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Anti-Aging, Exfoliation | 

How AHAs + BHAs Fight Summer Breakouts

By ZO® Skin Health


Blemishes flourish in hotter, humid months. Extra oil, sweat and bacteria can build up on the skin and clog pores and cause blemishes. For oily skin, the summer not only means vacation and hot weather, but also more breakouts, too.

Exfoliation is recommended to help combat summer blemish blues, as it supports the clearing of the complexion for smoother, even-toned skin. Both physical and chemical exfoliation are great options to add to any regimen, but many skincare users tend to be more familiar with physical exfoliators, scrubs and their instant smoothing benefits.

Chemical exfoliants, however, are just as efficacious and are a versatile tool to achieve skin health. One of the most famous and well-researched group of chemical exfoliants are AHAs (Alpha Hydroxy acids) and BHAs (Beta Hydroxy Acids.) Coming in a variety of strengths, and ingredient blends, these acids are a powerful addition to any skincare regimen.  

AHAs are a family of acids that offer complexion clearing and anti-aging benefits, revealing brighter, softer skin. They come in varying strengths, and stronger concentrations are used in chemical peel formulations. Some of the most common AHAs found in skincare, such as glycolic acid, lactic acid and mandelic acid, provide unique benefits.


How often to use AHA products depend on skin type and the severity of symptoms. Frequent usage of AHAs can cause skin dryness and irritation. If AHAs are not currently in your regimen, consider choosing a low concentration AHA product or gradually introduce it to acclimate your skin and minimize irritation.


BHAs are known to clear away dead skin cells and work deep in the pores to clear away oil and debris. They are oil-soluble, which makes BHAs, like the most famous breakout-busting salicylic acid, effective as a breakout-busting hero ingredient.

For example, Complexion Renewal Pads are indicated for all skin types and remove surface debris and excess oil. These toner pads can be used AM+PM and contain both AHAs + BHAs, which smooth, brighten and decongest skin. For more oily skin types, Oil Control Pads are a triple-acid treatment with salicylic acid, glycolic acid + mandelic acid to manage blemish-prone skin and minimize the appearance of pores.

After graduating from AHA and BHA newbie status, explore other ways these acids can ameliorate skin health. Consider giving your skin a little TLC with an at-home treatment. Enzymatic Peel combines AHAs, fruit enzymes and antioxidants to smooth uneven-textured skin, replenish hydration and create a youthful glow.

For summer-safe in-office treatment, consider a low-concentration chemical peel, which you can learn more about in our chemical peel blog. The ZO® Stimulator Peel is indicated for dull, rough skin and has no down-time, which is a great way to keep skin feeling refreshed throughout the summer. Enyzmatic Peel also enhances any ZO® Treatment, so it can help maximize results from the Stimulator Peel or any other treatment.

As with any ZO® regimen, a 360-degree approach yields maximized results. Complexion Clearing Program is a four-product regimen that targets current + future breakouts by eliminating excess surface oil and debris. With both chemical and physical exfoliation products, this kit is one of the best AHA + BHA options for beginners.

If using AHAs + BHAs in the daytime, always apply a sunscreen before going about your day. The best AHA + BHA exfoliant for your skin type can only do so much if your skin is not shielded from harmful sun damage. For easily-irritated skin or sensitized skin, Broad-Spectrum Sunscreen SPF 50 is a mineral-based formula that protects against UVA/UVB and IR-A rays, and from HEV light.

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