Is Salicylic Acid a BHA?
You’ve probably heard of salicylic acid and BHA, but is salicylic acid a BHA or are they two different things? In the world of skincare, having a decent knowledge of active ingredients can go a long way in tackling your most pressing skin concerns. Whether it’s acne or signs of aging, knowing your skincare ingredients can be the difference between fixing a problem and putting up with it.
Salicylic acid is mostly known for its acne-clearing powers, but how exactly does it work and is it the same thing as a BHA? Here’s everything you should know.
What is Salicylic Acid?
Salicylic acid (SA) is a chemical exfoliant derived from willow bark that helps promote the skin’s natural exfoliation process. It belongs to a class of ingredients known as salicylates. This ingredient has long been used to combat various skin concerns including acne, clogged pores, rough skin, and even skin conditions like psoriasis.
Salicylic acid works by penetrating the pores to remove dead skin cells, sebum, and impurities, helping to unclog pores. Besides unclogging blackheads, salicylic acid fights bacteria that can lead to acne while reducing inflammation to help soothe inflamed pimples.
You’ll find salicylic acid mostly in skincare products designed to target acne. This includes cleansers, toners, serums, and masks. It’s one of the best treatments out there for clearing up blackheads and whiteheads.
Is Salicylic Acid a BHA?
Yes, salicylic acid is a type of beta hydroxy acid (BHA) that is derived from salicin, a compound found in willow bark. Beta hydroxy acids are a class of organic compounds that are widely used in skincare products for their exfoliating and anti-inflammatory properties. BHAs are oil-soluble, allowing them to penetrate the skin’s oil glands effectively. Salicylic acid has several properties that make it a popular ingredient in skincare products.
Exfoliation: Salicylic acid is oil-soluble, which means it can penetrate the oil in the skin and work within the pores. It exfoliates the skin by shedding dead skin cells which helps to unclog pores and prevent the formation of blackheads and whiteheads. What’s more, this BHA is said to improve overall skin texture.
Anti-Inflammatory: Salicylic acid has anti-inflammatory properties, which can help reduce redness associated with acne. It also helps to soothe irritated skin.
Acne Treatment: Due to its ability to penetrate the pores, exfoliate the skin, and fight acne-causing bacteria, salicylic acid is commonly used in the treatment of acne. It helps to prevent the formation of new acne lesions and can improve the overall texture and tone of the skin.
Keratolytic Effect: The BHA salicylic acid has a keratolytic effect, meaning it helps to break down and remove excess keratin, a protein that can contribute to various skin concerns such as keratosis pilaris (KP). By promoting the exfoliation of dead skin cells and unclogging pores, salicylic acid aids in smoothing the skin's texture and reducing the appearance of the small, rough bumps associated with KP.
Are BHA and Salicylic Acid the Same?
BHA and salicylic acid are often used interchangeably, but they are not exactly the same thing. Salicylic acid is a specific type of beta hydroxy acid. While both function as peeling agents, salicylic acid has additional antibacterial actions. That being said, there’s really not much difference between the two.
Other BHAs do exist, such as tropic acid and beta hydroxybutanoic acid but salicylic acid is the most widely recognized BHA in skincare products. When you see “BHA” on a skincare product, it typically implies the inclusion of salicylic acid.
Dermatologists recommend salicylic acid for treating acne—as well as preventing it. Whether you’re experience breakouts on your face or body, SA helps to clear your pores, remove bacteria, and ultimately clarify your skin. It’s powerful without being too harsh thanks to its anti-inflammatory properties.
Shop Salicylic Acid Skincare
Is salicylic acid a BHA? It sure is! And it’s one of the best ingredients out there for treating and preventing acne—whether on the face or body. Here are some of our favorite products that include salicylic acid.
Truly’s Cherry Jelly Cleanser
Meet the award-winning body cleanser that’ll help you see the back of body acne. Last year, this foaming favorite won Teen Vogue’s Best For Bacne award. Formulated with salicylic acid and niacinamide, it lathers away pore-clogging dead cells and buildup to reveal fresher, clearer skin while leaving you smelling like cherries. It also hydrates and eases redness, so you won’t get that uncomfortable tight, dry feeling.
Truly’s 24K Gold Black Soap Impurity Cleanser
Besides feeling completely luxurious, this facial cleanser combines a powerful blend of both physical and chemical exfoliation to give your pores the ultimate deep clean. With a base of sugar and a blend of salicylic acid, charcoal, and 24k gold, it gently buffs away dead cells and absorbs excess sebum to leave skin noticeably clearer with a matte-like finish. Perfect for oily and acne-prone skin types.
Truly’s Tansy Water Body Mist
Target those hard-to-reach areas with just a few spritzes of this anti-blemish mist. It’s made with a combination of salicylic acid, blueberry, and blue tansy to clarify pores, absorb excess sebum, and fight inflammation. You can feel the freshness the moment you spray it on. We all know the struggle of trying to soap up our backs, which is what makes Blue Tansy Water so convenient.
Truly’s Super Star Pimple Patches
A pretty perfect way to banish breakouts. These star-shaped pimple patches make having a zit an ultra-chic moment. But they don’t just look cute. Flecked with retinol and salicylic acid, these patches work to drain fluid and impurities from active zits while purifying and soothing for speedy healing. Plus, they help prevent scarring and hyperpigmentation!
Is salicylic acid a BHA? Yes, salicylic acid is a type of beta hydroxy acid that works to remove dead skin cells, impurities, and excess oil. The main difference between salicylic acid and BHA is that salicylic acid offers antibacterial benefits, making it particularly effective for addressing acne. Is salicylic acid a beta hydroxy acid or is it something different? It is a beta hydroxy acid with added benefits.
If you’re looking to treat acne, improve skin texture, or alleviate irritation, salicylic is the best BHA of them all.