Remember when your AHAs (alpha-hydroxy acids) had to stay far away from your BHAs (beta-hydroxy acids) for fear of irritation? Skincare has come a long way since then. In fact, those chemical exfoliators that once upon a time did not play nice together actually work better together. Salicylic acid (BHA), while an acne-treating all-star, is not simply for the breakout-prone, and glycolic acid (AHA), an ingredient traditionally praised for working anti-aging wonders, offers benefits for all skin types and concerns.
"As exfoliants, AHA and BHA combination treatments help to improve the overall skin texture and tone," says Marisa Garshick, MD, FAAD, a board-certified dermatologist. "More specifically, by eliminating dead skin cells AHAs and BHAs can help with textural irregularities and improve the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, while also helping to improve skin tone and discolorations."
If you have dry or sensitive skin, however, dermatologist Britt Craiglow MD, FAAD, says to be cautious with these and any new products. "These treatments can cause dryness, redness, and irritation and may also increase sensitivity to the sun," she says. "It can be helpful to first test the product on a small area of skin to ensure no reaction," says Garshick.
Whether avoiding dullness, fine lines, and wrinkles or keeping skin clear is your top priority, with the latest multi-acid treatments, you don’t have to choose—you can get all the many benefits of chemical exfoliation in one product, sans side effects.
Meet the Expert
- Marisa Garshick, MD, FAAD, is a board-certified dermatologist based in New York City.
- Britt Craiglow MD, FAAD, is a Yale-trained, double board-certified dermatologist.
Keep scrolling as we round up the top 18 skincare products with AHA/BHA for smoother skin.
The Ordinary AHA 30% + BHA 2% Exfoliating Peeling Solution
The Ordinary AHA 30% + BHA 2% Exfoliating Peeling Solution is a bestselling product as it is effective, fast (takes just 10 minutes) and, at just $8, is very affordable. "A TikTok favorite at a great price point that gives an instant glow, but may be too irritating for people with sensitive skin," says Craiglow.
Catalina Villaneda, esthetician at Face Haus Dallas is a fan of this product and loves the AHA/BHA combination it offers. "Combined together, they work not only at a surface level but also to penetrate deeper into the skin," she says.
Garshick agrees on its effectiveness. "Combining various alpha-hydroxy acids including glycolic acid and lactic acid with beta hydroxy acids, like salicylic acid, this exfoliant helps to reduce clogged pores and congestion while also improving skin texture and uneven skin tones," she says. "While affordable, it should not be used more than twice per week."
Omorovicza Acid Fix
This treatment serum is designed to reverse the damage caused by sunlight, pollution, and acne—aka the results of a chemical peel. Salicylic acid exfoliates skin’s surface while promoting cell renewal and improving pigmentation concerns. Lactic acid further refines and smooths skin, reducing the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. And as with all Omorovicza products, you can expect the healing, rejuvenating benefits of Hungary’s mineral-rich thermal waters packed into every drop. A slight tingle may occur when first applied, but that’s normal—the serum is safe for all skin types (there’s even Australian caviar lime extract to soothe irritation and soften skin). You will love washing it off in the morning and seeing brighter, more even skin in the mirror.
Face Haus The Radical Reformer
The Face Haus 0% AHA + BHA exfoliating facial pads have a combination of Glycolic acid, salicylic acid, lactic acid, and phytic acid. "Quick and easy to use, these combo exfoliating facial pads leave skin glowing and are usually well-tolerated even by those with more sensitive skin," says Craiglow.
Villaneda agrees, saying that the BHAs penetrate deep to unclog pores and prevent breakouts, while the AHAs work more on the surface and remove dead skin cells.
Phytic acid is a gentle alpha hydroxy acid. It is typically derived from grains, legumes and rice. It can help to neutralize free radical damage in the skin, clear out and shrink pores, and brighten pigmentation.
Herbivore Blue Tansy AHA + BHA Resurfacing Clarity Mask
This mask is a lifesaver for breakout-prone skin. In 15 to 20 minutes, the white willow bark (a natural BHA high in salicylic acid) and pineapple and papaya enzymes (natural AHAs) go to work gently exfoliating away dead skin cells. The resurfacing properties are balanced by the blue tansy oil, which is not only responsible for the mask’s dreamy color but also acts as a powerful anti-inflammatory, soothing irritation, and calming redness. The brand recommends using it every other day for the first week and then, after the fourth use, two to three times per week to maintain results. Every other day may seem like a lot at first, but it works—once I started seeing results (after about the second use, even though you’ll feel the results after one), I was tempted to use it every day. Tip: Every month, I use it three to four times a week in anticipation of hormonal breakouts and it keeps my skin calm (and bright).
SkinBetter AlphaRet Clearing Serum
"This serum packs a punch as it combines a retinoid with lactic acid, an alpha-hydroxy acid, salicylic acid, and a beta hydroxy acid," says Garshick. "Together this combination works on the overall tone and texture of the skin, including fine lines and wrinkles, while improving the appearance of pores and blemishes.
This AHA/BHA serum also contains zinc PCA, which helps control and balance oil in blemish-prone skin. "Additionally, it contains niacinamide, sodium hyaluronate, and other nourishing ingredients to help moisturize the skin, so it won’t be left feeling dry or irritated."
Ren Skincare Wake Wonderful Night-time Facial
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: Wake Wonderful truly lives up to its name. Use it if you want to wake up to plump, hydrated, soft, radiant skin. While you sleep, it works in three phases. First, lactic and glycolic acids resurface uneven texture like fine lines and reduce surface pigmentation while supporting natural cell turnover. Don’t be afraid of a little tingle in phase one—it goes away shortly. Next, natural oils and minerals nourish and repair skin. Finally, sodium lactate draws moisture into the skin to plump and deeply hydrate. It feels like heaven on and off the skin. You can use it over serums and/or under moisturizer, but I see the best results when I wear it solo.
Drunk Elephant T.L.C. Framboos Glycolic Night Serum
This potent AHA/BHA serum is a top pick of Garshick, as its blend of acids addresses several skin concerns at once. "This serum contains salicylic acid, a beta-hydroxy acid, in addition to several alpha-hydroxy acids, including glycolic acid, tartaric acid, and lactic acid. Together this nighttime treatment helps to remove dead skin cells and improves the appearance of fine lines, wrinkles, and pores, leaving the skin looking more radiant and refreshed," she says.
Start out by using this every other night and then work your way up to using it every night.
Cane + Austin Acne Retexture Pad
Cane + Austin glycolic peel pads are nothing short of iconic. Beauty lovers have been turning to the brand for youthful, glowing skin for years. For those fighting texture and acne concerns, there’s Acne Retexture, which features both salicylic and medical-grade glycolic acid (available in 5 percent and 10 percent glycolic). The one-step daily treatment pads target fine lines and wrinkles, age spots and hyper-pigmentation, uneven skin tone and texture, enlarged pores, and acne. They’re also great to help treat post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation (aka lingering spots left behind after blemishes have healed) and early signs of acne scarring. Despite being an intensive treatment, they’re rather non-irritating, even for my sensitive skin.
Glow Recipe Strawberry Smooth BHA + AHA Salicylic Serum
"The latest serum from Glow Recipe contains a combination of salicylic acid, a beta-hydroxy acid, and mandelic acid, an alpha-hydroxy acid, as well as azelaic acid and succinic acid," says Garshick. "Additionally, strawberry has natural exfoliating and antioxidant properties."
She says this product is a great choice for those with more sensitive skin who want AHA/BHA products. "Because mandelic acid is a larger molecular size, it is more gentle on the skin compared to other AHAs, making this a good option for those with sensitive skin. The salicylic acid is encapsulated, working to minimize irritation while helping to decongest and reduce oil."
Neogen Dermalogy Bio-Peel Gauze Peeling in Lemon
These peel pads, which come to us by way of Korea, combine chemical exfoliation (with three different AHAs: tartaric, glycolic, and lactic acid) and manual exfoliation. The pads, which are soaked in exfoliating acids and vitamin C–rich citrus fruit extract to lighten dark spots and hyperpigmentation, have two sides. One side has a crisscross pattern in the gauze—use that first to break up dead skin. Then flip it over to the soft, quilted side to wipe away any remaining debris. The combination ensures the active ingredients penetrate deeply, promoting clearer, smoother, brighter skin.
SkinFix Resurface+ AHA/BHA Niacinamide Exfoliating Pads
"These exfoliating pads combine glycolic acid and lactic acid, salicylic acid and a fruit enzyme blend to help eliminate dead skin cells to brighten, soften and smooth the skin," says Garshick. "They are easy to use and can be used on the face and the body. The niacinamide also helps to regulate oil production and improve overall texture while calming and soothing the skin. "
M-61 PowerSpot Pads
Both of M-61’s treatment pads, PowerSpot and PowerGlow, combine salicylic and glycolic acid to exfoliate skin, helping improve tone, texture, and clarity and penetrate pores, dissolving buildup and reducing the appearance of enlarged pores. They’re gentle enough to use every day (though sensitive skin types may want to work up to that with the PowerGlow Peel). However, I like to use PowerSpot whenever I feel new breakouts coming on. I’m generally not a big fan of spot treatments, but a swipe of this stuff stops new blemishes in their tracks and speeds up the healing process for existing ones. Unlike a lot of acne and spot treatments, these aren’t drying—probably thanks in no small part to the camphor, cucumber, chamomile, and aloe vera.
Dr. Dennis Gross AHA/BHA Daily Cleansing Gel
This daily gel cleanser contains Lactic Acid and Glycolic Acids (AHAs), along with Willow Bark Extract, which is a natural source of the BHA salicylic acid. This gel-to-foam formula does a great job of cleaning skin, while also giving you all the other benefits of the AHA/BHA combination.
"This combo of acids is great if you’re looking to help acne/clogged pores, brighten your skin, and improve texture," says Villaneda.
Drunk Elephant T.L.C. Sukari Babyfacial
If your skin can handle 25 percent AHA, you’ll love this mask. The 25 percent AHA is a blend of tartaric, lactic, citric, and glycolic acids, plus the 2 percent BHA (salicylic acid). There are also potent antioxidants to condition and soothe, hydrating ingredients like sodium hyaluronate crosspolymer, and brightening ingredients like chickpea flour and niacinamide. All that’s to say dull skin doesn’t stand a chance. Like all Drunk Elephant products, the formula is created with all skin types in mind (including sensitive) and is pH-balanced at the ideal level to be efficacious and non-irritating. That said, it’s no joke. The tingling sensation is real, and if you have sensitive skin (like I do), I would recommend doing it at night and starting slowly with 10 to 15 minutes before working up to the full 20. Regardless of how long you leave it on, you’ll see and feel a difference immediately.
Glow Recipe Watermelon Glow Sleeping Mask
For a gentler approach, try getting your acid fix with a hefty dose of watermelon. This overnight mask and K-beauty phenomenon is a hybrid of hydrating hyaluronic acid and sodium hyaluronate and exfoliating AHAs (glycolic and lactic) and fruit enzymes. It tones and clarifies skin, clearing away dead, rough surface cells, thus making way for the hydrating benefits to nourish and plump skin. All the while, watermelon extract (a potent anti-inflammatory and hydrator) soothes skin and delivers essential vitamins. Plus, the lightweight, bouncy gel with a slight cooling sensation feels like a treat. And yes, that Millennial Pink color is solely from the watermelon extract.
Glossier Solution Exfoliating Skin Perfector
"This contains a combination of AHAs, BHA, and PHA to give the skin a boost of radiance," says Garshick, explaining that it contains glycolic and lactic acid to exfoliate and eliminate dead skin cells while also improving skin tone and helping with dark spots. "Additionally it contains salicylic acid, a beta-hydroxy acid, which helps to break down excess oils and unclog the pores.
Paula's Choice Skin Perfecting 25% AHA + 2% BHA Exfoliant Peel
This weekly peel helps to resurface and improve texture in just 10 minutes. The powerful blend of 25 percent AHA (Glycolic, Lactic and more), as well as 2 percent BHA (Salicylic Acid) helps to minimize wrinkles, improve texture and unclog pores. It also has Butterfly Pea Flower, to help calm and soothe skin to prevent any irritation that these types of peels can sometimes cause.
Murad Daily Clarifying Peel
This Murad product not only contains Glycolic Acid (AHA) and Salicylic Acid (BHA), but also a retinoid. Simply shake up this peel to blend these three powerful ingredients that improve cell turnover, minimize wrinkles and pores, as well as improve texture. As a bonus, this formula is free of parabens, phthalates and sulfates.
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