Are you looking for more radiant skin?
Or maybe you have an oily, combination skin and are looking to treat superficial acne, whiteheads, blackheads, or breakouts.
Then let oil-soluble beta hydroxy acid or BHA for those in the know, come to your rescue.
It’s a super cool ingredient capable of cutting through oil and exfoliating deep within your pores to remove blockages.
Now we appreciate BHA, especially in the form of a peel can get a bad rap, the key is to level up gradually, according to your skin’s needs and resilience.
To understand the beautifying benefits, join us, as we learn exactly what this clever little acid is.
What are beta hydroxy acids?
They belong to the salicylates class of drugs and are oil-soluble.
BHAs are chemical exfoliators that soften and dissolve keratin, a protein that forms part of your skin layers. They are preferred for combination or oily skin types prone to acne, breakouts and enlarged pores.
They work by loosening the bonds between your skin cells, and if left unchecked, this buildup leads to dull, rough skin and clogged pores, setting the stage for blackheads and breakouts.
What’s the difference between BHA’S and AHA’S
Both alpha and beta hydroxy acids will exfoliate your skin. But BHAs are oil-soluble, they penetrate through the lipid layers between the skin cells more readily, penetrating the skin at a deeper level than their water-soluble counterparts AHAs; these work on your skin’s surface to loosen old, dead skin and reveal fresh, newer skin.
Examples of AHAs include glycolic and lactic acids, which you can read about here.
Beta hydroxy acid the beautifying benefits
- can help to improve skin tone and texture
- the perfect treatment for a combination, oily skin, balancing oil on the surface
- flushes out the follicular wall, clearing bacteria, dead skin cells and debris
- shows a significant decrease, in the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles
- reduces signs of photo-ageing, minimising the appearance of liver spots and irregular pigmentation, caused by damaging UV rays
- when used correctly, beta Hydroxy acids can work as an anti-inflammatory, helping to treat acne inflammation
The types of beta hydroxy acids
The main BHA exfoliants you’ll see in skincare products are:
Betaine salicylate: This is a BHA derived from sugar beets. It is considered a gentle alternative to salicylic acid, and according to this study, it is equally effective. Roughly around 4% betaine salicylate is thought to be the equivalent to 2% salicylic acid.
Salix alba or willow bark extract: This is a natural BHA; the salicin content converts into salicylic acid, it is a great deal weaker.
Salicylic acid: This is the most popular BHA and also the strongest. Because it has a larger molecular size it is not as irritating as glycolic acid, considered the strongest AHA. It also has anti bactericidal and anti-inflammatory properties. for this reason, you will find it in Resq anti-blemish complex that targets breakouts and acne.
Salicylic acid benefits
Because this is the most popular BHA, found in many skincare products, let’s look at it in greater detail.
Salicylic acid works best on blackheads and whiteheads.
Three factors contribute to acne: an abnormal sloughing of skin cells, excessive oiliness, and the action of bacteria. Salicylic acid is lipophilic, which means that it can penetrate oily skin and target clogged pores, providing your skin with the deep cleaning it requires; thus reducing acne breakouts and dissolve the keratin plugs that can potentially lead to acne. It is also effective against cystic acne due to its antibacterial activity.
Keeps oily shine at bay
Beta hydroxy acids naturally dissolve oil in your skin. The fact that this acid is oil soluble means it can penetrate deep into your dermis, breaking down keratin the protein and sebum that builds up over time in your pores, it can also mop up excess oil off the surface, making it the perfect treatment if you have an oily face.
Balances a combination skin type
If you are plagued with pimples or suffer from an oily T zone or comedones, then chances are you have combination skin. Beta hydroxy acids are the perfect prep treatment for this particular skin type because of their balancing effect on sebum.
The excess oil on the skin’s surface can trap bacteria and irritants, inflame your skin, and when applied topically, beta hydroxy acids break down these fatty compounds.
A dehydrated skins best friend
If your skin ever feels like it is one size too small, then chances are dehydrated. Stubborn skin cells can stick together, thus making your skin appear dry, dull and flaky. Applying a low concentration of beta hydroxy acid can help to significantly encourage stubborn epidermal cells to shed and boost moisture retention in your skin’s tissues.
An effective astringent
This clever little hydroxy acid is also a highly effective astringent, that can minimise your pores’ appearance by tightening your skin and reducing the level of oiliness on the surface. By temporarily minimising the pores and tightening your skin, salicylic acid will give your skin a more youthful appearance.
How should you use it?
The best products with BHA have a pH between 3 and 4. Rinse-off products tend to have a higher pH so you won’t get much of an exfoliation benefit from these rinse off formulas, but your skin will reap the soothing and calming benefits.
The concentration of your peel is important. For exfoliating and dealing with clogged pores and rough texture, use a leave-on exfoliant that contains a 1-2% concentration. Check out this article on why the right pH is important.
It is important to start with a minimal application when you’re first using BHA’s and be aware that frequent use can potentially lead to side effects, including dry skin and irritation, so it’s recommended to use it once or twice a week. As you continue to use your peel, you can increase the frequency as required.
Some people can experience dryness, peeling, redness, and skin irritation. This is why we recommend that if your skin is severely dry or sensitive, avoiding the use of beta hydroxy acids completely.
If you are suffering from only minor congestion of the pores, consider using a spot treatment like Resq anti-blemish complex and combine this with SOS soothing complex, if acne inflammation is a concern.
Interestingly used at lower levels, BHA’s can help speed up the desquamation process and aid in conditions of the scalp like dandruff and seborrheic dermatitis, which are caused by a slowing down of skin cells sloughing off, which is pretty cool.
As you can see, beta hydroxy acids have no shortage of remarkable benefits to improve your skin health.
It usually comes in salicylic acid and is fat-soluble, so it’s good on oily, combination skin. If you want to target acne breakouts, it also penetrates pores and sloughs off dead skin, helping to remove excess oil, thus reducing whiteheads and blackheads’ build-up.
BHA’s should be used in moderation until you know your skin can handle it without irritation. If your skin does tolerate it, you can increase the frequency to twice daily, that is, unless you know you’ll be getting direct sun exposure, then it should only be applied at night.
So we think you’d agree, this is one serious skincare ingredient that you may want to consider including in your skincare routine, especially if you have an oily/combo skin or suffer from the occasional breakout or acne