Medically reviewed by Minimalist Health Specialist -  Written by Akruti Khandkar (Journalist)  on 2nd Nov 2020

Everything about Chemical Exfoliation- The role of AHA and BHA and PHA

Everything about Chemical Exfoliation

WExfoliation would be your doctor's #1 skin trick, and it truly works. Perhaps the most straightforward approaches to achieve glow, help clear up your skin, limit the sun damage, and keep up a delightful appearance is to exfoliate consistently.

Exfoliating not only clears the dead skin cells, pollution, germs, grime, and cosmetics but also cleans up your pores to make your skin look more brilliant and silkier. It likewise permits any serums, medicines, and lotions you apply after that to enter to work its magic.

Regular or weekly exfoliation depends on your skin type and how delicate it is. Skin cells regularly recover every month or so.  

What is the role of exfoliation?  

It is a speedy method of eliminating dead skin. It can do everything from lighting up your appearance to blurring skin acne scars.  

What are the benefits of chemical exfoliation? 

Exfoliating your skin awards you with several benefits, including smoother reveal, stimulating cell turnover, hydrated skin cells, unclogging pores and congestion, increased absorption of daily serums and moisturizers, facilitating lymphatic drainage for internal cleansing, and rousing of oxygen-rich blood to nourish the skin's surface.

Be it physical or chemical exfoliants, both benefit you in their own way, but chemical exfoliants give you the full package! They not only uncover a more radiant, smoother, and refined skin; they additionally improve the general look and feel of the skin in only one treatment.  

Different advantages of getting a chemical exfoliation include:  

Types of exfoliation  

Two sorts of exfoliation exist: chemical and physical. The chemical type, comprising a plethora of acids, has gotten progressively famous lately.

However, there are still some debates over what it is and which acids are ideal to utilize. It is what you must know.  

What is a chemical exfoliant?

Chemical exfoliants are acids that dispose of dead skin cells. They come in different compounds. More fragile formulations can be purchased over the counter, while a dermatologist generally applies stronger ones as a chemical peel.

Chemical exfoliators are fluid, natural product acids which break up dead skin cells. They may contain oil-soluble product acids (like salicylic acid), which break down hard oil developed in the pores.
Chemical exfoliants assist cells with shedding more indirectly than physical exfoliants, which works utilizing contact between the scrub or tool and the skin.  

How do chemical exfoliants work?

  • normalizing cell turnover is how rapidly cells in the epidermis die and move to the stratum corneum, pushing old cells out. Exfoliants do this by making a trip to living cells under the dead layer and instructing them to change how they act – in more specialized terms. They follow up on receptors to upregulate cell division.  
  • unsticking the cell glue by grabbing the dead cells together in the stratum corneum and breaking down the glue, holding them together. 

What is Physical Exfoliation? 

Physical exfoliants accelerate our natural shedding or exfoliating rate, which keeps the skin delicate, smooth, and reliable. It helps, when we age, the standard shedding process diminishes.

A physical exfoliant is a tool or a product that requires scouring or cleaning activity. These incorporate your skincare brushes, scrubs, loofahs, sponges, and muslin. This exfoliation pushes the free dead skin cells from the highest layer of the skin utilizing physical exfoliants.

As per Dr. Davin Lim, a board-certified dermatologist, you get immediate results from physical exfoliants and chemical exfoliants. Physical exfoliating skincare items contain minuscule particles, for example, sugar, salt grains, jojoba dots, or nutshell granules to eliminate dead skin cells.

Skincare equations range from delicate to harsh contingent upon the particles utilized. According to Dr. Lim, the most significant disadvantage is that physical exfoliators work on the outer skin and can sometimes be harsh on your skin. Instead, go for natural exfoliators, he adds. 

Which one to pick- chemical or physical exfoliator 

Chemical exfoliators are better for almost all skin types since they are more productive. They likewise include advantages like hydrating the skin and diminishing pigmentation. They target breakouts as well. Chemical exfoliants are gentler than physical exfoliants, generally because it's less prone to damage the skin. Nonetheless, how well it works relies typically upon the ingredients of the item. An inadequately formulated product probably won't work, or it may function admirably that it bothers your skin and causes uneven pigmentation and chemical burns. 

Are there various chemical exfoliation types?  

There are three primary sorts of chemical exfoliants. All are acids. However, some are gentler and less penetrative than others.

What role do AHA exfoliants play?

An AHA is an alpha hydroxy acid. It has a more significant atomic structure, so it chips away at the skin's more shallow layers. Lactic acid is one of the AHA—which is a hydrating formulation. AHA's (alpha-hydroxy acids like malic, lactic, glycolic, tartaric acids) act to disturb the bonds holding dull, dead skin on the uppermost level.
In general, they will originate from organic products. However, they can likewise be created artificially.

AHA exfoliants are generally useful for dry skin with cutting edge indications of maturing.  

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Here are some pointers to keep in mind: 

1. AHAs Treat and Prevent acne  

AHAs can be helpful for the various kinds of skin breakouts because all breakouts begin as microcomedones. Chemical exfoliation forestalls microcomedones from framing and acts as an acne security agent. 

2. AHAs Reduce Hyperpigmentation  

AHAs can be an effective treatment to diminish hyperpigmentation since they eliminate the cells in the epidermis that are obscured with a lot of melanin. AHAs like lactic acid and glycolic acid, likewise represses melanin from framing.  

3. AHAs Improve Sun Damage  

Like the advantages of decreasing hyperpigmentation, AHAs improve skin issues related to sun damage. AHAs have been studied for a long time for their beneficial outcomes on photoaged skin.  

4. AHAs Prevent Dehydration

Hydrating serums and lotions can eliminate the topmost layer of dead skin cells, preventing the skin's dehydration

5. AHAs Result in Smoother Skin

Acne-prone and oily skin may have unpleasant surfaces that aren't because of dryness and flakiness, yet because of acne scarring. AHAs can't arrive at the tissues harmed by acne. However, AHAs lessen the presence of acne scarring, departing smoother skin.  

What role do BHA exfoliants play?  

A BHA is a beta hydroxy acid. It has a more modest sub-atomic structure, so it infiltrates the deeper layers of the skin. It can likewise make its way into the pores to break up oil development. BHA's are oil-solvent acids. For example, Salicylic acid is one of the BHA. BHA's work more actively than AHA's, and are usually found in lower formulations.  

1. BHAs for Oily Skin  

BHAs like salicylic acid are a distinct advantage at ending the oil creation and managing the skin's moisture balance for oily skin types. Furthermore, BHAs enter pores, unclog them, and make them appear smaller. 

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Salicylic Acid 2% Face Serum
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2. BHAs Fight Acne  

The capacity of BHAs to disintegrate oil in pores makes them comedolytic, a logical term that implies BHAs can break up comedones. BHAs stifle the bacteria that causes skin inflammation and ventures deep enough to unclog pores, making them a viable treatment to battle breakouts.  

3. BHAs Reduce Hyperpigmentation  

BHAs are particularly compelling at improving hyperpigmentation because of aggravation. It is uplifting news for individuals who experience scarring and staining from provocative skin inflammation.

4. BHAs Encourage Anti-Aging  

The chemical exfoliation properties of BHAs invigorate cell reestablish

What role do PHA exfoliants play?  

A more up to date, the class of hydroxy acids are the polyhydroxy acids (PHAs). PHAs cause less irritation than AHAs and BHA and don't hamper sun sensitivity.
PHAs' working process is similar to AHAs. The thing that matters is that PHA particles are more significant, so they can't enter as profoundly. According to NCBI, PHAs are more compatible with clinically sensitive skin, including atopic dermatitis and rosacea, and can be used after cosmetic procedures.

They are additionally said to build skin elasticity and restrain matrix metalloproteinases, which separate collagen and lead to wrinkles and sagging. It's difficult to say with surety that they work since the handful of studies on them don't show any accurate results.  

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Confused about what type of exfoliator to use?  

AHAs are regularly used to improve skin tone and mellow regions of discoloration. BHAs, then again, is ideal for acne-prone, oily skin because of their pore-unclogging properties.

However, if you have profoundly delicate skin, a less meddling PHA exfoliant might be the course to go down.

Whichever acid you choose to utilize, start slowly. Start by applying once per week to perceive how your skin responds, expanding to a few times each week if no aggravation happens.

Still not seeing outcomes following two months. Change to an alternate compound.  


Chemical exfoliation is a viable and straightforward approach to get that sparkle!

Make sure to begin gradually with a low fixation. To sort out your skin's ideal exfoliating balance, go slowly from the outset. Never utilize an item more frequently than suggested and consult before layering the products in a similar meeting. As your skin adjusts to exfoliation, you can increase the rate you utilize a few items, yet the second your skin begins to feel irritated, quit using.

When you locate the sweet spot for your skin, the outcomes ought to be perceptible—smoother, fresher, more splendid, and more precise, with a sparkle that'll make everyone stare!