What are BHAs? Your Ultimate Guide to BHAs in Skincare

What are BHAs? Your Ultimate Guide to BHAs in Skincare
by Truly Beauty

They can help with everything from acne to hyperpigmentation but what are BHAs? When it comes to choosing skincare products, it’s always wise to know your ingredients. Once you understand ingredients, you can choose the products that will work best for your specific skin concerns. For instance, BHAs are known for their acne-fighting powers. But what is a BHA in skincare? Here’s everything you should know. 

What are BHAs?

BHAs are a type of exfoliating acid known as beta hydroxy acids. They remove dead skin cells by dissolving the bonds that hold them together. And because BHAs are oil-soluble, they can be absorbed deep into the skin, making them effective at clearing out the pores and combating acne.

BHAs in skincare offer a number of benefits. For starters, they remove the buildup of dead skin cells, sebum, and impurities. This keeps the pores clear and in turn, prevents the formation of blackheads and whiteheads. Additionally, BHAs help to improve overall skin texture. In fact, BHAs offer benefits for many skin conditions and concerns including acne, rough skin, psoriasis, and seborrheic dermatitis to name a few.

BHAs are mostly known for their acne-fighting properties. You’ll find them in a range of products designed to address acne, such as cleansers, toners, and masks. The most common BHA is salicylic acid. 

Types of BHAs

There are a few types of BHAs but the most common one is salicylic acid. If you don’t see “BHA” listed on a skincare product, then look for “salicylic acid.” Here are the different types of BHAs: 

– Salicylic acid 

– Trethocanic acid

– Beta-hydroxybutanoic acid

– Tropic acid

Salicylic acid (SA) is a type of BHA that’s often found in acne-treating products. By melting away pore-clogging dead skin cells and excess sebum, SA helps to keep skin clear and blemish-free. 

How Do BHAs Work?

what are BHAs | beta hydroxy acids

BHAs essentially exfoliate the skin. Because they’re oil soluble, they are absorbed deep within the pores—and that’s where the exfoliating action happens. BHAs break down and remove excess oil and impurities while loosening the bonds between dead skin cells to decongest the pores and prevent breakouts.

Without dead cells, sebum, and dirt clogging up your pores, acne can clear up and excess oiliness is reduced. So whether you’re dealing with breakouts or shininess, BHAs can help at managing both of these. What’s more, BHAs antibacterial properties further work to keep acne under control. 

Thanks to their exfoliating properties, BHAs can also improve the appearance of hyperpigmentation by lifting discolored skin cells. Some say BHAs may even be helpful at fading acne scars over time.

What are BHAs beyond exfoliation? While they’re mainly famous for their exfoliating powers, BHAs also help to reduce the amount of oil your skin produces. This makes them effective for anyone dealing with oily skin and a shiny complexion.

What Do BHAs Do for Skin?

What are BHAs and what can they do for your skin? There are a number of benefits of BHAs for the skin. Here’s what BHAs can do.


1. Clear Acne

BHAs penetrate into the pores and remove the buildup of dead skin cells and excess sebum that can lead to acne. This helps prevent the formation of comedones (blackheads and whiteheads) and reduces the likelihood of breakouts. BHAs also boast anti-inflammatory properties that can help calm redness associated with acne.


2. Reduce Oiliness and Shine

BHAs regulate oil production by exfoliating within the pores, preventing the accumulation of excess oil. They offer a mattifying effect on the skin by controlling sebum production. This helps to reduce the appearance of shine, making BHAs a perfect choice for those with oily or combination skin.


3. Improve Skin Texture

BHAs sweep away dead cells to reveal fresh, smooth, and glowing skin. Regular exfoliation keeps the skin soft and smooth while giving the complexion a more radiant appearance. BHAs are great for alleviating rough, bumpy skin. 


4. Fade Hyperpigmentation

BHAs can help fade hyperpigmentation by gently removing pigmented skin cells. This can be particularly beneficial for addressing post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation left behind by acne. Regular use of BHAs contributes to a more even skin tone.


5. Minimize Pores 

BHAs can reduce the appearance of large pores in a few different ways. First, by removing dead cells and impurities that contribute to the enlargement of pores. Second, by improving skin texture which gives the skin a smoother appearance. And thirdly, BHAs have a mild astringent effect on the skin, helping to tighten the skin and make pores appear less noticeable.



How to Use BHAs

what are BHAs | model applying BHA cleanser

Now you know what are BHAs and how they work, here’s how to use BHAs in skincare. If you’re new to BHAs, start slowly. Especially if you have sensitive skin, it’s best to start by using BHAs two to three times a week and then gradually bumping it up to daily use once your skin adjusts. 

BHAs come in different percentage strengths so start with a lower concentration until your skin adjusts to this active ingredient. Pay close attention to how your skin responds to BHAs. If you experience any irritation, you may need to use them less frequently in your skincare routine until your skin gets used to them. 

If you’re using BHAs for acne or to control oiliness, opt for a cleanser, toner, and serum infused with BHAs such as salicylic acid. 

What are the Side Effects of BHAs?

BHAs are typically safe for topical use. However, they can cause redness and dryness in some people, particularly those with sensitive skin. These side effects usually go away on their own. If they don’t, stop using your BHA skincare products. 

Dermatologists recommend always doing a patch test before using a new product. Simply apply a small amount to your wrist and then check for signs of irritation. If you don’t experience any irritation, you can go ahead and use the product on your face or body without side effects. 

Shop the Best BHA Skincare Products

What are BHAs and what can they do for you? BHAs are best for those dealing with acne or uneven skin texture as these chemical exfoliants help to remove dead cells and impurities to clear and smooth the skin. Here are the best BHA products to try.

Truly’s 24K Gold Black Soap Cleanser

what are BHAs | Truly BHA cleanser


Your clear skin dreams come true with this impurity-erasing exfoliating cleanser. It’s made with salicylic acid to dissolve dirt and dead cells, charcoal to absorb oil, and African black soap to banish acne-causing bacteria, revealing your clearest complexion. 

Truly’s Bodne Routine

what are BHAs | Bodne routine BHA skincare


From bacne to boobne and beyond, this 4-step body acne set’s got every inch of you covered. It features our award-winning bacne cleanser, body mist, lotion, and pimple patches formulated with AHAs, BHAs, and niacinamide to clear, soothe, and mattify your skin. 

Truly’s Barbie™ Bright Serum

what are BHAs | BHA serum


This sparkly pink serum resurfaces and purifies with AHAs and BHAs. It’s your quick fix for body breakouts! Beyond its acne-fighting effects, Barbie™ Bright Serum hydrates, soothes, and leaves skin shimmering—and smelling sweet. 

What Happens if You Use BHA Daily?

If you’re dealing with acne, hyperpigmentation, or rough skin texture, using BHAs daily can make a significant improvement in your skin’s appearance. By keeping pores clear and cells fresh, BHAs keep the skin clear, smooth, and even. That being said, using BHAs daily when you have sensitive skin may lead to redness and irritation. For that reason, start slowly and pay attention to how your skin responds to BHAs before increasing usage.



How Long Does it Take to See Results from BHAs?

The wonderful thing about BHAs is that you’ll start seeing results within minutes of the first application. After the very first use, you’ll notice brighter, smoother skin. However, peak results don’t usually appear until several weeks. 



What Ingredients Can You Use With BHAs?

BHAs pair well with most other ingredients, including AHAs. That being said, some dermatologists warn against combining salicylic acid with retinol unless you are following professional advice. BHAs work especially well with hydrating ingredients such as hyaluronic acid, niacinamide, and glycerin which can help to combat any dryness associated with BHAs.

What are BHAs? BHAs, otherwise known as beta hydroxy acids, are chemical exfoliants that lift dead skin cells and impurities while absorbing excess oil to reveal smoother, clearer skin. BHAs are especially helpful for treating acne, hyperpigmentation, and rough, bumpy skin. 


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