What Are Beta Hydroxy Acids?

What’s the difference between glowing newborn skin and wrinkled, dull and dry aging skin: Skin cell renewal.

As we grow older, our skin produces new skin cells at a slower rate, and isn’t able to shed old and damaged skin cells as efficiently. It needs extra help, and that can come in the form of beta hydroxy acids.

What Are Beta Hydroxy Acids?

Beta hydroxy acids (also known as BHAs) break down dead skin cells. This not only reveals younger looking skin, but improves your entire skin texture and appearance. Your pores look smaller, your fine lines are diminished, and uneven skin tone– which can make your skin look blotchy – is corrected. Even without makeup, your complexion appears clearer, brighter, smoother and more even.

Beta Hydroxy Acids are often used with Alpha Hydroxy Acids (or AHAs) in skin exfoliants, cleansers, and anti-aging creams. In some cases, it is also combined with lactic acids which are produced from milk.

[Link: Discover The Benefits of AHA's]

How Does Beta Hydroxy Acid Improve Skin?

This chemical breaks down the skin cells in the epidermis, or the skin’s outermost layer. This can help reduce roughness and dry spots, and also makes the skin look more radiant. That’s because the light bounces off better on smooth skin – much like how glass shines under the sun, but rough concrete does not.

BHAs can also encourage your skin to produce new skin cells, and can help your other skincare products penetrate better into the deeper layers of the skin. If your skin is clogged up with dead skin cells, thicker creams will just sit on top of it and evaporate into the air. But if you use a BHA cleanser, or a BHA-infused cream, the other ingredients are absorbed better and faster.

What Do I Look For In A BHA Skincare Product?

In most cases, the ideal concentration of BHA is 1% to 2%. Anything higher can irritate the skin, since it is after all an acid. It is also important to combine BHAs with ingredients that can help manage possible skin irritation and inflammation. So look for plant extracts like aloe and chamomile, or moisturizing and hydrating ingredients that will not only fight dryness but help the skin “trap” the moisture. Many beauty bloggers and editors recommend that you add a weekly facial mask or deep-moisturizing sleeping mask to your skincare routine if you are using BHAs.

What’s The Difference Between AHA And BHA?

While most people use these acids interchangeably, or find both of them in their skincare products, their effect on the skin is actually different. AHAs are water-soluble and BHAs are lipid-soluble (or more likely to dissolve in fat). In that sense, beta hydroxy acids are able to penetrate even clogged pores and help break down any dirt and debris inside it. That’s why they are very effective in treating or preventing acne, or moisturizing thicker skin that’s been damaged from sun exposure, pollution, or years of neglect.

What's The Best Way To Use BHA Products?

Like all acids, beta hydroxy acids or BHAs can make your skin more sensitive to the sun.  That’s why it’s better to apply them at night, and to use a high-protection sunscreen in the daytime. Also avoid excessive sun exposure by staying indoors from 10am to 3pm, and wearing hats or sunglasses when you can’t avoid going outdoors.


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