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Hi all,

After reading tons of topics on the acne.org forums, I'm still having a hard time understanding the difference between the two.

From what I know, both are exfoliants but AHA is water soluable and exfoliates on top of the skin. What does this do? Remove tops of pimples so they disappear faster?

BHA (Salicylic acid...?) is oil soluable and exfoliates by reducing swelling inside the pore. What does this do? Get rid of dead skin cells inside the pimple??

So basically my question is, which product should I use after I cleanse, and apply DKR's 2.5% BP?

SA or AHA? And cream form right?

Thanks all comments appreciated.

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Try reading this older thread:


AHAs exfoliate the surface of the skin. Glycolic acid in particular is a small molecule that penetrates to lower layers of the skin quite well. They get rid of the surface layer of dead skin cells, leaving your skin looking bright and healthy, and keeps those dead skin cells from blocking pores. Imho, AHA's are better for inflammatory acne, and just making your skin cells look better in general.

BHAs can exfoliate the dead skin cells along the lining of the pore, so it can help loosen old plugs and prevent new ones from reforming. It also has slight anti-inflammatory and antibacterial effects. It does not penetrate into lower levels of the skin very well. Imho, BHA is best for blackheads and non-inflammatory acne

Gel forms are generally a better choice for acne prone skin.

What kind of acne do you have? Decide on that basis. Either way, you should try both at different times and see for yourself what works best for your skin. I eventually started using both at the same time (but don't start out doing that cold turkey! you'll be very unhappy).

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Thank you for another detailed response.

I would classify my acne as mild. There are a few large pimples under my nose and on my forehead (~5), and the rest on my face are smaller bumps.


According to that video, she makes it sound like BHA's are a much better choice because they have more properties and can penetrate into the skin while AHA's can't...

However, Dan uses an AHA as a spot treatment. I'm so confused on which is a better choice for me.

Also, there are hardly any choices of BHA's for me to buy while there is a nice AHA cream on the counter of my local Walgreens.

Edited by MrBobioSmithio
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Lol, I didn't even realize I had replied to you before :P This does get a tad confusing.

AHAs (glycolic acid in particular) are usually smaller molecules, but are also water soluble. You have several layers of dead skin cells at the surface of your skin...AHA's are able to move past the first layer of dead cells and start exfoliating deeper layers as well. Because of this, they're able to stimulate collagen production and are a better choice for fighting wrinkles. However, they can't "penetrate" inside the pore very well, because pores are filled with sebum AND dead skin cells. AHA's are water soluble, and are repelled by the oil in the pore.

BHAs "penetrate" too, but in a different way. Because they are lipid soluble, they are able to mix into the sebum/dead skin cell mixture that blocks pores and exfoliate all the way down inside it. So they're great at exfoliating the skin cells that line the inside of the pore, and loosening up the comedone impaction.

Conventional wisdom says that BHA is better for acne/breakouts. But many people on this board and elsewhere has found that AHA's are in fact quite effective as well. In general, I believe the consensus is that AHAs are better for inflammatory acne, and BHAs are the first line of treatment for non-inflammatory acne.

This makes sense if you think about it. When a comedone becomes inflamed, it's usually already at the surface of the skin. It's therefore easy for an AHA to loosen up the impaction and reduce the inflammation.

BHAs on the other hand, can loosen up impactions that are much deeper in the skin, because they can penetrate into the pore.

My inference, and someone feel free to correct me if I'm wrong, is that Dan's acne is mostly inflammatory, which is why he's much more gung-ho about AHAs, and gave up on the BHA cream he was developing.

All this geeky science stuff aside, you should try both separately. There are just so many variables, its best to do your own experiment and then use the product that empirically works the best for you. If the Walgreens AHA cream is cheap and easily available, go for it (though the Neutrogena 3-in-1 Hydrating Acne Treatment (salicylic acid) should also be readily available).

If you want to make an educated first choice: Do you have a lot of inflammatory acne? Then try AHAs first. Do you have mostly blackheads, clogged pores, and uninflamed whiteheads? Then try BHA first.

I have to use both, because I get both :(

Edited by greentiger87
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I've tried both BHA and AHA, and in my opinion Dan's AHA moisturizer is superior. It acts as a moisturizer while exfoliating your skin, not to mention AHA is proven to reduce wrinkles, lines, and make your skin smoother. Add a couple drops of jojoba oil into the AHA moisturizer, and you've got a very good acne fighting super moisturizer on top of BP :)

Jojoba oil fights acne on its own also, it has a lot of uses, some of them are here:

-Penetrates skin and hair follices rapidly to reduce water loss

-Reduce wrinkles and stretch marks

-Cleans clogged pores and restores skin's natural pH balance

-Lighten skin marks and scars

-Pure jojoba oil is hypoallergenic

-Forms a good base for shampoos, conditioners and suntan lotions

-Used to treat eye and throat infections

and since it's composition is very very similar to the sebum oil our skin produces, it tricks the skin to produce less oil, which is good because our skin oil could clog pores and jojoba oil won't.

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and since it's composition is very very similar to the sebum oil our skin produces, it tricks the skin to produce less oil, which is good because our skin oil could clog pores and jojoba oil won't.

I don't blame you for believing this, because it's a widespread notion and really "romantic" in a way. But it's a myth that has been torn apart on this board multiple times. Jojoba is great because it doesn't clog most peoples pores, but it doesn't do any "tricking."

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