What is BHA (Beta Hydroxy Acid)?

BHA Beta hydroxy acids

What is BHA (Beta Hydroxy Acid)?

BHA is a chemical exfoliate that is able to penetrate deep into the pores to remove dead skin cells and excess sebum.

BHA’s are oil-soluble making them great for preventing acne, treating whiteheads, and especially blackheads. They also help with inflammation, improve skin texture, speed up skin cell renewal, and dejunk pores. Chemical exfoliation in general does a very good job at skin regeneration. The most commonly used BHAs found in skincare products is salicylic acid.

They are made from natural ingredients and are also prepared synthetically. They are found in berries, pineapple, papaya, milk, yoghurt, sweet birch trees, wintergreen leaves,  and willow bark.

BHA’s are found in a whole heap of skincare products like lotions, cleansers, toners, shampoos
conditioners, dandruff treatment, as well as antiseptic, preservatives.

What Beta Hydroxy Acids are there?

Salicylic acid is the most common BHA found in skincare. It is also often found in many acne products. Salicylic acid is derived from salicin. Salicylic acid is fat-soluble, which makes it good for oily skin and allows it to deeply penetrate pores. Other BHA acids found in skincare products are Betaine salicylate, Citric acid, Tropic acid, and Trethocanic acid

Who can use BHA?

BHA is most suitable for;

  • Acne-prone skin
  • Combination skin
  • Oily prone skin
  • Sun-damaged skin
  • For sensitive skin lower concentrations of BHA may be used
  • People who wish to lift the build-up of dead cells on the skin’s surface using a non-abrasive exfoliant rather than granular substances or an exfoliation tool
  • BHA is soothing enough for sensitive, rosacea-prone skin
  • Unlike AHAs, BHAs do not have humectant properties so they can be drying on the skin so they are ideal for people with oily skin because as they do not increase oil on the face.

What are the benefits of BHA on the skin?

BHA’s are used for a variety of benefits primarily to reduce;

  • Reduce oil production:  BHAs help control oily skin by slowing down its secretion.
  • Deeply exfoliate the skin. As BHAs are oil-soluble they can deeply penetrate and remove excess sebum and dead skin cells from within the pores.
  • Antibacterial agent: Salicylic acid has additional antibacterial actions which make it effective for treating skin conditions like acne.
  • BHAs “shrink” pores: BHAs can make pores look smaller by keeping removing excess sebum and dead skin which can make the size of your pores look bigger when clogged.
  • BHAs are gentler: Exfoliating acids can cause dryness and irritation if the wrong pH or concentration is used or if it is applied too frequently. BHAs are gentler due to their larger molecule sizes, anti-inflammatory benefits, and lower required concentrations. A BHA concentration of 1.5-2% is effective on the skin.
  • Reduce the appearance of hyperpigmentation, age spots, scars, visible signs of sun damage and skin discoloration on the surface of the skin. It helps to get rid of dark spots on the face. sensitive parts of the face
  • Reduce the appearance of fine lines & wrinkles Salicylic acids have been shown to change the depth and number of fine lines and wrinkles.

How to use BHA?

  • BHAs can be used on a daily basis however you may wish to apply only a few times per week or every other day when you first start to ensure your skin gets accustomed to them. Take time and experiment.
  • BHAs do not make the skin more sensitive to the sun however you should continue to wear sunscreen every day to prevent sun damage.
  • After using a chemical exfoliant be sure to use a moisturiser. If you don’t moisturise after chemical exfoliation can make your skin even drier. Remember that BHAs remove the skins natural oil that protects your skin.
  • After using a moisturiser be sure to use sunscreen.
  • Use BHAs after cleansing and toning. Apply the thinnest to the thicker sin care products after your exfoliate such as a serum and a day or night cream.
  • BHA exfoliant can be applied to the skin under and around your eyes but not under your eyebrows.

What concentration of BHA is required?

You will often see the percentage of an exfoliant acid in a product. The higher the percentage does not mean the better the product. The more concentrated a BHA the more powerful and penetrative it is. Salicylic acid is the most common BHA. Depending on the product concentrations and what the BHA is used to treat the value can range between 0.5 and 5 percent. For example, BHAs to reduce oil production may require experimenting to find the best dose however 1-2% salicylic acid is a popular range.

Using the right pH value in a BHA exfoliant is very important and if the amount is outside of this range the results will not be as effective. The best pH value for Salicylic acid works is between 3 and 4.

Skin precautions

  • Avoid using skincare products that contain retinol or vitamin C after using BHA. This will reduce the risk of adverse skin irritation or unintended reaction.
  • When starting off with BHA it is important to go slowly and not use too use much, too soon.
  • Reduce the risk of side effects or skin irritation by testing BHA in small doses with a day in between for your skin to rest.
  • Using the right pH value in a BHA exfoliant is very important and if the amount is outside of this range the results will not be as effective. The best pH value for Salicylic acid works is between 3 and 4. Water has a pH of 7 and our skin is naturally acidic ranging with a pH of around 4-6. Therefore, a pH of 1 is highly acidic, and a pH of 14 is highly alkaline.
  • Extremely dry and sensitive skin types should slowly build up use to avoid skin irritation.
  • Ensure you do patch testing to ensure you know what reaction the product will have on your face.
  • Ensure you continue to protect your skin on a daily basis with sunscreen.

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