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What is BHA and how does it work for your skin?

17 Mar 2021
by LW Editorial Team

From pimples to rough texture and blotchy, dull skin - is there anything BHA can't treat? We totally get the huge popularity of BHA because it's just so versatile! You might also know this ingredient as salicylic acid. It's one of the few chemical exfoliants with the wonderful ability to work its magic both on the skin surface and in the pores. It clears out the gunk hiding in your pores, making it helpful against treating and preventing blackheads and the formation of pimples. In case your memory needed some refreshing, here's a reminder of why we can't get enough of BHA!

The perks of BHA

  • It's a strong anti inflammatory agent

Chemically speaking BHA is related to aspirine, the famous medicine commonly used to reduce fever, pain and inflammation. Did you know that the active ingredient in aspirin is actually called acetylsalicylic acid? Yeah, they're totally related! BHA is a strong anti inflammatory agent as well, what makes it so effective in treating skin issues like skin inflammation, rosacea and acne. Be true to your BHA and you'll get calm, clear and smooth skin in return. 

  • It works inside the pores

BHA is oil soluble which means it can effectively penetrate your pores and work its magic inside them, removing dead skin cells and excess sebum that lead to clogged pores, blackheads and acne. Another great result is smoother skin and improved skin texture. Other chemical exfoliants are mainly water soluble, which means that they don't have this pore-penetrating magic power and that their effectiveness is limited to the surface of the skin. 

  • It's effective in concentrations as low as 0,5%

You can get professional salon-style peels with up to 30% BHA as a powerful way of treating hyperpigmentation, refining skin texture and diminishing acne and wrinkles. But salicylic acid is effective in concentrations as low as 0,5%! In Europe, products are legally allowed to contain up to 2% BHA if they're meant for home use. Korean skincare tends to contain lower concentrations, or combines BHA with the soothing Betaine to form Betaine-Salicylate, an ingredient you'll find in lots of Korean exfoliants. It's just as effective as BHA but is generally better tolerated by sensitive skin types.

Use BHA like a pro

Incorporating a BHA product in your skin care routine is pretty foolproof and straightforward, but there are a few things to be mindful of. Firstly, more isn’t always better. It can be tempting to throw lots of strong actives at your skin at once, but this only increases the risk of getting irritated skin, damaging your moisture barrier and making your skin unhappier than when you started. Like many good things in life, and we think BHA is one of them, moderation is key.

A general guideline is not to combine BHA with retinoids (retinol, retinal, retinaldehyde or tretinoin) and Vitamin C in the same routine. This greatly reduces the chance of overwhelming your skin. A routine example is to use BHA and retinol on alternating nights during your PM routine, and using Vitamin C in the morning every other day. Some people tolerate it daily, some only need to use it twice a week to get good results. If your skin feels too sensitive, taper it down a bit. There’s no one size fits all routine because every skin is unique!

Now we’re diving into the ins and outs of BHA, it’s good to know that the pH value greatly influences the efficacy of salicylic acid. Ideally, products will be formulated within a quite low range of between pH 3 - pH 4 to make sure that it is most effective. If you have any questions about the pH of your product you can always get in touch with our customer service.

BHA for all skin types

BHA is a very versatile ingredient that deserves a place in all sorts of skin care routines. Whether you’re trying to treat acne, suffer from inflammation or redness, a dull skin texture or the first signs of aging; salicylic acid a.k.a. BHA can be your BAE. It’s a total all-rounder! And more importantly, because BHA sloughs off dead skin cells and gunk that builds up on your skin surface and in your pores, it enhances the absorption of your essences, toners and serums, making them more effective!

Our top picks with BHA

Benton Aloe BHA Skin TonerCORSX Original Clear Pad
Beauty of Joseon Propolis Glow SerumPyunkang Yul Peeling Gel
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