Your Complete Guide to AHAs and BHAs in Skincare

There are so many powerful active ingredients in skincare that it can become quite confusing - which acid should I use? When should I use it and how?

Today we answer those questions as we'll talk everything AHAs and BHAs and how they can benefit your skin!

What are AHAs?


AHAs (or Alpha Hydroxy Acids) are chemical exfoliants for the skin.

AHAs are made from natural sources like sugar cane, sour milk and grapes.

Being water-soluble acids, they help to speed up cell turnover by dissolving the glue-like substance that holds the dead skin cells together. As a result, the skin can shed more effectively, which leads to brighter, smoother, and more even-toned skin.

As they are water-based, they can also help to hydrate the skin.  

The most used AHAs in skincare are:

  • Glycolic Acid
  • Lactic Acid
  • Mandelic Acid

What are BHAs?

BHAs (or Beta Hydroxy Acids) are chemical acids that can penetrate the deeper layers of the skin into the pores to remove dead skin cells and excess sebum.

The most common BHA used in the skincare industry is Salicylic Acid.

Salicylic Acid is derived from the bark of the willow tree and is fat-soluble, which makes it perfect for oily and combination skin, as it can mop up excess oil and exfoliate.


Salicylic acid also has anti-inflammatory properties, making it also effective to treat irritation and inflammation in acne skin types.

Salicylic acid refines the skin and helps reduce the appearance of fines lines and wrinkles.


Which acid is best for my skin?


AHAs - Dry and dehydrated skins concerned with ageing.

BHAs - Oily skins, congested or acne-prone skins.


What are the benefits of AHAs?

  • Even skin tone, discolouration and sun damage
  • Minimise the appearance of enlarged pores
  • Increase Collagen synthesis
  • Fine lines and surface wrinkles
  • Brightening of the skin
  • Aiding in hydration

    BEST FOR: Dry/Dehydrated Skin; Ageing Skin.

What are the benefits of BHAs?

  • To absorb excess sebum
  • Unclog pores
  • Minimise the appearance of enlarged pores

    BEST FOR: Acne-prone skins; Congested skins; Breakout prone skin; Sun-damaged skin

The difference between AHAs and BHAs blog image - Sleep Glycolic by Medik8

Are both acids considered safe for all skin types?

AHAs are considered to be the safer of the two acids and can be used on sensitive skins with caution.

However, both AHAs and BHAs are considered strong humectants that have a peeling effect which may cause the skin to dry out if overused or if your skin is not prepped to be using acids.

For this particular reason, you should consult a professional skin therapist who will be able to let you know which acid is best suited for your skin type and concern and tailor a specialised program for you.

If you'd like to get a personalised skincare plan designed for you by one of our Skin Experts, book a Free Skin Consult here.

Our best-selling AHA and BHA products


AHAs (Alpha Hydroxy Acids)


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Sleep Glycolic is an at-home AHA (alpha hydroxy acid) peel which can deliver fast results while you sleep, with zero downtime.

This bi-weekly treatment can transform dull, uneven textured skins who want visibly brighter, smoother skin - fast.

Harnessing a true free glycolic acid value of 10% for enhanced penetration results, Sleep Glycolic effortlessly leaves the complexion visibly brighter, smoother and decongested.

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A professional-grade at-home peel clinically proven to enhance radiance, visibly reduce fine lines and reveal brighter, healthier skin in just minutes a week.

This maximum-strength exfoliant delivers powerful results with no downtime using a unique complex of phytoactive AHA extracts, Lactic Acid and fermented plant enzymes to help reveal new, firmer skin.


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Micro-exfoliating treatment that exerts a smooth renewing action on the skin surface to remove dead cells, refine texture, smooth out imperfections and immediately enhance facial radiance.



BHAs (Beta Hydroxy Acids)


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In these portable deep cleansing pads, salicylic acid treats acne, while glycolic acid exfoliates dead skin and helps to keep pores clear.

Soothing antioxidants help keep the appearance of redness in check. A must for on-the-go cleansing after exercise!


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Specially formulated with Mandelic Acid, this cleanser is ideal for all problematic skin concerns, yet is particularly beneficial for breakouts.

Proteolytic Enzymes are used to exfoliate and remove superficial dead skin cells while plant extracts, including Tea Tree Oil, comfort irritated skin.


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Retexturising and anti-ageing gel for oily, acne-prone, seborrheic and blemished skins. Eliminates impurities and dead cells, normalizing the excess of sebum. Unifies skin texture and reduces pore size.


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