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AHA, BHA, & PHA: The Ultimate Guide to Chemical Peels for All Skin Types

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Firstly, they are extremely helpful for exfoliating the skin for brighter skin. They are also great for acne, red spots from pimples, pigmentation, collagen production, hydration and etc. There are 3 types of chemical peelings: AHA, BHA and PHA.

AHA (alpha hydroxy acid)

They are water-soluble and hydrophilic. Because of their particularly hydrophilic properties, they are also called “hydrophilic,” meaning they love water.

The most popular AHAs are glycolic acid, lactic acid and mandelic acid. Others include tartaric, citric and malic acid.

Glycolic Acid

Glycolic acid, an acid usually derived from sugar cane, has a small molecular structure that dissolves the glue that holds dead cells together in the top layer of skin. It also penetrates the skin better than other AHAs and provides more effective results. Helps hydrate the skin.

Lactic Acid

Lactic acid from milk is an acid that is often also produced synthetically. It has similar functions to glycolic acid. However, because its molecular structure is larger, it penetrates less deeply into the skin. It also has a lower potential to irritate the skin.

Mandelic Acid

Mandelic acid is an acid derived from bitter almonds and has a larger molecular structure than glycolic acid. While it acts on the top layer of skin, its ability to penetrate deeply is limited. Therefore, it does not have a large effect on the skin and has a low risk of causing irritation. Examples For AHA Products: Nib+fab Glycolic Fix Night Pads Extreme (contains 5% glycolic acid and low amounts of lactic + mandelic + salicylic acid)

BHA (beta hydroxy acid)

Salicylic Acid

Salicylic acid is a fat-soluble acid. Because its molecular structure is large, it has the ability to dissolve dead cells stuck together in the inner lining of the pores. Its lipophilic (oil-loving) structure allows it to penetrate the pores and help remove excess oil. It is one of the most effective acids, especially for acne and oily skin. However, if the formula has moisturizing and soothing properties and is low in BHA (beta hydroxy acid), it is suitable for all skin types. Examples For BHA Products: Paula’s Choice 2% BHA Liquid Exfoliant

PHA (poly hydroxy acid)

PHA; (Polyhydroxy Acid) is considered the second generation cousin of AHAs and is the most gentle chemical peeling method that can be used by all skin types. Similar to salicylic acid, it has a large molecular structure and slowly dissolves and exfoliates dead cells stuck together on the upper surface of the skin. It is often used in such products as “galactose, lactobionic acid, gluconolactone” If you are looking for a way to improve the appearance of your skin, AHAs can be a great option. Examples For PHA Products: The Inkey List Pha Toner

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