BHAs, or Beta-Hydroxy-Acids, are an oil-soluble, active ingredient - which you most likely know as salicylic acid/benzoic acid/butyric acid/the enemy of acne. Even if you aren’t familiar with the name, you’re likely already used it on your skin to tackle imperfections and blemishes. Clearing congestion and clarifying skin are perhaps their main claim to fame, but they’ll improve your skin in a myriad of ways. Namely; reducing pigmentation, deep-cleaning and limiting the oil on the surface of your skin. Plus, BHAs are anti-inflammatory, so they soothe angry, aggravated skin.
As BHAs are oil-soluble, they can bypass all kinds of sebum build up to get into the nitty-gritty of cleaning: dissolving grime, pollution and bacteria housed within pores that lead to all sorts of imperfections (our dear friends blackheads, whiteheads, standard pimples and blind pimples). Essentially, BHA’s are a molecule with the ability to dissolve the intercellular glue that holds skin cells together. Consider it a form of exfoliation.
BHAs are your best friend if you want to clear mild to moderate acne without drying – however, it’s good to note that though BHAs are wonderful at de-oiling and cleaning, they don’t have any effect on the underlying cause of acne (that is, acne-causing bacteria – they will only treat the condition). Incorporate BHAs into your routine as either a targeted blemish gel, a clarifying cleanser or within a serum. It’s also good to note that unlike AHAs, they will not increase sun sensitivity. But, of course, wear sunscreen regardless.
I find clients with oily skin types benefit most from the incorporation of BHA’s within their routine. Always remember you can have too much of a good thing… and BHAs are no exception. Overuse can lead to dryness and irritation so be sure to introduce them slowly into your regime.
P.S. If you have super dry skin or you’re pregnant, BHAs are not for you.