How to tell your acids apart

BHA bible

  • 24.11.2021

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If you struggle with acne, clogged pores and/or oily skin, chances are, you’ve heard of BHAs at least once in your life. And more likely than not, it’s probably salicylic acid you’ve used. Starting to sound familiar? Admittedly, it is pretty good stuff seeing as it’s a miracle worker when it comes to removing gunk out of your pores whilst also eradicating fine lines. But that’s not all when it comes to BHAs — aka, beta-hydroxy acids.

At its simplest, BHAs are a group of chemical exfoliants. And chemical exfoliants are God-sent skin regeneration agents. Got acne scars or dull-looking skin? Smooth on some exfoliating products and let the quickened cell turnover process begin – of which results in smoother, clearer skin. But don’t get it confused with another group of chemical exfoliants called AHAs. Yes, although it’s just a letter different, they can pretty much ruin your skin if you use the wrong one on your skin type. We’ve detailed the differences between the two, below.

So… which is which?
AHAs — also known as alpha-hydroxy acids — should be a go-to for you if you have a sensitive complexion. It’s generally gentler and works on the surface of the skin to improve skin texture. It’s also mostly used to correct skin tone and discolouration. Some common AHAs are glycolic, lactic (the gentlest of the bunch!), and malic acids.

On the other hand, sensitive skin types should probably stay clear of BHAs, aka, beta-hydroxy acid. It tends to be harsher on the skin, and it’s mostly used for its pore-unclogging properties, so it’s better suited towards those with oily, acne-prone skin. This is because it’s oil-soluble, and penetrates more deeply into pores for a ‘clean from within’ approach. Some examples include the ever-popular salicylic acid, or at times, tropic acids.

In the beauty sphere though, you’ll most commonly find salicylic acid. It’s got major street cred for dissolving sebum and dead skin cells, which basically means things like black or whiteheads, milia seeds, etc are a thing of the past. It’s also anti-inflammatory, which is why it’s a beloved ingredient in face washes and anti-acne serums. So for all its uses in soothing breakouts and reducing redness, it’s no wonder salicylic acid is as popular as it is. But we’ll let you decide for yourself — we’ve rounded up the top picks within the realm for you to add to cart.

CeraVe Renewing SA Cleanser
We love this because despite having salicylic acid in it, it’s still gentle enough that it doesn’t feel like your skin has been sucked dry of moisture. Plus, even though it’s ‘gentle’, it’s still effective enough to reduce redness and fight acne. Also, to combat the pore-penetrative power of the BHA, CeraVe made sure to include hyaluronic acid for some moisture replenishing. Basically, you’ll be getting the best of both worlds with this — and it definitely should be on your list if you’re seeking a new facial cleanser.

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First Aid Beauty Pharma White Clay Acne Treatment Pads
Treatment pads are a god-sent for all ’em lazy folks out there. With each pad saturated in kaolin clay and salicylic acid, users are sure to benefit from the pore-unclogging and mattifying benefits in just a few swipes. An easy fix for oily days, indeed. Plus, it keeps your makeup from melting.

Caudalie Vinopure Skin Perfecting Serum
For girls prone to breakouts, this is the serum for you. It’s the ideal 3-in-1: it reduces the appearance of imperfections; minimises the look of pores; and visibly improves the texture of acne-prone skin. Plus, it has polyphenols added, which brings anti-oxidant properties and also helps smooth out those wrinkles and fine lines.

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