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Dear Soko: How Often Should I Apply Products That Contain AHA and BHA?

Should you be using acids on your skin every day? Welcome to Dear Soko, a series dedicated to answering your biggest skin care questions with advice from Soko Glam’s skin experts. Whether you’re confused about specific ingredients or what you need to do to achieve healthier skin overall, these experts are here to guide you.

This week’s question comes from commenter Jules who asked: “How often could I use AHA and BHA? I saw a video saying that using them daily could damage the skin.”

Here, a Soko Glam skin expert’s answer:

There is so much information floating around online about acids such as AHAs and BHAs, and I completely understand how overwhelming and confusing it can be! Let’s break it down piece by piece, so that we can understand how best to apply any acid product we may be interested in trying out!

First of all, acids are magical molecules and can help to provide a deeper exfoliation than a physical scrub or pad. They help to remove dead skin cells and do so deeply, as these molecules are small enough to penetrate more layers of your skin than physical exfoliators can alone. This helps to make your skin soft, smooth, and radiant by revealing the layer of your skin that was previously being made dull by the buildup of debris.

Of course, acids are active ingredients and it’s important to use them as instructed. Every product is going to have differing formulas that shape how often they can and should be used. A product such as the Benton Aloe BHA Toner, is going to be formulated to be slightly exfoliating yet gentle enough to use twice daily. While a product such as the Dr Oracle A-Thera Tea Tree Peeling Stick, which should be used only once or twice a week, is going to be more potent and meant to be used as a treatment product to provide a high performance boost to your routine a couple of times a week.

It’s important to read the directions for your products carefully, especially when acids are involved. This is because using a product more often than directed can lead to over-exfoliation which damages your skin’s fragile acid mantle. The acid mantle is your skin protective moisture barrier that keeps your skin looking and feeling healthy and hydrated. When the acid mantle is compromised, drier skin types and can get even drier and flakier while oiler skin types start to produce even more oil and sebum. All skin types can also experience redness, irritation, and yes, acne. Yikes, am I right?

Luckily, over-exfoliation can be easily avoided. So, we’ve read the label on our product, the directions on the box, and maybe even checked out the brand’s website for further information. We now know how the brand formulated this product to be used, but there is something else we need to consider before introducing acid products into our routine — and that’s our skin’s tolerance to the respective acid or formulation.

We always recommend patch testing any new product you buy, see here for an in-depth look how the best ways to do so. After patch testing the product, now it’s time to gradually introduce the product into your routine. By taking your time and starting to use the product once a week and moving up to the amount of applications recommended by the brand, you will get a better gauge of the results this product is offering your skin. You will also learn how often your skin prefers to use this product! If you have sensitive skin, for example, you may find that you see better results using a product less often than the brand recommends.

Everyone’s skin is so different, and this is why different products work best for different faces. Not only that, but this even effects how often one’s skin can use a potent product. So all in all, to answer your question, of course you’ll want to start with reading the label to understand how often this product is meant to be used – but also please start slow and listen to your skin. By babying your acid mantle and taking measures to not over-exfoliate you’ll see better results in long term and protect the layer of your skin that protects you. Happy exfoliating!

Warmly,
Your Skin Expert

+What question do you want our Skin Expert to answer next week? Share in the comments below!

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