Breaking down BHA: What are beta hydroxy acids? - REMAKE

Breaking down BHA: What are beta hydroxy acids?

Whatever your skin type, a smooth, supple complexion is likely your goal – and the best way to bring that vision to life is by adding gentle yet effective exfoliation to your routine. Exfoliation is the key to skin that glows from the inside out, and through chemical exfoliation, you can ensure you aren’t over-scrubbing the skin and causing redness or irritation. 

Just like alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs), beta hydroxy acids (BHAs) are ingredients that work to chemically exfoliate the skin for a brighter, smoother, and clearer appearance. However, BHAs also have their own unique properties that make them a top pick for specific skin types, such as acne-prone and oily. 

Regular BHA use can help to bring out the best in your skin, which is why we’ve put together our comprehensive guide to this potent skin-perfector, with everything you need to know about how it works and using it to your skin’s advantage. 

What is BHA? 

BHA stands for ‘beta hydroxy acid’, a type of acid commonly used – as you now know – in skincare to encourage a healthy, glowing complexion through chemical exfoliation. By far the most known and used type of beta hydroxy acid is salicylic acid, so it’s likely that if you’re picking up a BHA product, it’ll have this ingredient in it. Salicylic acid is naturally derived from the bark of willow trees, however nowadays, it can also be synthetically created. Other types of BHA include tropic acid and trethocanic acid

How do BHAs work to exfoliate the skin? 

Beta hydroxy acids like salicylic acid are must-haves if you’ve got oily, breakout-prone, combination, or acne-prone skin above all else, as their biggest draw card is that they are oil soluble. But, what does this mean? Well, whereas many products are water soluble – meaning they are dissolved in water – BHAs can only be dissolved in oil. This allows them to penetrate much deeper into the layers of the skin and take effective action there, clearing the source of pesky breakouts and acne by breaking up and dissolving dirt and sebum. Part of this process is the sloughing away of old, dead skin cells clogging up pores, which in turn reveals a clearer and brighter complexion. 

BHAs like salicylic acid also have inherent anti-inflammatory properties, which can be very beneficial if you’ve got acne-prone skin or are affected by redness. While ‘acid’ might be a turn-off for those with sensitivities, salicylic acid is in fact quite gentle, and can actually work to soothe and calm the skin when used properly, rather than irritating it. 

What’s the difference between AHAs and BHAs? 

There are a few key differences to note between alpha and beta hydroxy acids, and they’ll help determine whether you incorporate both into your skincare routine, or use just one, for best results (AKA a complexion glow-up). Where BHAs are oil soluble, AHAs – as you may have already guessed – are water soluble. As a result, AHAs work more on the surface of the skin, making them a better choice for those looking to hydrate and smooth their complexion in conjunction with other skincare products. Meanwhile, BHAs sink much deeper into the skin, but don’t have the humectant properties of AHAs, so they’re a fantastic choice for addressing imperfections and impurities like acne. 

Another key difference between AHA and BHA products is the variety of acids on offer. Where you’ll find the majority of BHA products use salicylic acid, there are a broader handful of AHAs around, including lactic acid, glycolic acid, and citric acid. So, if your skin doesn’t like one of them, there may be a gentler alternative that you can incorporate rather than swearing off the ingredient altogether. The same definitely goes for BHAs, however your choices may just be more limited. Thankfully, when used properly, salicylic acid rarely elicits a reaction, even from sensitive skin, because of the ingredient’s anti-inflammatory properties. 

Who should use BHAs? 

BHAs have benefits for everyone, but as we’ve alluded to, they’re particular stellar picks if your skin is oily, acne-prone, or combination. This is because they delve deeper into the skin’s layers to slough away dead skin and excess oils, which is hard for non-oil soluble products to do. Paired with their anti-inflammatory nature, BHAs are a great choice for banishing breakouts and keeping the skin feeling soothed and refreshed. 

However, this doesn’t mean that other skin types can’t benefit from BHAs, too. Everyone gets a pimple now and again, which makes salicylic acid a go-to topical product for those occasions. If you only get breakouts on occasion, instead of a liquid exfoliant, you might prefer a blemish control gel or topical treatment formulated with a BHA. 

Like AHAs, BHAs are also quite gentle, meaning they can be utilised by any skin type, including dry, dehydrated, mature, and sensitive. Just be sure to test a small amount before adding a BHA-based product into your routine for good. 

How should you use BHA skincare? 

Because BHAs need to penetrate deep into the skin, you’ll get the best results by using leave-on products like gels, moisturisers, and liquid exfoliants. However, that doesn’t mean you won’t experience a whole host of benefits from a BHA cleanser or mask – the impact will just be less potent, meaning you’ll need to use that particular product for longer to see tangible results. When you first start with a BHA like salicylic acid, we recommend using it once or twice a week to get your skin acquainted. Then, after a few weeks of use with no reactions, you can begin to increase this until you’re using your new BHA daily. 

One particular ingredient can clash with BHAs and AHAs for not-so-great results, and that’s retinol. If you already use a vitamin A product in your routine, it’s best to alternate days and morning and night with your BHA – being sure to use your retinol at night to avoid any potential exposure to the sun (even with sunscreen, which is a non-negotiable regardless of the products in your routine, retinol can be sensitive to light). There’s nothing saying a healthy skincare routine can’t reap the benefits of both a BHA and retinol, however spacing them out will be key to avoiding any side effects. 

On the flip side, AHA and BHA products are a powerhouse duo when paired together, delivering a laundry list of benefits, including combating the physical signs of ageing, reducing dark spots and hyperpigmentation, clearing up breakouts, and minimising sun damage, all through the miracle of exfoliation. That’s why the Remake No BS Liquid Exfoliator is a must-have skincare saviour for every routine. Formulated with both AHAs and BHAs for an all-round glow with absolutely no BS, this miracle-in-a-bottle product will slough away dead skin cells, banish excess oil, and reveal a brighter, more even complexion. 

Add BHAs to your beauty routine today – shop the Remake No BS Liquid Exfoliator.