Difference Between AHA and BHA (With Table)

The abbreviation of AHA and BHA is alpha hydroxy acid and beta hydroxy acid respectively. These chemicals are acids that are extensively used in cosmetics. These are used as exfoliants. Simply exfoliants help to remove dead skin cells from the topmost layer of skin which is the epidermis.

AHA and BHA have different uses but they can be used together. It is similar to applying primer over the surface before the paint is applied. These two chemicals are usually found in skincare products like moisturizers, peel of masks, toners, and many more.


The main difference between AHA and BHA is that AHA is a water-soluble chemical and BHA is an oil-soluble chemical. Our skin gets exfoliated naturally on its own. The process undergoes regularly for every 28 days. As we grow older this process takes a long time so AHA and BHA are used as a substitute. The difference between AHA and BHA is the position of the hydroxyl group.

As alpha hydroxy acid is a chemical product, it can naturally also be found in some fruits, vegetables, and milk. It is most prominently found in sugar cane. AHA along with removing dead skin cells also replaces it. AHAs are used as an ingredient in skin care products to increase their use of products. They also remove dirt from the skin.

Beta hydroxy acid helps the skincare products to penetrate the skin with the help of sebaceous glands. Sebaceous glands secrete some oil called sebum to lubricate the skin. BHA’s shows more effectiveness when used in small quantities. If used in larger quantities on sensitive skin, it may irritate. BHA’s are recommended to use a few times a week in the beginning.

Comparison Table Between AHA and BHA

Parameters Of ComparisionAHABHA
AbbreviationAlpha hydroxy acidBeta hydroxy acid
FunctionRemoves dead skin cells from the topmost layerPenetrates the layers and make cosmetics more efficient to use
SolubilityWater-soluble chemicalOil-soluble chemical
Found inSugar cane, tomato, milk, etc.Meat, butter, baked food, etc.
UsesPrevents acne, acne scars, wrinkles, etcSun damage, acne, pigmentation

What is AHA

Alpha hydroxy acid removes dead cells in the top layer by breaking down the adherens junctions which bind the skin cells together. It acts as glue. AHA helps exfoliate by loosening adherens junctions. This helps the dead skin to replace with new skin cells and helps the skin to glow up.

There are multiple uses of AHA. These are some of the uses. Hyaluronic acid in the body helps in the production of collagen. It is a protein present in blood, muscles, and bones which is responsible for the joints strengthening and for the elasticity of the skin.

As we grow older production of Hyaluronic acid in the body decreases. Exposure to the sun also breaks down the collagen protein which results in the sagging of skin. AHA help in the production of collagen by destroying the damaged collagen protein.

AHAs help in reducing wrinkles and surface lines. They also help with the problem of discoloration. As AHAs help in evolving new skin cells, the new skin cells will be evenly pigmented which reduces discoloration due to exposure to the sun.

Pimples are caused due to the clogging of skin pores by dirt, oil, and bacteria. If pimples are formed many at a time, that condition is called acne. Exfoliating with AHAs removes the dirt accumulated in the pores which helps in the reduction of pimples. They also compress the pores and reduce acne scars.

Some of the types of AHA’s are malic acid, tartaric acid, citric acid, mandelic acid, etc

What is BHA

Beta hydroxy acid penetrates through the skin to lubricate the skin cells. BHA’s are not as effective as AHA’s. Sunscreen should be applied along with BHA to protect the skin.

Most often AHA and BHA are used together. Before using BHA or any other chemical product for daily use, we should test the product on a small area of skin. If it does not show any reaction or irritation. The particular products should not be used any further. It helps to acquire glowing skin. BHA’s help in removing acne, blackheads, whiteheads, and so on.

BHA’s should not be used on dry skin. One of the two types of Beta hydroxy acid is salicylic acid and citric acid. They are best suitable for oily skin because it helps the BHA’s best to penetrate the pores.

BHA’s are also used to treat calluses and to prevent bacterial growth. If the skin condition is cystic acne then BHA’s are used or the combination of AHA and BHA is used.

Main Difference between AHA and BHA

  1. AHA’s function is to remove dead skin cells by breaking adherens junctions between skin cells, BHA’s remove dead skin cells by penetrating skin cells through lubricating.
  2. AHA’s glycolic acid causes more irritation in comparison to BHA’s salicylic acid.
  3. AHA’s are water-soluble chemicals and BHA’s are oil soluble chemicals.
  4. AHA provides light protection against Ultra violet rays but BHA provides greater protection against UV rays.
  5. AHA is found in vegetables and BHA is found in meat, butter, etc.


As humans grew older the ability to exfoliate naturally reduces. So AHA’s and BHA’s are used. AHA and BHA are exfoliators that remove dead skin cells in different ways. AHA removes dead skin cells by breaking the glue between skin cells and BHA removes dead skin cells by penetrating the skin cells.

AHA is sun-sensitive but BHA’s need either AHA or a good sunscreen to protect the skin from the sun. AHA’s are found in fruits and BHA’s are found in meat, butter, etc. BHA should be used in lesser quantities so it is seen in the bottom line of the ingredients.

Both AHA’s and BHA’s are good exfoliators and they can be used together for better results when used in the right way as prescribed by the dermatologist according to the skin type.


  1. https://books.google.com/books?hl=en&lr=&id=kQujBQAAQBAJ&oi=fnd&pg=PA27&dq=difference+between++Alpha+hydroxy+acid++and+Beta+hydroxy+acid&ots=dQ0Vc1sIPv&sig=XSKWYjOOU9sQx1Lxsu7Rj7qXs7Q
  2. https://allnaturalaxgskincareaprioribeauty.wordpress.com/2011/09/04/alpha-hydroxy-beta-hydroxy-acids/