Is BHA the Missing Ingredient in Your Skincare Routine?

Beta hydroxy acids can be very helpful for people with acne, oily skin and aging issues. Board-certified dermatologists suggest how to choose them.

Finding the best skin care products

It’s safe to say that almost every adult has ever searched for the best skin care product for their skin problems, be it dry skin, oily skin, acne, or a combination of all of the above. One category of ingredients that has become more popular in recent years are beta-hydroxy acids, which are commonly found in cosmetics and skin care products. Even if you’re familiar with the term, chances are you’re not sure exactly what they are and how best to use them.

What are Beta Hydroxy Acids?

Beta hydroxy acids, or BHAs, are ingredients intended to reduce the signs of aging in the skin.

“Essentially, BHAs are ingredients used in skin care products to aid in the exfoliation process, which helps to loosen and remove dead cells from the skin’s surface, while also helping to smooth out the surface texture of the skin,” explains Rajani Katta out. , MD, a board-certified dermatologist in Houston and author of: Glow: The Dermatologist’s Guide to a Younger Skin Diet With Whole Foods. “Chemical exfoliants can also aid in skin renewal and radiance, although they can cause redness and irritation.”

Exfoliants like BHAs can be very helpful in treating certain skin problems, says Dr. katta. One of the main uses of BHAs is in the treatment of patients with oily skin and acne, especially those with blackheads and whiteheads.

Different types of BHAs

Salicylic acid is the most common BHA; it is found in a large majority of over-the-counter acne-fighting products, such as cleansers, spot treatments, peels and other skin care formulations. Natural salicylic acid is extracted from the bark of willow trees. It can also be reproduced synthetically.

“Salicylic acid is what is known as oil-soluble and is useful for treating blackheads and whiteheads,” explains Dr. Katta out. “For those with oily skin and clogged pores, it can penetrate deeper into the hair follicles and help loosen oil and dead skin cells.”

According to Deidre Hooper, MD, a board-certified dermatologist at Audubon Dermatology in New Orleans, another popular option is lipohydroxy acid, or LHA.

“This is actually a synthetic beta-hydroxy acid invented by chemical companies,” she explains. “It’s a derivative of salicylic acid, so basically it’s been modified to be gentler, but very effective.”

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BHAs vs AHAs

BHAs are often used in combination with alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs). Both BHAs and AHAs act as chemical exfoliants, says Dr. katta. They work to improve the texture of the skin while reducing fine lines and wrinkles.

There are several highly effective alpha hydroxy acids, which are derived from different substances. They include lactic acids (from milk) and glycolic acid (from sugar cane). Available in a variety of strengths and concentrations, AHAs can be used to aid in skin renewal and anti-aging.

While both AHAs and BHAs can help exfoliate your skin, there are some key differences between them. According to Dr. Hooper AHAs create a coating on your skin and help disrupt the top layer of your skin. This makes it an ideal solution for pigment and texture problems. BHAs, meanwhile, are attracted to oil and go to your pores.

“When you apply BHAs to the skin, they pull into your pores, so it acts like an exfoliant, but targets pores and sebaceous glands more,” she explains. “So beta-hydroxy acids are good for people with large pores, blackheads, and acne.”

The FDA says that while both AHAs and BHAs act as exfoliants, BHAs are believed to be more effective at reducing fine lines and wrinkles without the irritations sometimes associated with AHAs.

Do’s and Don’ts When Using BHAs

The biggest mistake you can make when using BHAs is using more than one product at a time, says Dr. hooper. This is because it can quickly irritate your skin, leaving your skin worse off than when you started.

“Choose one product, a cleanser or a leave-on product, but not both because at some point you’re going to irritate your skin and irritated skin will age faster because there’s so much inflammation,” she says. “You also start to lose the advantage if you do this, because you’ll be doing the same thing over and over.”

To avoid irritation, it is best to start slowly.

“For most patients, it’s helpful to use these every other day to make sure you don’t experience any irritation,” adds Dr. Katta to it. “Because different products have different strengths and concentrations, you also need to be careful about the specific formulation you use.”

What kind of product to choose, Dr. Hooper prefers a leave-on cream, gel, or peel pad for acne and a cleanser like those with LHA for oily skin.

“If you have oily skin but don’t really suffer from acne, I like to use LHA cleansers, but if you’re more trying to fight blackheads and unclog pores, I think a leave-on product is the more effective she explains.

When to See a Dermatologist?

According to Dr. Hooper is a good rule of thumb to try any skin care product, using it for about 60 days. While she believes there are some highly effective over-the-counter products, if you don’t see results, talk to a board-certified dermatologist.

“If you’ve been using your product for two months and you don’t see the changes you expect, you can often save money just by going to a dermatologist,” she says. dr. Hooper says she sees patients who have spent a lot of money on different versions of the same product, who could have saved money by undergoing a procedure instead.

7 Dermatologist-Recommended BHA Products

neutrogena oil-free acne wash


Neutrogena oil-free acne wash

$16 for a pack of 3

This affordable drugstore find has been on the market for years, and it’s a popular recommended product for oily skin, says Dr. hooper.

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drunk elephant TLC sukari baby facial


Drunken Elephant TLC Sukari BabyFacial


This is a combination of AHA/BHA products, useful for women in their thirties. That’s often when they start to see more pigment and fine lines, and that’s where AHA can help, says Dr. Hooper. The BHA, meanwhile, can help with acne and large pores.

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la roche posay effaclar duo


La Roche Posay Effaclar Duo Acne Spot Treatment


This is an example of an LHA product that Dr. Hooper recommends to patients looking for a milder product for sensitive skin.

“What I like about these products is that they don’t use distilled water to make them, but spring water from France,” she says. “The spring water contains minerals such as zinc and selenium. They are also prebiotic, so they help nourish a healthy, happy skin barrier.”

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skinceuticals LHA cleaner


Skinceuticals LHA Cleansing Gel


This is another LHA product that Dr. Hooper recommends to patients with oily skin, large pores, and acne.

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dr dennis gross daily peeling


dr. Dennis Gross Alpha Beta Universal Daily Peel


If your problem is more acne than oily skin, this is one of Dr. Hooper for her patients.

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cera ve sa cream


CeraVe SA Cream


“This salicylic acid cream is ideal for rough and bumpy skin and can even be used on other areas like the feet,” says Anna H. Chacon, MD. a board-certified dermatologist at Cleveland Clinic in Weston, Florida.

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vichy normaderm


Vichy Normaderm Daily Acne Treatment Cleansing Gel


This deep-cleansing gel with salicylic acid is another great option for treating oily skin, says Dr. chacon.

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