3 Sensitive Skin Swaps for The Ordinary’s 30% AHA + 2% BHA Peel

Some people can use The Ordinary’s AHA/BHA serum with no problem, but unfortunately, it can create reactions in other people. If you are someone who is not comfortable with putting The Ordinary’s AHA/BHA peel on your face, Cassandra has some gentle alternatives like k-beauty options and face masks that can produce similar results and glowing skin. 

The Ordinary’s 30% AHA + 2% BHA Peel -$8.00

First, let’s start with what The Ordinary’s AHA/BHA serum is. It helps with acne, fine lines, minimal surface scarring, and maybe even some potential low-level pigmentation, however it is possible to burn yourself with this product. The Ordinary’s AHA/BHA peeling solution has not only gone viral because it is fun to use, but because it is the highest percentage of AHA and BHA available over the counter. There are some BHAs that you cannot use without a license, but salicylic acid is the most commonly used over-the-counter BHA, and it is used in The Ordinary’s peel. 

What are BHAs, and what are AHAs?

As opposed to water-soluble AHAs, BHAs are oil soluble. Both AHAs and BHAs work to exfoliate or peel the skin. However, used at high concentrations, they have the possibility of burning the skin. 

I don't want to irritate my skin or do something wrong? Is there an easier way to start?


If you like the idea of The Ordinary’s AHA/BHA peel, but you hesitate to use it  because of sensitive skin or even skepticism, here are some similar alternatives that Cassandra has tried and tested. These products are super gentle, beginner friendly, and take the potential risk factor out.

Paula’s Choice SKIN PERFECTING 25% AHA + 2% BHA Exfoliant Peel - $40

This is very similar to The Ordinary’s AHA/BHA peeling solution, and the peel is a beautiful, purple color. The product comes in a gray bottle, and it’s very similar to The Ordinary given that it’s a wash-off peel. However, the ingredients are slightly different. The Paula’s choice peel has is 25% AHA instead of 30%. It also has 2% BHA. When Cassandra purchased this, she didn’t perceive much of a difference between the 25% vs 30% AHA. However, she did notice that the Paula’s choice 25% was significantly less potent on the skin. Even though Cassandra’s skin can tolerate both products, the one from Paula’s choice is much more gentle on Cassandra’s skin. 

Cassandra loves using this on her nose area, and Cassandra actually had a client with combo skin that this product worked really well on. After they built up her skin with glycolic acid, this product ended up being so gentle for the patient’s skin. Her skin was not overly oily or dry, and this ended up being perfect for her routine. She may graduate to the Ordinary’s AHA/BHA peel in the future.

The Paula’s choice product contains mandelic, glycolic acid, and lactic acid which are all AHAs. Mandelic acid comes from bitter almonds, glycolic acid comes from sugar cane, and lactic acid comes from fermented bacteria. Mandelic acid is more gentle than the grape-derived tartaric AHA in The Ordinary’s AHA/BHA peel. Additionally, this formula has allantoin which is very soothing to the skin. While The Ordinary’s does has vitamin b5 (panthenol), it’s not nearly as soothing as the Paula’s Choice peel. 

Cassandra really wasn’t expecting the 25% vs 30% AHA to make that big of a difference, but it truly does. And ultimately, the combination of ingredients in The Paula’s Choice Peel are more gentle as opposed to the Ordinary formula which is a little more advanced.

Nacific Aha Bha Balancing Mask Pack From Style Korean: -$24

Now, if you even want to take it even a step down further, but your skin is only moderately sensitive, Cassandra would recommend Nacific. If you don’t want to use something as intense as Paula’s choice or The Ordinary, how about something you can leave on? Leave-on products are usually a little more gentle whereas wash-off or remove products are usually a little more intense. You don’t want to leave this on for too long though.  


Cassandra was not expecting to love this mask as much as she did. This is an AHA balancing mask. Nacific has an entire AHABHA line with serums, cleansers, and other things. This sheet mask has been one of Cassandra’s favorites. It balances and controls sebum to make the skin fresh. It comes with 10 different masks, and she loves how they’re packaged. 

These are basically biodegradable sheet masks coated with AHA/BHA liquid. The AHA/BHA liquid in here is much more gentle, and it is more lightweight than The Ordinary and Paula’s Choice. The serum is more viscous, this brand has many different fragrance options to offer for people who like sensorial options. But, for those who are sensitive to fragrance, this may not be your go-to. While this sheet mask does not peel, it does offer gentle exfoliation. It sits on the skin for a few minutes, and once you take the mask off, it gives this light hydration without overwhelming the skin. Overall, it’s a beautiful mask. 

This mask has a bunch of hydrators like arginine and betaine, which are both amino acids. So, they actually keep the skin moisturized by holding onto water. This also has deeply soothing allantoin. On the other hand, this contains lavender oil which is soothing but could irritate highly sensitive skin types. And last but not least, the sheet mask contains salicylic and citric which exfoliate and brighten. This is a very gentle but good option, and it works great for someone who doesn’t want to worry about washing something off. Ultimately, this resurfaces the skin, and it helps with dullness. 

 Some by Mi Aha Bha 30 Day Miracle Cream - Stylevana -$13.44

Cassandra feels like this one is the most soothing and gentle. In even less than 30 days, people see a difference in their skin. This product takes about 2 to 3 days to produce tangible benefits whereas the other two products give more immediate results. With this product, you’ll notice that the skin will begin to resurface in a few days. Any little rough patches or textured areas will begin to smooth over. This formula also has PHA molecules, which are big sugar molecules

What do PHAs do?

PHAs penetrate the skin easily because they’re big molecules that sit on top of the skin. They work a little on the outside of the skin, and they pull in moisture. So, this could be good for someone who has dry skin. This also has centella asiatica (tiger grass). Centella asiatica has soothing, antioxidant properties and  potential wound properties. There’s also ceramides that build the skin barrier, neem, tea tree, skin-balancing turmeric, and soothing egg plant. This formula is hydrating and nourishing, and it’s basically a leave-on moisturizer. So, while this product doesn’t exfoliate like Paula’s Choice or The Ordinary, it’s very nourishing to the skin, and it’s gives you ingredients that will build up the skin barrier.

This moisturizing mask is wonderful for people who have sensitive skin. It has a light, fresh scent. However, it does have lavender and orange oil. So, it’s not essential oil free like The Ordinary, but Cassandra finds that it’s very gentle and great for sensitive skin. 

If you prefer, you could start with this product and graduate sequentially to the others products mentioned. Either way, apply your SPF, and take before and after pictures so that you can see your progress!