Both AHA and BHA can be used together with niacinamide to address skin concerns like acne, hyperpigmentation, uneven skin tone, rough skin texture, as well as fine lines and wrinkles.
However, with all these being active ingredients that do some sort of bioactivity in your skin, it’s essential to use them with caution and correctly.
Therefore, in this article, we’ll be discussing how to use AHA, BHA, and niacinamide together correctly and what precautions you should take.
What are AHAs?
AHAs, or alpha-hydroxy acids, are water-soluble acids naturally occurring in citrus fruits, sugar cane, and other sources.
When used topically, they break down the glue-like bonds that hold dead skin cells on the skin’s surface together, allowing them to be shed more quickly.
This action helps newer, plumper, and even-toned skin emerge from underneath, promoting a more youthful complexion.
AHAs are usually found in skincare products like cleansers, toners, serums, and even moisturizers, and concentrations vary between 0.5 and 10%.
The most common AHAs found in skincare products are:
What are BHAs?
BHAs (beta-hydroxy acids) are similar to AHAs, but they’re oil soluble and can penetrate deeper into the pores. This makes them particularly effective for treating blackheads, whiteheads, and other blemishes caused by clogged pores.
While there’s only one BHA commonly used in skincare products as an active ingredient — salicylic acid — there’s also another BHA known as citric acid, which is often found in skincare products and serves as a pH adjuster or a stabilizer instead of an active ingredient that actually provides any skincare benefits.
Salicylic acid, on the other hand, is an active ingredient found in cleansers, toners, spot treatments, and serums made for oily, acne-prone skin.
Concentrations can range between 0.5% (usually found in cleansers) and 2% (for toners, spot treatments, and serums.)
Salicylic acid works by cutting through the superficial oil on the skin’s surface and exfoliating away dead skin cells and oil trapped within the pores, which helps prevent clogging and ultimately reduces breakouts. It’s also an anti-inflammatory component, which can help reduce redness and irritation from acne.
What is Niacinamide?
Niacinamide is a form of vitamin B3 that has been shown to be effective in improving a number of skin concerns, including acne, uneven skin tone and texture, post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation, post-inflammatory redness, and rosacea.
It’s also loved by many because it’s gentle yet potent but is generally easily tolerated by all skin types, including sensitive and reactive skin.
Additionally, niacinamide is an antioxidant that can help protect the skin from environmental stressors like pollution and free radical damage.
And lastly, niacinamide is also an excellent hydrator and a barrier-repairing agent that helps renew the surface of the skin as well as prevent moisture loss and dehydration by helping the skin improve its natural production of barrier-strengthening ceramides.
Can You Mix AHA and BHA with Niacinamide?
Both AHAs and BHA can be mixed with niacinamide, and they can work together to address skin concerns like texture, hyperpigmentation, redness, uneven skin tone, and active acne.
However, using them together can be tricky as they are active ingredients, and too many actives can cause issues like sensitivity, irritation, and dryness.
Therefore, if you plan on trying out a product containing AHAs, BHA, and niacinamide, you should choose a product with a low percentage of the active ingredient.
Additionally, when mixing these actives, you should also do it in the correct order, which is why you always have to start with exfoliating on clean skin and leaving the exfoliant to work for a few minutes before applying the niacinamide.
There is also the option of using cleansers that contain AHAs or BHA and following it up with a leave-on niacinamide product.
However, cleansers that contain exfoliating acids often have a high pH due to the surfactants they contain, which isn’t ideal since acids work best at a lower pH, so anything high can actually irritate the skin instead of delivering any benefits.
Additionally, actives like exfoliating acids and niacinamide take time to work, so using them in a cleanser that you will rinse away isn’t the most efficient way to get their benefits.
Therefore, try to stick to leave-on products when it comes to these actives, but leave a few minutes between layers so that the products can adequately absorb and work.
Lastly, always apply sunscreen during the day, as exfoliating acids like AHAs and BHA can increase your skin’s sensitivity to the sun.
Ultimately, the best way to make sure you’re using products that contain these actives safely is to be mindful of how your skin reacts and adjust accordingly.
If you experience any adverse reactions, stop using the products for a few days and slowly reintroduce them on separate days and with a few days gaps in between.
That way, you can better monitor how your skin reacts and ensure you’re not doing more harm than good.
My name is Simone and I am a certified skin specialist. I created this website to teach my readers how to take great care of their skin and I also like to occasionally share my honest opinions on skincare products I’ve tried. You can learn more about me here.
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