AHAs & BHAs | For Glowing, Clear & Even Skin

If there's one thing that's transformed my skin this year it's introducing BHAs and AHAs. I thought I'd do a little guide to them explaining what they are, what they do, which skin types they're good for and some of my favourites!

What are AHAs and BHAs?

AHA stands for 'Alpha Hydroxy Acid'. These are generally derived from milk and sugar so look out for 'Glycolic Acid' and 'Lactic Acid' listed in the ingredients. These are essentially acidic exfoliants which help to break down dead skin cells. You'll want to find products that contain around 5% of the AHA if you're looking for something to use once a week or more.

BHA stands for 'Beta Hydroxy Acid'. When looking at product ingredients, this time you're after 'Salicylic Acid'. BHAs are also chemical exfoliants but these can penetrate more deeply into your pores than AHAs. For a BHA you only need products containing around 1-2% Salicylic Acid.

Which skin concerns do they help with?

AHAs are great for reducing overall dullness in the skin and making it look youthful and glowing. There's also a good amount of evidence to suggest they help with existing fine lines and wrinkles as well as with preventing them in the future. They're also hugely helpful when it comes to reducing hyper-pigmentation and fading old blemish marks, especially if you used to suffer from acne.

BHAs are great for oily and blemish-prone skin with a lot of active breakouts. However it does also help to improve the texture of the skin and reduce hyper-pigmentation.

What are the cons of using AHAs and BHAs?

As BHAs are designed to break down oils, they aren't great for dry skin as they can be too harsh.

Both AHAs and BHAs have the potential to irritate, so may not be suitable for sensitive skin types. Try something fairly mild like the Pixi Glow Tonic once a week to begin with and gauge how your skin responds.

Both AHAs and BHAs leave your skin more susceptible to sun damage, so it is recommended you apply sun protection after use. You can also try using them before bed instead of in the morning. If you find yourself especially prone to burning regardless, it may be best to avoid use during the summer months altogether. 

AHA Products I Rate

REN Glycolactic Radiance Renewal Mask | £32

This is one of my all-time favourite products! Whilst the packaging isn't luxurious, it is really hygienic and functional. It has a marmalade-like consistency and smells very fruity. You simply smooth a thin layer across your skin, leave it for 10 minutes then rinse. For me the results are immediate and impressive; my skin looks more glowing, vibrant and healthy as soon as the mask is rinsed off. I do this once a week.

Ingredients Include: Bergamot, Lactic Acid (Wheat), Blackcurrant, Grape Seed Oil, Cranberry Seed Oil, Mandarin Oil 

Pixi Glow Tonic | £18

This is an acid toner to be used after cleansing. Again, it's orange in colour and has a fruity scent. The instructions advise it can be used twice daily but it really depends on your and your skin. I use it in the morning around 4 times a week. The results are not as dramatic as with the REN face mask; this is more like a little 'top up' in between applications of the REN. It provides an immediate glow boost and over time I feel it's helped fade some of my old blemish scars.

Ingredients Include: Aloe Leaf Juice, Witch Hazel Extract, Glycolic Acid, Fructose

Soap & Glory Scrub Your Nose In It* | £9

This is an AHA that also contains a physical exfoliant. The name is quite misleading as it isn't that 'scrubby', I promise! It comes out like a turquoise gritty toothpaste-like texture and I simply apply it to my t-zone in gently, circular motions, leave for 2 minutes then rinse. It's quite a tingly treatment and is slightly fragranced. My t-zone looks and feels brighter and less oily, also my pores look genuinely more refined. This is one of the few treatments that actually helps my pores look smaller so it's a firm favourite. This is a once a week thing for me.

Ingredients Include: Kaolin, Stearic Acid, Palmitic Acid, Lauric Acid, Orange Flower Extract

First Aid Beauty Facial Radiance Pads | £12 (for 28)

These are little pads already soaked in Lactic and Glycolic Acids. I love these as they're so handy for travelling. They essentially do a very similar job to the Pixi Glow Tonic and again the instructions advise these are suitable for daily use, though personally I don't. Again, I see an immediate improvement in the look of my skin in terms of it looking a lot fresher, as well as long-term improvements in the appearance of old scars. These don't really have a fragrance, so if that's something that concerns you then go for these over the Pixi.

Ingredients Include: Cucumber Fruit Water, Lactic Acid, Glycolic Acid, Lemon Peel Extract

Nip + Fab Glycolic Fix Exfoliating Facial Pads | £12.99 (for 60)

I thought I'd mention these as a cheaper alternative to the First Aid Beauty (FAB) Pads. These are extremely similar to the  ones, though these also contain hyaluronic acid. The actual product works extremely similarly, however the reason I choose the FAB over these is that these contain harsh alcohols. It's a real shame as I feel these work virtually just as well both in the short and long term, but I don't want to dry out my dehydrated skin.

Ingredients Include: Glycolic Acid, Witch Hazel Water, Benzyl Alcohol, Lactic Acid

BHA Products I Rate

Una Brennan Salicylic Acid Clay Mask | £9.99

This is my #1 Salicylic Acid product and it's a treatment you apply and leave on for 5 minutes before rinsing. It does have a bit of a strong smell and it definitely feels tingly on the skin but the results for me are well worth it! Immediately afterwards, my skin looks brighter and by the following day any active breakouts are hugely improved and clear up by the day after that. When using this product make sure you cleanse afterwards; it goes deep into your pores so you may find it breaks you out even more if you don't cleanse your skin properly following use!

Ingredients Include: Kaolin, Shea Butter, Honey, Sweet Orange Peel Oil, Salicylic Acid

Within my routine I use BHAs when my skin is breaking out and then AHAs when my skin is clear but looking a little dull and lifeless. My skin type is combination but dehydrated at the same time, so depending on yours you may be better suited to using one or the other exclusively.

Have you tried AHAs or BHAs on your skin? What are your favourite products?


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  1. Great post! Definitely some products I need to try as I did even know what BHA was! X
    Emma | Emmys Beauty Cave

  2. Such a great informative post Jasmine! I especially love the Pixi Glow Tonic, it's definitely helped with my old scarring! I was thinking about trying out the Nip + Fab pads buts as I'm trying to use products with no/little alcohol I might give them a miss!

    Danielle's Beauty Blog

    1. i'm glad it was useful :) you could always try the FAB ones xx

  3. I've learnt so much from reading this, and you've really recommended some great products! The Pixi Glow Tonic is now firmly on my wishlist!
    Jodie // Jodie Loue

  4. Such a great post, I saw you recommend the FAB pads to someone on Twitter a few weeks ago which convinced me to try them out! It's really helped my breakouts and my sensitive skin doesn't react to it :)


  5. I love the Una Brennan mask!


  6. I've been looking for Pixi's glow tonic everywhere but it's nowhere to be found! It sounds amazing none the less <3
    She Will Be

    1. It really isn't the most accessible brand! If you're in the UK they do have a website though and it's usually stocked on ASOS and Cult Beauty xx

  7. Love this post, so informative and helpful (as always!). I think I really need to pick up the REN although I have heard the nip&fab glycolic mask is a dupe. I definitely will pick up the pixi glow tonic at some point though! xxx

    Karan|| studentbeautyhack

  8. This such an interesting post, I had no idea what ahas & bhas were! I really want to try the Pixi Glow Cleanser but I'm on a bit of a spending ban right now. I love the REN Glycolactic Radiance Renewal Mask is helps my skin look healthy and glowing.

    Roxie x
    The Beautiful Bluebird

  9. I've tried the Nip and Fab pads but I didn't find a great deal of improvement with them, the Soap and Glory scrub sounds like something I would give a go though :)

    Velvet Blush

  10. I love this! Thanks for breaking it down so it makes a lot of sense. I always got really confused between AHA's and BHA's. We just got the Pixi Glow Tonic in the States so I'll be picking that up for sure! I need to start incorporating these into my makeup routine :)
    Caked To The Nines

    1. It's a really great product for a gentle introduction to AHAs :) xx

  11. I never looked into these skincare terms too much so I loved reading this, thank you for explaining it so well. I definitely think these are treatments that I can give my skin once a week or something like that, as I feel like using these ingredients too often will be too harsh on my skin as a result x

    Beauty with charm

  12. This is such a helpful post and so clear and easy to read thanks Jasmine :)
    I have the Nip & Fab pads and I like them but I don't use them too often as I'm worried it'll start irritating my skin...but then because of the lack of regularity I don't see a huge difference either oh dear haha
    Will defo be looking out for the REN mask, it sounds wonderful!
    Iqra |The Blushing Giraffe x

  13. Thanks for the informative post. The Soap & Glory Scrub Your Nose in It sounds great, I must try this out. xx


  14. Brilliant post! Pixi Glow Tonic is a brilliant liquid exfoliator for daily or close to daily use. I've heard many great things about this Ren Mask. I really do need to give it a go x
    The Beauty Bloss

    1. Glad you enjoyed it :) I agree the Pixi is definitely the one I go for if I want something for almost daily use and is the one I think is the best 'first AHA' xx

  15. I am currently using the Pixi tonic and I am loving it but good to see some other products that I might like here too. Great post as ever!

    Pams Stuff and Things

  16. Such a shame about the Nip + Fab pads - if only they didn't contain alcohol!

    Rachel | www.currentlyrachel.com

  17. This is a great post! I am really interested in trying the Pixi Glow Tonic!

    Emma | thecashabeauty.com

  18. Fab post hun, so informative! I really need to keep an eye out for more BHA products as my skin is so oily at the moment it’s having a proper moment. I really love the Pixi Glow tonic it’s such a great product and like to use this daily. I will be on the lookout for the Una Brennan mask as it sounds fab :)

    Charlee XO | CharmedCharlee

    1. I hope you enjoy the Una Brennan mask :) xx

  19. Great post! I particularly want to try the First Aid Beauty Radiance Pads, they sound so great! And the Superfacialist Clay mask is one I cannot live without! x


  20. I love the AHA/BHA tips at the beginning. So often skin care will say "BHA" and so many people don't even know what that means. It's great when blogs help to explain. I'm not sur eif the Pixi toner is in the US or not. I'd love to give it a go.

    1. I believe it's been released in the US in the past couple of weeks (I want to say in Target) so definitely check it out :) xx

  21. Great post, Jasmine. I have been slowing building up a "Glossary" post for my blog of products etc thgat most people don't understand or know about. I forgot about AHA's and BHA's. Gonna add them now! :D

    Angie x | Chocolate & Lipstick || UK Beauty and Lifestyle Blog

  22. Thank you to everyone for your comments - I'm glad this post has been useful! xx

  23. Love this post as I'm a huge fan of these products. REN's Glycolactic Radiance Rebewal Mask has been a favourite of mine for years and I've heard great things about First Aid Beauty's pads so may give them a go soon, especially to deal with hyper pigmentation after the summer sun. Another one I really like is Dermalogica's Gentle Exfoliant, which I believe has lactic acid and you leave on for 10-15 mins before removing with a muslin cloth.
    Inma x

    1. Glad you enjoyed :D I've actually not come across that before so will definitely be checking out the Dermalogica!xx

  24. I've only just seen this post as you tweeted about it but thank you so much for it! I always see people blogging about AHAs and BHAs but I never know what it means lol. I've bought the nip and gab extreme glycolic fix pads and I can't wait to start using them!xx


  25. Hi Jasmine,
    this is a very informative post. I like the fact that the products you have shown are quite affordable. I have tried most of them! The Pixi glow tonic is the first acid toner I've tried. I remeber seeing great results after a month of it. After that I've tried the Clinique mild claryfing lotion (BHA, didn't like it), the FAB pads (too gentle for me...), the Nip and Fab pads, but the Extreme ones, which are very good. I'm also using some Bravura London products which you have to try!! They are great but definitely stronger. They also have a toner which is very similar to the Pixi one, almost with the same ingredients. But I'm using th salycilic and glycolic peelings at the moment which are giving me good results.

    The Glycolic mask from Ren is another mask I really want to try, along with the Caudalie detox mask (which should have some acids, if I'm not wrong).

    have a lovely day! :)


    1. Bravura is one of those brands I really want to try! I really recommend the Caudalie mask too :) xx


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