Short answer: Yes. Sorta.
Long answer: …
It is safe to use AHAs and BHAs together in moderation. Both (as you know) are chemical exfoliants that help break down the glue between dead cells to promote skin renewal, but they do a little extra too. AHAs play on a spectrum that is known to help soften fine lines and discolouration, while BHAs perform best at unclogging pores and clearing congestion.
Because they target such different concerns you can get away with alternating between the two. But doing so safely means this should never happen back-to-back, in the same routine. We mean it.
Exfoliation is a once-only deal. Your skin can only handle so much of a ‘refresh’. So you might:
- Use AHAs in the morning, BHAs in the evening
- Use AHAs one night, BHAs the next
- Apply AHAs all over the face, and use BHAs as a follow up spot treatment
- Apply BHAs to breakout-y zones, and AHAs everywhere else
Frequent use of two different kinds of acids is entirely dependent on your skin type and skin concerns. Not everyone can tolerate this style of ‘layering’ (much less acids alone!). And it’s best to seek advice from a trusted dermatologist before arranging your routine as such. Going too hard, too soon, can really damage the skin and sensitise your barrier. Over-exfoliation results in redness, roughness and dryness. Even breakouts.
“With exfoliation, you can have too much of a good thing. When you mix exfoliators it can be hard to control how much exfoliation you are actually promoting because between products the dose will vary and, as each acid works in a different way, there can sometimes be a synergy and you end up with far more exfoliation then expected. If you are still determined to find your optimal combo then keep changes gradual and be aware of other factors that could also influence this such as the weather, and other ingredients in your routine (retinoids, vitamin c.).” Nick Reed, Technical Manager.
Let’s quickly touch on that last point too, our beloved mate, vitamin c (hello Much Brighter Skin user-ers!). This is yet another active ingredient you should be keeping a close eye on when it comes to exfoliation. Applying vitamin c directly after using AHAs or BHAs isn’t a total dealbreaker, but some skin specialists recommend separating these in fear of aggravating the skin more so. Keeping exfoliants for the PM and vitamin c for the AM.
Essentially, what it comes down to, is really knowing your skin and just how much it can tolerate.
Start very slow, and see how you go/glow.