Alpha and beta hydroxy acids--AHA and BHA--are mild chemical exfoliants derived from organic sources like citrus fruits, sugar cane and willow bark. Commonly used in superficial chemical peels, both AHA and BHA work by buffing away dead surface cells to uncover the healthier skin beneath. Despite this similarity, however, water-soluble AHAs are frequently used to treat dry skin, while lipid-soluble BHA is better suited to oily complexions, explains “The Complete Beauty Bible.”
AHA and BHA chemical peels are available in a variety of preparations, including prescription-strength, dermatologist administered treatments and less-concentrated, over-the-counter products. Homemade peels using simple household ingredients offer a third, milder option.
AHA Chemical Peel
Pour the cane sugar and yogurt into a bowl. The ingredients are sources of glycolic acid and lactic acid, members of the alpha hydroxy family.
Stir the ingredients together to create a slightly granulated paste.
Use your fingertips to spread a generous layer of the sugar and yogurt mix over your face, avoiding the eyes.
Let the peel sit for 10 to 15 minutes before removing with cool water.
BHA Chemical Peel
Combine the baking soda and water in a bowl. Stir to dissolve, then set aside. This is the neutralizer for the acid.
Place the aspirin in a shallow dish. According to Dr. Mehmet Oz, host of the talk show “Dr. Oz,” aspirin is a source of salicylic acid, a type of BHA.
Sprinkle the lemon juice over the aspirin. The role of the lemon juice is twofold; it adds the exfoliating power of citric acid, an AHA, and also helps dissolve the aspirin tablets.
Use a spoon to crush the aspirin into a thin paste. If necessary, add more lemon juice.
Use your fingers to smooth the peel over your face, avoiding the eye area. Allow the mixture to dry for 10 minutes, then wipe off with a cotton ball soaked in the the baking soda neutralizer.
Select finely granulated white cane sugar; large granules may scratch your skin.
Substitute brand name aspirin for its cheaper--and equally effective--generic counterpart.
Individuals with aspirin allergies should not use peels containing BHA.
AHA and BHA peels can cause mild side effects like temporary redness and irritation. If symptoms persist or worsen, stop treatment immediately.
Alpha and beta hydroxy acids can increase your skin's sensitivity to the sun, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Use a moisturizer with SPF to avoid sunburn and irritation.
- "The Complete Beauty Bible"; Paula Begoun; 2004
- "Rejuvenation"; Mary Beth Janssen; 2007
- Doctor Oz: Aspirin and Lemon Juice Peel
- Natural News: FDA Findings on Alpha and Beta Hydroxy Acids
Julia Estrela has been working as a freelance writer since 2008. Her work has appeared in various online publications. Estrela holds a Bachelor of Arts in English with a concentration in creative writing from Connecticut College.