Everything You Need To Know About The Ordinary AHA 30% + BHA 2% Peeling Solution Before You Try It

by Gio
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Warning: The Ordinary AHA 30% + BHA 2% Peeling Solution isn’t for skincare newbies.

If you don’t know how to use it, don’t buy it!

If you’re new to exfoliating acids or only used small concentrations before, this is NOT for you.

If you’re thinking, “5% glycolic acid is awesome, so 30% must be even better,” this is NOT for you.

If you plan to use it in addition to acid toners, this is NOT for you.

Here’s the deal: moderate exfoliation makes your skin softer, smoother and brighter. Too much exfoliation dries skin out like the Sahara, irritates it like hell and makes you more prone to sun damage and hyperpigmentation.

If I had my way, you’d need a prescription to buy The Ordinary AHA 30% + BHA 2% Peeling Solution (and any other high dose peel, for that matter). But I’m not having my way. These peels are freely available in shops for anyone to get their hands on.

So, I’d better tell you how to use it so you don’t burn your skin (literally!). Here’s all you need to know about The Ordinary AHA 30% + BHA 2% Peeling Solution: what it does, how to use it and – most importantly – how to figure out if it’s right for you or not (hint: for most people, it’s a HELL NO!):

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Key Ingredients In The Ordinary AHA 30% + BHA 2% Peeling Solution

AHAs To Fade Sun Damage Away

The Ordinary AHA 30% + BHA 2% Peeling Solution is an acid cocktail. It has 4 different types of AHAs: glycolic acid, lactic acid, tartaric acid and citric acid. All together, they build up to 30%.

AHAs (Alpha Hydroxy Acids) are a group of exfoliants that dissolve the glue that holds skin cell together so they can slough off. When they do, your skin looks softer, smoother and brighter.

AHAs are great at removing sun damage, too. Makes sense. The cells on the surface of the skin are the most battered by the sun and elements. They withstood the most damage.

As these surface layers give way to the newer, healthier cells underneath, dark spots slowly fade away. Wrinkles and fine lines look smaller too.

The catch? AHAs can be irritating at small doses, let alone 30%. You see, when you remove the superficial layers, your skin looks brighter and younger. When you remove too many, you’re disrupting the skin’s protective barrier and exposing the raw skin underneath that wasn’t ready to come to the surface just yet.

That dries out your skin, irritates it and makes it more prone to sun damage. Kinda defeats the point of using them, don’t you think?

That’s why it’s best to start with small concentrations of AHAs and build up use gradually. Don’t cheat!

Related: The Complete Guide To Glycolic Acid: What It Is, What It Does & Why You Should Use it?

BHA To Unclog Pores And Prevent Breakouts

The BHA in The Ordinary AHA 30% + BHA 2% Peeling Solution refers to salicylic acid, a member of the Beta Hydroxy Acids family.

Like AHAs, salicylic acid dissolves the glue that holds skin cells together so they can slough off. Cue brighter, smoother, softer skin.

But salicylic acid goes a step further: it gets into the pores, removing all the crap that’s clogging them up and giving you blackheads, whiteheads and pimples. Bye bye blemishes!

2% is the standard concentration used in OTC exfoliants. But here, it ups the acid count to a whopping 32%! Use it carefully.

Related: Why Salicylic Acid Is Key To Spot-Free Skin

Tasmanian Pepperberry To Minimize Irritation

The Ordinary knows that AHA 30% + BHA 2% Peeling Solution can be irritating. That’s why they added Tasmanian pepperberry to the mix.

Tasmanian pepperberry has anti-inflammatory properties that reduce redness and irritations. Here, it helps reduce the risk of a negative reaction.

It’s a good move. But I wish The Ordinary had added more anti-inflammatory ingredients to give Tasmanian pepperberry a helping hand.

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How To Use The Ordinary AHA 30% + BHA 2% Peeling Solution

Here’s everything you need to know:

1. How Do You Use The Ordinary AHA 30% + BHA 2% Peeling Solution?

The Ordinary AHA 30% + BHA 2% Peeling Solution is always the first step after cleansing. You cleanse your skin, pat it completely dry and then apply the peel evenly all over your face. Wait a few minutes and wash it off with lukewarm water.

2. How Long Should You Leave The Ordinary AHA 30% + BHA 2% Peeling Solution On?

No more than 10 minutes.

When you’re just starting out, leave it on for 5 minutes. If your skin’s cool with it, next time leave it on for 6 minutes. Repeat until you reach 10 minutes.

Do NOT go over 10 minutes. I don’t care if your skin is fine with 10 minutes. You don’t see aestheticians leave a peel on for 30 minutes to see if the clients can take it, do you?

There’s a reason for that: the longer you leave the peel on, the more layers of dead cells you destroy. You want to remove the superficial damaged layers, not ALL the layers!!!

3. When Should You Use The Ordinary AHA 30% + BHA 2% Peeling Solution?

At night. High concentrations of acids make skin more prone to sun damage, so it makes sense to use it when the sun’s not around. Mind you, you still need to be religious with sunscreen for a few days after. Now the superficial layers are off, UV rays can wreak MORE damage if you’re not careful!

4. How Often Should You Use The Ordinary AHA 30% + BHA 2% Peeling Solution?

The Ordinary recommends no more than twice a week. I’m even more conservative and tell you to use it once every 7/10 days. Start slow and see what your skin can take before going all in!

5. What Should You Do If The Ordinary AHA 30% + BHA 2% Peeling Solution Irritates Your Skin?

With high concentrations of acids, a little tingling is totally normal. But if you’re experience painful stinging, burning or your skin turns red, wash it off immediately and throw the product away.

6. How Should You Care For Your Skin After Using The Ordinary AHA 30% + BHA 2% Peeling Solution?

I know I start to sound like a broken record but PILE ON YOUR SUNSCREEN!

Here’s the deal: those damaged layers of dead cells are there for a reason. They protect the younger skin underneath from sun damage. Now they’re off your face, your skin is more photosensitive and prone to wrinkles and dark spots.

For a few days after a peel, apply a generous dose of sunscreen. Reapply it as often as necessary. Seek the shade whenever possible. Wear a hat. Use a parasol. You get the drift.

One more thing: it may also be a good idea to hold off prescription medications, like tretinoin, for a few days before and after the peel to minimise the risk of irritation. Talk to your doctor about it before using the peel.

7. Can You Use The Ordinary AHA 30% + BHA 2% Peeling Solution With Acid Toners/Exfoliants?

No. You either use peeling solutions with high acid concentrations once every 7/10 days or acid toners/exfoliants with smaller concentrations every day/every other day.

Which one works better? You’re asking the wrong question, my smart friend. The right question is, “what can your skin tolerate?”

Higher doesn’t mean better if it irritates your skin!

8. Who Can Use The Ordinary AHA 30% + BHA 2% Peeling Solution?

The Ordinary AHA 30% + BHA 2% Peeling Solution is for expert acid users only. Expert acid users are people who have been using exfoliating acids for years, slowly building up tolerance to them. They go for regular peels and know how to handle high doses without burning their skin.

Hint: if you’re reading this post because you don’t know how to use the peeling solution, you’re NOT an expert acid user.

9. Who Shouldn’t Use The Ordinary AHA 30% + BHA 2% Peeling Solution?

  • Anyone who’s never used acid exfoliants before.
  • Anyone who’s only used toners/exfoliants with small concentrations of acids.
  • Anyone who’s heard raves about this peeling solution and wants to see what the hype is about.
  • Anyone who doesn’t know what this peeling solution is but buys it anyway because “my skin may need it.”
  • Anyone who wants quick results.
  • Anyone with sensitive skin.
  • Anyone with peeling or cracking skin.

If you’re on prescription medication like tretinoin, talk to your doctor before adding the peel to your skincare routine. Using too many harsh products can backfire!

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Let’s Put It To The Test: Personal Use & Opinion

The Ordinary AHA 30% + BHA 2% Peeling Solution looks like blood. The deep red hue turns into a soft pink when you apply it on your face, so you won’t look like someone just stabbed you. Ugh.

The texture is lightweight and comfortable on. It tingles a little, but that’s normal. It’s IF it starts to be painful, burn or turn your face red that you’re in trouble.

I’m an expert acid user so I keep it on for 10 whole minutes. My skin can take it. Heck, it can take peels at a derm’s office and those have a lower pH (around 2) that makes exfoliation more aggressive. The Ordinary AHA 30% + BHA 2% Peeling Solution is meant to be used at home, so the pH is higher (3.6). It’s still effective, but gentler on the skin.

When I rinsed it off, my cheeks were a little red. I totally expected that. My skin is pretty resistant and can tolerate pretty much everything but in winter that area tends to get a little drier and more prone to redness. So I just slathered on moisturiser and went to bed.

When I woke up the next morning, my skin looked much better. You could see on it all the benefits of acid peels: my skin was softer to the touch, the texture’s smoother and the whole complexion brighter.

I have very little sun damage and no dark spots yet, but if you do, you’ll slowly see them fade away. Again, don’t rush it. Your skin didn’t get damaged in a day. It won’t heal in a day.

The BHA also helps keep my pores clear and free from blackheads and pimples. If excess oils and dead cells can’t accumulate in pores, you can’t get blemishes. But don’t put the peel directly on pimples! That’s too irritating.

If you’re an expert acid user, The Ordinary AHA 30% + BHA 2% Peeling Solution is the closest thing to a dermatologist’s peel you can do at home.

Everyone else, keep using acid toners/exfoliants to build your tolerance slowly overtime. Don’t cheat!

Available at: £6.30 at Beauty Bay, Cult Beauty and Feel Unique

Have you tried The Ordinary AHA 30% + BHA 2% Peeling Solution? Share your experience in the comments below.

Ingredients: Glycolic Acid, Aqua (Water), Arginine, Propanediol, Cocamidopropyl Dimethylamine, Triethanolamine, Salicylic Acid, Aminomethyl Propanol, Lactic Acid, Tartaric Acid, Citric Acid, Panthenol, Sodium Hyaluronate Crosspolymer, Tasmannia Lanceolata Fruit/Leaf Extract, Daucus Carota Sativa Extract, Glycerin, Pentylene Glycol, Polysorbate 20, Trisodium Ethylenediamine Disuccinate, Ethylhexylglycerin, 1,2-Hexanediol, Caprylyl Glycol.

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160 comments

Srinidhi February 20, 2020 - 11:38 pm

Hi, I’ve used this product a few times and it’s causes rashes on my face. However, I’m still in desperate need of a product that will reduce my acne and unclog my pores. I use a gentler 2% salicylic acid spot treatment (it’s the Clean and Clear Advantage Acne Spot treatment) but that one doesn’t seem to do anything at all to my acne. What products would you recommend with AHA and BHA that are effective but good for sensitive skin? Thanks for the help!

Gio March 6, 2020 - 9:02 am

Srinidhi, Salicylic acid is the only thing that works to unclog pores. So don’t waste your time with other exfoliants.

If that isn’t working, then you need to look at the rest of your skincare routine and figure out if you’re using anything that could be clogging your pores faster than salicylic can unclog them, or if you need more anti-acne actives. If you’d like me to help, you can book your consultation here: https://www.beautifulwithbrains.com/skincare-consultation/

Calvin February 21, 2020 - 3:26 pm

Can I use a day cream from Nivea the next few day after treatment…. it’s SPF30 and protects against UVA\UVB

Gio March 6, 2020 - 8:58 am

Calvin, yes. As long as it doesn’t irritate your skin, it’s fine.

Ayesha April 15, 2020 - 8:55 pm

Hi , I am not a expert acid user but my skin is really rough due to dead skin cells I have lots of white heads and now blacks heads too and my T zone produce more oil and sebum and also I have few blemishes and slight pigmentation and my age is 22 . So can you pls guide me should I take ordinary aha bha or not , if not then what should I use for them because I use scrubs but It didn’t give satisfaction.

Gio May 15, 2020 - 2:44 pm

Ayesha, use Paula’s Choice 2% BHA Liquid 3 or 4 nights a week.

Momina March 12, 2020 - 12:57 am

I want to slowly build up my skins resistance to acids and peels. So is it possible for me to mix this product with a little bit of moisturizer?

Gio April 4, 2020 - 7:47 am

Momina, no. The best way to build resistance is to pick an acid and use ever slightly higher concentrations of it.

Marty March 12, 2020 - 9:37 pm

If we fall under the ‘not for you column’, what would be a good starting peel?

Gio April 4, 2020 - 7:46 am

Marty, it depends on your skin type. Check out this post to find out more: https://www.beautifulwithbrains.com/best-exfoliator-skin-type/

Haner March 22, 2020 - 10:59 pm

Does this product remove the acne ?

Gio April 4, 2020 - 8:12 am

Haner, it can’t single-handedly rid you of acne, but any type of exfoliation helps.

Aman March 23, 2020 - 3:29 am

Hii, i have blemishes on my face from acne. I am using bio oil but it does not fade away.I have oily skin. So could you recommend aha and bha for my skin.

Gio April 4, 2020 - 8:12 am

Aman, if you have acne, don’t use oils! Try Paula’s Choice 2% BHA Lotion.

Beth April 1, 2020 - 11:43 am

Hi I have got a Malibu 50 spf face sunscreen to use is this okay to use after using the peeling solution as it has aloe vera and vitamin E

Gio April 4, 2020 - 8:14 am

Beth, yes any sunscreen that provides broad spectrum protection is good after a peel.

Kate April 5, 2020 - 1:31 am

Hi, I have been using the ordinary vitamin c suspension 30% in silicone. Am I ok to use this after I use the peel? I mix the vitamin c with my moisturizer after using my hyaluronic acid 2% + B5.

Gio April 5, 2020 - 9:10 am

Kate, no that’s too much Vitamin C to use after a peel, or the days before and after.

Javi April 18, 2020 - 7:43 pm

Hi Gio,
I would like to know if it is possible to use this product only in the T zone or even as a spot treatment.
Thanks!

Gio May 15, 2020 - 3:56 pm

Javi, I don’t recommend it as a spot treatment.

Fadila April 6, 2020 - 10:35 pm

Hi, my daughter is 16 and would like to use the ordinary AHA 30% + BHA 2% she just bought, she has a bit of acne left and blemishes, what do you recommend ?
Thank you for your help

Bianca April 7, 2020 - 12:29 am

Hi Gio,

Hope you’re well. Thanks for this super informative piece. I would like to know what cleanser you recommend before using the product. I’ve used it but after this piece I’m slightly concerned about the products I’m using to cleanse the face beforehand. Could you please advise?

Thanks

Isaiah April 18, 2020 - 1:04 am

Hi, I’ve been using this product alongside the niacinamide 10% + zinc 1% solution coming up to 2 weeks now but I’m seeing more breakouts. Is this common as I’m aware of purging but some of these spots are occurring in places I don’t usually get them. Unsure whether to carry on using them?…:(

Gio May 15, 2020 - 3:57 pm

Isaiah, you could be experiencing a purge and a breakout at the same time. It’s hard to tell without knowing what else you’re using.

wara April 25, 2020 - 8:56 pm

can i use niacinamide serum of the ordinary in the morning when used peeling solution at the prevoius night?

Aliaa April 27, 2020 - 2:25 am

Can I moisturies my face after the peel with a moisturizer the contain vitamin e ?
And what kind of toner can I use while I’m using the product?
Can I use a home made scrub in the period of the treatment ?

Faye Minister May 4, 2020 - 11:31 pm

Hello,

Thank you, I enjoyed reading this! I have used peels before but was unsure because this one is so strong. I have used it and barely even felt tingling and my face does not seem very dry after, so it seems to be working well for me. I am trying to remove some hyper pigmentation at the moment and am using bio oil twice a day, then the peeling solution every 7-10 days. I read you are not meant to use vitamin E after peeling, but do you think bio oil is still OK to use? I didn’t even consider it!
Thanks
Faye

Sobiya May 6, 2020 - 9:47 pm

Hey , i’m 21 and i suddenly started getting acne on my face i guess they are harmonal acne and i see some milia also on my face . They are few brown spots also on my face . I’m planning to use the ordinary peeling solution . Should i?

Joanne Sherrell May 16, 2020 - 7:22 pm

This has become a new staple in my weekly skincare and for such a humble price, I’m obsessed with the results. I’ve even purchased backups. I’m loving acid-based skincare and exfoliation at the moment (so much better than that scratchy, gritty physical exfoliation!) I’ve also purchased the REN Glycolactive Radience Renewal mask and other acids from The Ordinary to try out. Excited to see what they do for my acne scars and pigmentation!

Rachel May 18, 2020 - 12:55 am

I just used it for the first time tonight for 3 minutes. I was wondering if it ok to use the hyaluronic acid moisturizer I typically use after cleansing. Thanks!

Rose May 18, 2020 - 2:21 am

Hi, I just wanted to know if after using the AHA 30% + BHA 2% Peeling Solution step once a week can I apply the Niacinamide 10% + Zinc 1% then top it off with the rose hips oil? That’s for nighttime routine. And the other nights when I am not doing the peeling solution can I continue appointment niacinamide and zinc serum with rosehip oil to top it off? I don’t have acne I have dark spots and have noticed that rosehip oil at night only has really benefited my skin. In the morning I use the ordinary Hyaluronic Acid 2% + B5 with sps 50 (physical sunscreen).
Rose

Nicola jones May 19, 2020 - 7:36 pm

Should my skin still burn after I’ve wash the peel of starting to get really worried that I’ve burnt my skin!!

Gio June 12, 2020 - 8:19 am

Nicola, a little tingling is normal. But stinging or burning during or after is a sign of irritation and damage. Don’t use it again.

Hana May 22, 2020 - 11:15 pm

Hi, I don’t consider myself an expert acid user, I only had experience with 5% lactic acid, on and off over the past 2 years (I use it really irregularly though). But bc I never had negative reaction with that one and wanted to incorporate bha as well, so I recently started using this aha bha one. But reading your post kinda make me question if I am ready to use this bcs I only ever used low concentration acid before. So far I haven’t had any reaction with this aha bha one either . I use only really small amount of it though (2 drops) for about 5mins. It doesn’t even cause any redness and I felt very little tingling. So here’s my question, do you think it sounds like my skin can handle it? Would it be ok for me to increase the amount or time more? Or do you think I shouldn’t use this yet?

Gio June 12, 2020 - 8:27 am

Hana, it sounds like your skin can handle it as you’re using it now. But I would question why you need both lactic acid and salicylic acid. Couldn’t using a smaller % concentration of one acid give you better results – and more safely too?

Layla May 23, 2020 - 5:56 am

After you apply your sunscreen can you use other moisturizers afterwards like lotion or other types of serums??
Thank you

Gio June 12, 2020 - 8:25 am

Layla, it’s best to apply them BEFORE sunscreen.

Morgan May 28, 2020 - 10:16 am

Hi! I used the peel for the first time last night (5/26)! I didn’t realize that I should work up a tolerance, so I used it for the full 10 minutes. I’ve never done a peel like this before, but I applied sunscreen this am (5/27), albeit not very much. My cheeks are little pink and I’ve definitely noticed that my skin feels a little tingly/more sensitive today. My eyes have also felt a little sensitive, though I didn’t get any of the solution into them. Is this normal? Or a sign that I should stop the peel altogether? Or do I just need to work up more tolerance at a slower pace?

Gio June 12, 2020 - 8:56 am

Morgan, definitely a sign that you need to work up tolerance at a slower pace. And don’t use it more than twice a month.

Ritika June 2, 2020 - 2:04 pm

Hi , I am not a expert acid user but my skin is really rough due to dead skin cells I have lots of white heads and now blacks heads too and my T zone produce more oil and sebum and also I have few blemishes and slight pigmentation and my age is 21 . So can you pls guide me should I take ordinary aha bha or not , if not then what should I use for them because I use scrubs but It didn’t give satisfaction Nd I keep having cystic acne, but I don’t have it yet…..pls suggest me something better how can I improve my skin n look brighter..?

Gio June 12, 2020 - 10:12 am

Ritika, if your skin is acne-prone, use 2% salicylic acid (BHA) three times a week. Paula’s Choice and The Inkey List have some good products with BHA.

Siân June 14, 2020 - 6:35 pm

Hiya, I’ve tried so many things to help with my skin that I have no idea how much tolerance I would have to acids. I got this because of having similar looking skin to other people’s before and after photos. This is the second time I’ve used (I waited around 10 days before using it again) and I’ve experienced no irritation or redness whatsoever. Not even a tingle. My blackheads look a lot better and my skin feels lovely. Do you think I’d be okay to continue using it every 10 days or should I try to build up my tolerance first? Thank you

Emaan hashmi June 16, 2020 - 11:10 am

Hi i am 15 and also not an expert acid user i have acne scars and bumps and some white heads on my face i want to give this product a try plzz tell me should i use this or not?

Gio July 14, 2020 - 9:40 am

Emann, please READ the post. I clearly state I do NOT recommend it to non expert acid users.

Dewy July 2, 2020 - 11:47 am

Hi, Is it safe to use the Ordinary peel about two weeks before a microneedling treatment? I currently get microneedling treatments for acne scars every month, but in the meantime I want to give my skin some extra care. I have acne prone skin so I thought the Ordinary peel can calm down my skin a little bit before microneedling since microneedling can’t be done on active acne. (I’ve done chemical peels at a specialist before, so my skin is used to strong acids)

Gio July 14, 2020 - 11:03 am

Dewy, I personally wouldn’t use it.

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