BHA - Beta Hydroxy Acid

Many people confuse BHA, beta hydroxy acid, with AHAs (alpha hydroxy acids). These two exfoliants are similar in more than name. The purpose of this article is to describe BHA and its effects, so you can make the right choice between BHA and AHA.

What is BHA?

BHA, beta hydroxy acid, is another name for salicylic acid. Unlike AHAs (there are several of those), there is only one BHA. AHAs are water soluble compounds, which makes them easy to use in water-based skin care preparations. BHA on the other hand is oil-soluble.

Generally speaking, this means that preparations containing BHA must contain at least a small amount of oil and/or must be thoroughly shaken before use.

What does BHA do?

BHA, like AHAs, exfoliates the surface of the skin by loosening the dead outer layers of skin cells. Removing these skin cells improves the color and texture of the skin and can help bring back the rosy glow to your cheeks.

Because BHA is oil-soluble, that means that the skin's oils absorb it readily. BHA is particularly good at penetrating blackheads and other clogged pores to break up the clogs and clear up the skin. For this reason, BHA is far more frequently recommended to help fight acne than AHAs.

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In addition, because of its relationship to aspirin (acetylsalicylic acid), BHA has anti-inflammatory properties as well. BHA thus not only penetrates deeper into the skin than AHAs, but also tends to irritate the skin less.

Optimum concentration of BHA in an over-the-counter product is 1-2%. Doctors and dermatologists can prescribe products that contain a much higher concentration of beta hydroxy acid, but as with any radical exfoliant, care must be taken when using these products.

Is BHA right for me?

Keep in mind that BHA (salicylic acid) is a very common ingredient in anti-acne skin care products. Chances are you may already be using BHA. If not, consider giving it a try. Remember to look for a 1-2% concentration in your product of choice.

People with particularly sensitive skin, or who are allergic to aspirin, should not try BHA without speaking to a doctor.

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