AHAs and BHAs: Your Path to Smooth Skin
AHAs and BHAs: Your Path to Smooth Skin

Whether it’s bumpy skin from your teenage acne or dry flaky skin because of winter, exfoliation is an excellent way to get rid of dead skin and initiate skin renewal. However, many people do not realize the harm that physical exfoliants cause – those little beads you love scrubbing your face with? They might cause micro-tears in your skin, and result in bacteria buildup, causing more acne and skin problems. To avoid this hassle, ditch your St. Ives Apricot Scrub and jump onboard the AHA BHA train!

Physical vs. Chemical Exfoliants

While AHAs and BHAs have always been popular skincare ingredients, K-Beauty has definitely brought them to the forefront of skincare formulation. However, many consumers still remain confused between the two types of chemical exfoliators, and between physical and chemical exfoliators in general. This article will not only break down the different kinds of AHAs and BHAs, but also provide you with product recommendations so you, too, can have the smooth skin you deserve!

Physical Exfoliants

Physical exfoliants are the typical face scrubs you’re used to – the ones with little beads or rough texture that feel oh-so-satisfying to massage onto your skin. Your skin feels baby soft afterwards and immediate gratification can be a pretty big motivator to use physical exfoliators. However, we do have a tendency to go overboard, and often over-exfoliate, resulting in dry, tight-feeling skin.

While not all physical exfoliators are harsh, chemical exfoliators are so much better to use, and have benefits beyond removing dead skin. Read on to find out why chemical exfoliators are taking over!

Chemical Exfoliants

At first glance, chemical exfoliants and acids may sound frightening, but there’s no need to worry – chemical exfoliators such as AHAs, BHAs, and PHAs gently remove dead skin by dissolving it instead of physically scrubbing it away. In addition to exfoliation, different types of acids can help brighten your skin, improve hyperpigmentation, fight acne, and much more!

AHAs vs BHAs


Alpha Hydroxy Acids, or AHAs, are water-soluble compounds that work on the skin’s surface to exfoliate, brighten, and smoothen skin. These are present in both, nature and can be synthetically formulated, with the 6 main AHAs being glycolic acid, lactic acid, mandelic acid, citric acid, malic acid, and tartaric acid.


Beta Hydroxy Acids, or BHAs, are oil-soluble, and can penetrate the skin deeply. This is why they are used to clean pores, control sebum production, and fight acne and blackheads. While other acids like tropic acid are considered BHAs, salicylic acid is the main BHA used in skincare. It is also known as willow bark.

What’s the Difference?

While both AHAs and BHAs are both chemical exfoliants, AHAs are water-soluble while BHAs are oil-soluble. BHAs can penetrate the skin more deeply than AHAs and are usually used for concerns that go beyond the surface of the skin. AHAs also increase your skin’s sensitivity to the sun, making it essential to use sunscreen. BHAs also require sunscreen (since you should wear sunscreen after all types of exfoliation) but do not result in as much photosensitivity.

Which One to Choose

This depends on your skin concern and what you require. For surface-level concerns, AHAs are your best bet. Glycolic acid is a fan-favorite, while Lactic acid is preferred by those with sensitive skin. AHAs are also preferred by those with dry skin since they are hydrating and collagen-boosting (glycolic acid). If you want to repair sun damage, AHAs are the best choice for you.

For deeper concerns, BHAs will be your best friend. If you have clogged pores or oily skin, BHAs will help clarify your skin. Since BHAs go deeper into the skin, they unclog pores, and reduce redness and irritation. They are also good for reducing sebum production, dark spots, as well as blackheads. BHAs are amazing for acne-related concerns and are great for those who have issues concerning acne, pores, redness, irritation, blackheads, rosacea, fine lines, etc.

Using both AHAs and BHAs

Many products these days contain both AHAs and BHAs. While using both together, remember to be careful not to irritate your skin. Start out slowly, using the products twice and week, and then slowly building up your tolerance. Products that use both chemical exfoliants are thought to result in fuller skin and increased collagen production.

AHA Product Recommendations

Isntree : Clear Skin 8% AHA Essence

This essence uses two AHAs, glycolic acid and lactic acid to improve skin texture by removing keratin from the surface. This cleanses pores, smoothens skin texture, and results in overall clearer skin. With glycolic acid being especially effective for treating fine lines and wrinkles, and lactic acid being an amazing treatment for hyperpigmentation, this essence not only evens out skin tone, but also results in firmer skin.

However, because of these powerful ingredients and their potential to be sensitizing to your skin, this formula includes many soothing ingredients including allantoin, panthenol, centella asiatica extract, portulaca oleracea extract, morus alba bark extract, aloe vera, and cucumber. By focusing on hydration using sodium hyaluronate, glycerin, and butylene glycol, this essence reduces irritation and redness, and is suitable for both, oily and dry skin types.

Check out other best selling items by Isntree.

BHA Product Recommendations

Benton : Aloe BHA Skin Toner

This soothing toner is sensitive skin friendly and consists of 80% aloe water to make sure that your skin is sufficiently hydrated and does not get irritated. Along with snail secretion filtrate, glycerin, hyaluronic acid, beta-glucan, and arginine, this toner aims to thoroughly moisturize skin while also providing gentle exfoliation. This BHA toner targets rough skin texture with salicylic acid, and effectively removes dead skin without causing redness or sensitivity.

Additionally, niacinamide makes sure to control acne as well as control sebum production, resulting in more balanced skin. Gentle enough to use daily, this toner is not only great for those with sensitive skin, but also for dry and oily skin types.

Those looking for greener options will adore this product since it comes in eco-friendly packaging, uses eco-friendly ink and tape, and uses recycled materials for delivery.

Check out other best selling items by Benton.

Innisfree : Bija Trouble Skin Toner

Formulated to target acne, exfoliate flaky skin, and remove impurities, this toner uses naturally derived salicylic acid and bija oil to remove dead skin and clean out pores. The noncomedogenic formula ensures that any potential acne will not worsen, and that pores will not be clogged.

While willow bark extract (salicylic acid) is used for thorough exfoliation, bija seed oil strengthens the skin barrier and works alongside soothing ingredients like green tea and tocopherol to protect the skin from irritation. Hydrating ingredients like urea, betaine, and butylene glycol make this a treat to use on your skin, resulting in not only smooth, but also baby soft skin.

AHA/BHA Product Recommendations

COSRX : AHA/BHA Clarifying Treatment Toner

This COSRX AHA BHA toner uses glycolic acid and salicylic acid to exfoliate your skin and even out texture. It aids in preventing blackheads and whiteheads by keeping excess sebum at bay, removing dead skin, and by sufficiently hydrating your skin.

Because it uses two exfoliants, this toner includes soothing ingredients to ensure that one’s skin is not irritated – these include willow bark water, allantoin, and panthenol. Humectants and moisturizers such as sodium lactate and butylene glycol also help to keep the skin hydrated, further preventing irritation and dryness.

Some By Mi : AHA-BHA-PHA 30 Days Miracle Cream

This moisturizer uses AHAs, BHAs, and PHAs to target impurities and dead skin, resulting in soft, supple skin. With a non-sticky texture, it is comfortable to apply, and sinks into the skin quickly. In addition to resurfacing the skin, this cream also strengthens the skin barrier by using calming and hydrating ingredients.

Boasting soothing ingredients such as centella asiatica extract, turmeric root extract, calendula flower extract, green tea, willow bark extract, allantoin, and madecassoside, this moisturizer manages to protect the skin while also thoroughly exfoliating it. In addition to three powerful exfoliants, niacinamide is used for its sebum control, acne control, and brightening properties. By exfoliating, hydrating, and protecting the skin, this multi-use product is sure to impress all who use it.

Check out other best selling items by Some by Mi.

AHAs and BHAs : K-Beauty Favorites for Wholesale at UMMA

With the AHA BHA craze increasing day by day, and K-Beauty products being in such high demand, it is the perfect time to consider stocking your store with Korean skincare. Since it’s affordable, effective, and popular, it will practically fly off the shelves, resulting in the happiness of your customers, and a healthy profit for your business.

Stocking up on K-Beauty products has never been this easy – simply visit UMMA, the K-Beauty wholesale e-commerce platform you need for all of your business needs. Not only do we handle sourcing products, but we provide product recommendations, exclusive benefits, and faster shipping methods. Register now and get a registration bonus you can use on your first purchase.

Want more k-beauty content?

Register free
and Sign in

members have access to our one stop shopping site. we provide hand-pick best & trending brands sourced for competitive wholesale prices straight from korea. it’s as simple as pick, pay, and track right to your doorstep.

yes, sign me up!