Medically reviewed by Minimalist Health Specialist -  Written by Arpita Singh (Beauty Expert)  on 15th Sep 2020

No BS Guide to 30% AHA & 2 % BHA

Vitamin C with Hyaluronic Acid

Does your skin have a coarse texture? Rougher than the worn-out fabrics of an old quilt! No kidding.
When the unwanted dead skin cells are form an army, right at the uppermost surface of your skin, making you look old and dull. And your worst nightmare, a face with increased fine lines and wrinkles, becomes a possible reality for you.

On top of that, you can see breakouts on your face.

All of these indicates that you have clogged pores. And trapped within them, are microbes feasting on the excess sebum (oils secreted by the sebaceous glands, present beneath the skin).

Now, you may wonder, why is all hell breaking loose over you? With a double attack of skin troubles. To deal with the double, you can use a combination of alpha-hydroxy acids (AHA) and beta hydroxy acids (BHA), the two being hugely benefitting skincare treatments.

Wait, mixing acids? It may sound a little scary.

For fear of irritation, one runs away from using this combination. Well, it could have been a fact some years back, but now a mere talk of the past. Science has come a long way since then, and multiple studies prove that these two acids complement each other.

They act as chemical exfoliants and work together to overcome many skin problems, giving you an even skin tone and a youthful, radiant complexion.

But before you gear up for your little science experiment with acids, it is vital to know the right way of combining them to avoid any side effects and reap benefits of both of these potent exfoliants.

This guide will help you with everything (Benefits, Risks, Do’s, and Don'ts) you need to know before trying out this combo.  

What is meant by exfoliation? 

It is the process, by means of which, you remove the dead skin cells from the surface of your skin, either using a chemical, granular substance, or a physical exfoliation tool.

Although Physical exfoliants are widely popular in India, it does not suit most of the skin types. It can worsen your acne or increase skin sensitivity. Scrubbing has been a popular step in facials carried out at salons for ages in India (did you remember anyone ever checked your skin before rubbing it so harshly against those scrubs?)

It has become more popular with beaded face washes and many DIY scrubs floating on the internet (it's wise to think twice before jumping on to follow a trend).

Alternatively, chemical exfoliants use direct acids to remove buildup from both the skin's outer and inner layers.

Dr. Hasrhna Bijlani, Founder of Ageless Clinic, said that she prefers chemical exfoliants as they are gentle and do not damage skin like physical scrubs. She quotes

For exfoliation, I use an exfoliator that uses glycolic acid instead of beaded exfoliants that tend to damage the skin.

Chemical exfoliants are proven to be more effective than physical exfoliants as they remove dead cells from the deeper layer of the skin without damaging the skin's outer layer.

They are silent hard workers (so, you might miss the feeling of something being scrapped out of your skin) that flushes out debris and impurities from pores, leaving smooth baby-soft skin.  

Reasons for that pile of dead cells over your skin 

Many factors interrupt the process of desquamation, causing the dead skin cells to accumulate on the surface. . 

A.  Lack of exfoliation.

B. Neglecting the part of cleansing in your daily routines.

C. Using comedogenic skincare or beauty products.

D. Trusting the wrong moisturizer (Surprisingly, dehydrated or dry skin is more susceptible to the build-up of dead skin cells)

E. Cold and dry climates can also affect your skin’s ability to shed dead cells naturally.

F.  Sun sucks the moisture out of your skin.

G. Age is one significant factor as with age; your natural cell turnover decreases. 

What are AHAs and BHAs in the world of skincare?

AHAs (a.k.a. alpha hydroxy acids) 

They are water-soluble acids, usually preferred for dry and sun-damaged skin. They are naturally obtained from sugar cane (glycolic acid), milk (lactic acid), grapes (tartaric acid), oranges and lemons (citric acid), etc.

They peel away the dead skin cells, crowding on the surface so that the newly formed ones can replace them. They fight the signs of sun damage and help to restore the moisture of the skin.

Glycolic and lactic acids (mildest of all AHAs) are primarily used in skincare products as active ingredients. Tartaric and citric acids are used as subsidiary ingredients that help the active components perform better. 

BHAs (a.k.a. Beta hydroxy acids) 

They are oil-soluble acids, usually preferred for oily and acne-prone skin. Salicylic acid is the most commonly used BHA and is derived from the bark of a willow tree.

Salicylic acid breaks through the so formed layers of dead skin cells and penetrates deep into the pores. They flush out the excess sebum and skin debris from within the pores, giving you a healthy and sans acne skin.

The most typically used combination of AHAs and BHAs (readily available in the market) is AHA (glycolic acid) and BHA (salicylic acid).

The combination of AHA and BHA can also come in various other products, including cleansers, toners, foaming face washes, etc.

However, if your skin needs a heavy amount of exfoliation both on the surface and inside pores, nothing can beat the peeling solution combining these two acids. 

Minimalist Expert’s Advice:

You can use AHA and BHA together either in one formulation or separately but carefully mind the concentration you use together in the second case. No more than 30% Glycolic acid and 2% Salicylic acid should be applied together (this is only for rinse off). Choosing a peeling solution that combines both in one gives you an added advantage of similar pH and stable formula. 

What does the peeling solution do? 

Firstly, you need to know about the two active ingredients used in the product. They are glycolic acid (30%) and salicylic acid (2%).

The two acids unite in strength, and work together to mend (initially) and even cure (perhaps, a long-term result) many skin concerns. There are tons of tested benefits from each.

You can follow our guide on these ingredients: Glycolic Acid guide and Salicylic Acid guide for more insights. 

Benefits of 30% AHA and 2% BHA peeling solution 

  • Erodes dead skin cells from the surface, resulting in smooth texture 
  • Lightens dark spots, acne scars, age spots, and sunspots for radiant even skin tone. 
  • Functions as an anti-aging formula reduce deep wrinkles and cut fine lines to a minimum, giving you a youthful complexion. 
  • It has anti-inflammatory properties, which relieves the burning sensation around acne, rosacea, and other skin concerns. 
  • Penetrates deep into the pores thanks to Salicylic acid, and sweeps the excess sebum and skin debris out of them which lead to acne-free skin 
  • Penetrates deep into the pores thanks to Salicylic acid, and sweeps the excess sebum and skin debris out of them which lead to acne-free skin 
  • Fights the blackheads and whiteheads efficiently. Also, it prevents them from attacking your skin further, anytime again. 
  • Fights the blackheads and whiteheads efficiently. Also, it prevents them from attacking your skin further, anytime again. 
  • Enhances the collagen production in the skin, helping you to look young and plump (eliminating the sagginess of the skin) 
  • Tightens the pores and visibly reduces the pore size giving you a flawless look. 

These are only the top proven benefits of this unique peeling combo. There are many benefits that these ingredients can deliver, but more research is needed to claim the same. One, which is coming as a breakthrough, is Glycolic acid's ability as a UV protector (not just reversing photodamage).

There are a limited number of formulations that give this unique combo of direct acids. Minimalist offers a stable 30% Glycolic acids and 2% Salicylic acid peeling solution under the name 30% AHA and 2% BHA Weekend Exfoliating Facial.

How is Minimalist AHA - BHA Peeling Solution unique?

  • A whopping 30% AHA & 2% BHA blend formulated at a pH of 3.6 for maximum effectiveness.  
  • A soothing peeling solution formulated with Tasmanian Pepperberry derivative and pure Aloe juice to calm skin irritation commonly associated with peeling. 
  • All ingredients are sourced from leading global suppliers such as Fortune 500 Chemours Company, USA, and Vantage, US. 
  • Fragrance-free, Odor-free, and Clean Formulation 
Liquid error: product form must be given a product

Now that you have grabbed your magic wand, it is time to learn some spells.  

How to use 30% AHA- 2% BHA Peeling Solution

  • Clean your face with a gentle SLS free cleanser and apply and then pat it dry. Apply a thick layer of the peeling solution on face carefully avoiding eyes and lips.
  • You can use the chemical peel on your face, or on and around the neck region. Or, both the face and the neck region. It all depends on you and where you particularly intend to see the results. 
  • Leave it for a maximum period of 10 minutes. Although, if you are new with the skincare acids, it is suggested to go less than 10 minutes (5 - 6 minutes)

    (Don't leave the peel for too long. As you only want to remove the superficial damaged layers of your skin and not all. Doing so, can disrupt the skin's protective barrier and expose the raw skin underneath that isn't prepared to face the world right yet.)
  • Rinse off with lukewarm water and make sure to remove the solution properly. 
  • Back the exfoliants up, using a super-hydrating moisturizer (do not choose one with active ingredients such as Retinol or other direct acids) or hydrate with Hyaluronic acid. 

You can use the peeling solution twice a week. But the ones who are starting new, stick sharp to applying it only once a week.

With consistent use, you can slowly develop the tolerance to the acids. After you have become habituated to the product, you can upgrade its frequency, and apply it twice every week. 

Several dermatologists suggest using the peeling solution in the PM (at night). 

Sunburn Alert:

Glycolic acid (being an AHA) increases the cell turnover rate and causes rapid exfoliation of dead skin cells on your skin's surface. This, in turn, increases the sensitivity of your skin to the sun. So always wear a sunscreen while using this peeling solution.

Efficacy of a topical Vitamin C serum depends a lot on the concentration & form of Vitamin C used and stability of the formulation. Know more

BFFs of AHA - BHA peeling

Hyaluronic acid is an excellent addition to your skincare routine. It hydrates the skin and helps it to retain moisture for a long time. It makes sure that the two acids (used in the peel) are not too mean or harsh to your skin. 

2% Hyaluronic Acid Serum can be best addition to your routine while using AHA BHA peeling solution.

Does not go along with AHA-BHA peeling

Retinol is a straight no. You should never use it after a chemical peel. Even, strictly avoid using it on the same day as you use the peel. It may lead to excessive skin sensitivity, irritation, and redness. 

Benzoyl peroxide with the peeling solution (AHA + BHA). Should you? Please, don't. If you use them together, you will become nothing but a big red and flaky mess. You can use it in your daily routine but not on the same as AHA-BHA peel.

Serums and skincare products with high pH > 4.5 (such as Niacinamide) will cancel the effect of acids. You can add them to your daily routine and skip on weekends after peeling. 

Other exfoliating ingredients or serums with active ingredients that cause further exfoliation, such as direct acids, Vitamin C, Kojic acid, can cause more irritation and redness when used after peeling. You can add them as a daily skincare routine except for the day of peeling. 

Wow! It seems AHA-BHA peeling solutions do not have a lot of friends here. At Minimalist, experts advise keeping your night skincare routine simple the day you do peeling. Just cleaning, peeling, hydrating and moisturizing is all that you need. 

Side Effects

As you may have noticed, the product has a high concentration of acids, but it is still milder than chemical peels used at Doctor's office. This peeling solution only provides superficial peeling i.e.; it does not damage the skin layers beneath.

Using one such can cause a little tingling on your skin (very similar to bleaching if you have ever used it). But don't worry. That is entirely normal.

The irritation, too, lasts for a week or two. As your skin adapts more to the acids, the irritation subsequently decreases.

However, if you experience a painful stinging, burning sensation, or redness on your skin, wash off the peel immediately. Don't resume the applications. Talk to a dermatologist soon, and explain all the symptoms you have faced while using it.

Always perform a patch test over a small area of your skin, and carefully observe it for 48 hours. If no significant irritation or burns occur, you are good to go with the product. 

Recommended Age for AHA-BHA

The 30% AHA and 2% BHA are completely safe to be used once a week by anyone above 13 years of age, i.e., teens and adults can use it safely.

The peeling solution is for unisex consumption. Many in the time frame between their 20's - 30's, start using the chemical peels. Teenagers can use the product as well to handle their very first acne breakouts. 

A note of caution:

The combination of AHA (30%) + BHA (2%) is recommended to be used only if you are an experienced user of acid exfoliation. If you are the first time face acid user, start with 10% Lactic Acid in case of dry skin and 2% Salicylic acid in case of oily skin for 3-4 weeks, and then you can try the ultimate AHA - BHA peeling solution.

It is advised that the peeling solution should not be used on sensitive, abraded, broken (wounded) or compromised skin. 

The peeling solution should not be used during pregnancy because it contains salicylic acid (functioning as an active ingredient), which may cause harm to the applicant. In the case of breast-feeding women, extreme caution needs to be exercised. Please discuss it with your dermatologist first. 

Tips for maximum benefits 

  •  Your skin needs adequate hydration. Layering the heavily concentrated acids on your skin can make it dry and flaky. You must keep your skin well hydrated. 
  •  While using the product, you should always protect yourself from the sun's direct rays (already mentioned earlier). Even when you are done with the skincare acid treatment, apply sunscreen daily (at least, for a month thereafter). Following the intensive exfoliation, your skin becomes more prone to sun damage. 
  • Don't hanker behind the results. This way, there's a chance you go overboard. It is not safe to leave the product on for too long or apply it more than recommended. It will only create hassles for you. Some big unmanageable ones! Start slow, and follow the instructions strictly. 

Can the peeling solution cause purging, or lead to breakouts?

Are you facing breakouts after using a chemical peel? Then, just relax because they are totally normal. Chemical peels accelerate the cell turnover, and you undergo a purging phase right when you start with your skincare acid routine. Initially, you may notice breakouts and the areas of pigmentation getting darker. However, all such things will settle down soon.

For the purging to come to an end, it may take a maximum of 2-3 weeks (after, you begin with the skincare acid regime). If the purge lasts longer than 4 weeks, quit using the product, and consult a dermatologist. He/she may revise the frequency of application of the product, or adjust the dosage. Or, suggest an alternative. 

The Bottom Line

AHA-BHA peeling solution can give you a facial-like glow in just 10 minutes. Along with instant glow, it also addresses long term skin issues such as fine lines, sun damage, aging, acne, etc.

As you are familiar with the old (yet, gold) fact, it takes a maximum of 4-6 weeks for any skincare product to show its earliest improvement signs. It goes the same for the peeling solution.

Nevertheless, you can still notice some changes (nothing major), right after your first use.

At the end of 12 weeks or so, you may meet a younger, brighter, and acne-free version of your skin. 

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