The chase for the fountain of youth has led to numerous researches and studies especially on wrinkles and the effects of photoaging. As a result, one chemical that has generated buzz is beta hydroxy acid. Hydroxy acids are two types namely alpha and beta.

Alpha hydroxy acids, derived from fruits and milk, are water-soluble acids used as exfoliants and used as an anti-aging product. It is gentle on dry skin. By contrast, beta hydroxy acids are oil-soluble acids that can penetrate the skin to unclog pores and are derived from willow bark. It is helpful in oily skin and for sensitive skin.

Beta hydroxybutanoic acid, or trethocanic acid, and salicylic acid are generally the only BHAs used in skincare products. BHA is now synthetically made and commonly used for both at-home and professional skin rejuvenating and acne treatments.

How Does Beta Hydroxy Acid Work?

The main mechanism of action of beta hydroxy acid is exfoliation. It allows rejuvenation of the skin by sloughing off of dead skin cells of the epidermis. The result of the regular application for 1-2% at pH 3-4 has a positive effect on wrinkling, roughness, skin tone and mottled pigmentation of photodamaged skin. 

BHAs also help with environmental and lifestyle factors that affect skin:

Water hardness: 

hard water promotes soap scum and mineral buildup in the skin which breaks down the skin lipid barrier and leads to chronic dryness, rosacea, clogged pores and inflamed skin. BHAs cut through these deposits and lessen the effect of hard water. 

High Stress: 

Stress pumps cortisol release which is detrimental to your skin. BHAs counter this effect.

Pollution Protection: 

Clinical studies have found the relationship between pollution and unhealthy skin. Nanoparticles in polluted air cause premature aging. This coupled with dust and dirt in polluted air makes skin dull and dry. BHAs help fight these effects.

What Are the Uses of Beta Hydroxy Acid?

Beta hydroxy acids are used in a variety of skincare products like eye creams, cleansers, foundation and sunscreen. To make the best out of your BHAs use, choose one product with appropriate BHA concentration and then choose other BHA-free cosmetics to prevent skin irritation.

The ideal BHA product is a moisturizer base. Cleansers aren’t useful because BHA needs to be absorbed into the skin to work but in cleanser form, it will be washed out before it can be absorbed. Sunscreen also falls in this category because the pH which activates BHA simultaneously renders sunscreen ineffective.

When using BHA products and sunscreen, make sure to buy one with an SPF 15 or higher and contains avobenzone, titanium dioxide, or zinc oxide for UVA protection. Make sure to apply sunscreen liberally all over the skin before going out.

BHA works best at pH 3-4 at concentrations 1-2%. Unfortunately, most makeup manufacturers don’t include pH and the only other way to determine that is using a pH strip.Here’s how BHA work to effective give clear, bright and flawless skin:

Clears Pores

For those with larger follicles, pores can become clogged by dead skin cells and sebum, resulting in blackheads. BHAs unclog hair follicles and clear sebum. Thus, it reduces blackheads and skin blemishes. Additionally, it also helps keep skin firm. 

Treats Existing Acne

Salicylic acid clears pores minimizing blackheads and clogged skin which are the principal factors in acne. Moreover, it is also believed this acid fights the bacteria that causes acne.

Prevents Fresh Acne Breakouts

While BHAs like salicylic acid can treat existing acne as well as prevent breakouts through regular use, under dermatologist supervision. Daily use of BHAs can benefit oily or acne-prone skin as it prevents sebum buildup, reduces large pores, and prevents comedones from forming effectively preventing acne breakouts.

Which Skin Concerns Are Remedied by Beta Hydroxy Acid?

We have already discussed how BHAs work, the exfoliant property of BHAs has made them ideal for the treatment of many skin conditions like those we will discuss below. Research has shown favorable results of regular BHA use. Hence, it is also being touted as an anti-aging ingredient in many skincare products given the marked effect on wrinkles and fine lines.

We have already discussed how BHAs work, the exfoliant property of BHAs has made them ideal for the treatment of many skin conditions like those we will discuss below. Research has shown favorable results of regular BHA use. Hence, it is also being touted as an anti-aging ingredient in many skincare products given the marked effect on wrinkles and fine lines.

Fine Lines and Wrinkles

Wrinkles are creases and folds that form on our face, neck and hands. and are caused by the natural process of aging on our skin. However, exposure to the sun, pollution, and cigarette smoke can accelerate the wrinkling process. Genetics also plays a role in the skin’s elasticity, plumpness, and the age at which wrinkles begin appearing.

To prevent wrinkles, daily moisturization and sunscreen work best. Furthermore, Hydroxy acids like AHAs and BHAs act as antioxidants to reduce free radicals that damage cells and speed up aging.

Hyperpigmentation

Hyperpigmentation usually refers to discolored patches over the skin due to excess melanin in those areas. A buildup of dead cells and slough can also cause this hyperpigmentation. BHA helps to remove dark spots and level out skin tone by encouraging the shedding of old, discolored dead skin cells.

Firmness

The firmness of your skin is determined by genetics as well as collagen production. BHA stimulates collagen production hence maintaining skin elasticity and giving you youthful plump skin.

Which Skin Types Are Most Affected by Beta Hydroxy Acid?

BHAs are usually suited to all skin types. It helps reduce acne in oily skin by reducing sebum production. Nonetheless, it is best to determine your skin type to buy a suitable product with the correct concentration for your skin.

Dry Skin

BHA is hydrophilic, which means it contains molecules that love water, and thus help retain skin's moisture content. Unfortunately, it isn't very useful for extremely dry skin.

Normal Skin

The exfoliant property of BHA makes it a great choice for normal skin and exfoliates the skin's surface while helping it hold onto more moisture.

What Kinds of Products Contain Beta Hydroxy Acid?

BHAs are a common ingredient in toners, facial cleansers, moisturizers, exfoliating pads, chemical exfoliants, acne cream, pore-refining serums, peels, and masks. Dermatologists recommend concentrations of at least 2 percent salicylic acid to combat breakouts without burning your skin.

Products that claim to brighten skin tone and reduce fine lines as well as treat acne and control excess oil are very likely to contain hydroxy acids. So check which one, look for BHA labelled as salicylic acid while AHA ingredients are glycolic acid, citric acid (sometimes labeled vitamin C), or lactic acid.

Conclusion

BHAs are generally harmless however applying sunscreen in combination with BHAs is recommended by dermatologists. This is because BHAs can increase sun sensitivity leading to sunburn if used alone. Those with rosacea-prone and reactive skin are also better off avoiding BHAs at higher strengths. Remember, it is always a good practice to consult a dermatologist before applying a new product to your skin to avoid the risk of adverse reactions.

As a concluding note, we would like to reiterate that this article is for educational and informational purposes only, and is not a substitute for professional medical advice or prescription purposes.

x