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Acids in Skincare - AHAs, BHAs and PHAs - the Alphabet Soup Your Skin's Been Craving

Acids in Skincare - AHAs, BHAs and PHAs - the Alphabet Soup Your Skin's Been Craving

Acids in skincare? You might be picturing wild lab explosions and a mad scientist laughing maniacally over a bubbling beaker (no Aaron, we’re not talking about you!).

Yet, in the realm of radiant skin, exfoliating acids are unsung heroes, helping with everything from skin brightening to pore minimising and pigmentation busting.

Curious to learn more? Here’s a simple guide to understanding common exfoliating acids — AHAs, BHAs and PHAs — and why they’re so darn good for your skin.

Is it safe to use acids on your skin?

Exfoliating acids (like AHAs, BHAs, and PHAs) are chemical exfoliators that clear away dead cells from the skin's surface and penetrate into the pores to help clear breakouts. As your skin renews itself, these exfoliators ensure no old cells overstay their welcome, helping you achieve that enviable glow.

The word ‘chemical’ here does not mean that there are industrial chemicals in your skincare! It refers to the fact that these acids, which are often derived from plants and fruits, cause a mild chemical reaction in the skin.

Your skin itself is mildly acidic; the combination of sweat and oil form a protective acid mantle, (your skin barrier) which shields against pollutants, bacteria, and free radicals. So, a well-balanced acid product won't leave you looking like Freddy Krueger, but will rather fine-tune your skin's pH levels, making it look and feel just right.

If you’ve heard a scary story or two about acids leaving skin vulnerable and irritated, this would’ve been a case of over-enthusiasm, applying too many of them, not adhering to directions, or choosing the wrong acid for your skin type.

If used correctly, the right kinds of acids can be a skin's best friend, not its arch nemesis!

What’s the difference between AHAs, BHAs, and PHAs?

These clever little acronyms stand for alpha-hydroxy acids, beta-hydroxy acids, and poly-hydroxy acids. 

Alpha-hydroxy Acids (AHAs):

AHAs are water-soluble acids that leave your skin looking brighter and smoother. They do this by sinking into the surface of your skin and dissolving the ‘glue’ that binds old skin cells together, allowing them to be exfoliated away.

Many AHAs are also humectants, drawing moisture to the skin, making them slightly more hydrating than other exfoliating acids. This means AHAs are the go-to acid for normal to dry skin types.

The top dogs in this category are glycolic acid and lactic acid, which have been the mainstay of peels and exfoliators for decades.

Here at Woohoo, rather than using glycolic acid or lactic acid, we source our AHAs from fruits. Think: bilberry, sugar, maple, lemon, and orange extracts (which contain naturally occurring glycolic, lactic, tartaric, malic and citric acid - the least potent, and most gentle of the AHAs). 

Together these ingredients help remove dead skin cells, prevent clogged pores, smooth the surface of your skin, and gently renew the skin barrier to prevent breakouts. Find them in our This Is Me Enzyme Exfoliating Mask

'This Is Me' Enzyme Exfoliating Mask


Beta-hydroxy Acids (BHAs):

Where AHAs are water lovers, BHAs favour oil, allowing them to penetrate deeper into your skin (generally making them a bit stronger than AHAs). The most popular BHA for skincare is salicylic acid.

The antibacterial properties of BHAs and their knack for diving deep make them heroes at treating oily, acne-prone skin and enlarged pores. Think of BHAs as your skin's personal janitors, sweeping away blockages and blemishes (like blackheads and whiteheads) from pores.

We’ve included fruit-derived BHAs in our This Is Me Enzyme Exfoliating Mask so your skin can experience all that congestion-busting goodness. 

Poly-hydroxy Acids (PHAs):

Meet the most laid-back member of the acid family. PHAs, with their larger molecular size, take a gentler approach and won't penetrate your skin as deeply as AHAs and BHAs.

PHAs focus on your skin's topmost layers, offering hydration and minimising the risk of irritation. Ideal for those with sensitive skin, you'll find PHAs in our ‘Mud About You’ Pink Clay Mask and ‘You’ve Got This’ Charcoal Cleansing Gel, refining skin texture, improving the appearance of pigmentation, and evening tone sans the fuss of a skin peel.

DISCONTINUED - 'Mud About You' Pink Clay Mask


'You've Got This' Charcoal Cleansing Gel 100ml



Pesky spots or ingrown hairs on the bikini line? Dark areas on the underarms? With the balanced blend of AHAs, BHAs, and PHAs in This Is Me Enzyme Exfoliating Mask, smoother, blemish-free skin is just a sweep of goop away. Start with a swift 2-minute application and gradually dial it up to 20 (please refer to our product directions for more details). And voila! Watch your skin transform.