars, lactic acid, derived from milk and mandelic acid derived from bitter almonds, on your ingredients lists.
Beta Hydroxy Acids
BHA’s like salicylic acid, are better suited to oily complexions, those prone to breakouts and acne sufferers. They’re antibacterial and lipophilic, i.e they’re attracted to oil. Moreover, this allows them to penetrate deeper into the pores, sweeping away debris and excess sebum.
Poly Hydroxy Acids
PHA’s have larger molecules which means they don’t penetrate the skin as fast as other hydroxy acids. This unique property makes them a safer option for sensitive skin, or those suffering from eczema or rosacea. Keep an eye out for lactobionic acid, derived from the lactose in milk and galactose, a simple sugar.
How and When to Use Acid Toners
All hydroxy acids can be used day or night. However, some formulations are designed to be used in the evening as an overnight peel, while others are meant to be used in the morning to gently slough off any dead skin cells.
Whatever your skin type, acids should be integrated into your skincare routine slowly. It’s always recommended that you introduce it gradually, using the product only once or twice a week until your skin builds up tolerance. As your skin becomes more tolerant to the active ingredients, you can use your acid toner more often.
All acids come in different strengths and concentrations, so it’s important to do your research and choose carefully. If you’re an AHA newbie, take it slow and use a lower percentage concentration, around 5%, a few times a week and observe how your skin reacts.
BHA concentration typically ranges from 0.5 to 2%. Oilier skin is often less sensitive and can handle a higher concentration, but it’s down to you to gauge what works best for your face. So, if you use them regularly, you’ll start to see some impressive results in anywhere from two to four weeks. Silky, glowing skin here we come!
A Word of Warning…
Whilst acids can give you that glass-skin luminosity you’re looking for, using them incorrectly can inflame skin, causing irritation and redness. If you experience an adverse reaction to an acid, stop using your product immediately! Use plenty of soothing moisturisers and give your skin time to recover. Then, you can try a lower concentration or a gentler type of acid.
If you’re already using other active ingredients, like retinol, you’ll need to proceed with caution. Adding an acid may initially cause inflammation, until your skin builds up tolerance. Once your skin has adjusted to using an acid, you’ll eventually be able to layer it with retinol and other active ingredients. If you prefer to play it safe, try using an acid in the morning and a retinol at night, or alternating the two. And for the love of God, whatever you do, don’t forget to use an SPF 30-50 during the day!