Beta hydroxy acid sounds quite complex, it seems as if it should be in a lab with all the other chemicals. But it is not as unfamiliar as you might think. Hydroxy acids are often used as components in skincare products. Beta hydroxy acid is particularly prevalent in this area, and most often when mentioned in this connection, it refers specifically to salicylic acid. This is an ingredient used in many anti-aging creams and acne treatments. When listed as an ingredient in a given product it is frequently labelled as containing BHA.
It is closely linked to the alpha hydroxy acid (AHA) which is another similarly used ingredient in skincare products. BHA has a range of potentially useful applications. Derivatives of salicylic acid have been utilized since the 5th century BC when a crude and unpurified form of it was employed to treat aches and pains and to reduce fevers. Another derivative is used in modern medicine to treat joint pain and muscle pain.
So, what does that mean?
The cosmetic applications of beta-hydroxy acid with regard to skincare are extensive and wide ranging. It is a key ingredient in many products in the processing of acne, psoriasis, calluses, corns, keratosis pilaris (also referred to as chicken skin) and warts. It is useful as it stimulates the skin in order that it can shed the outer layer of old and dead skin cells more easily and open clogged pores. It is able to neutralise the bacteria present within pores and also constricts the diameter of the pore to prevent it clogging up again and allow room for new cell growth. Salicylic acid is sometimes used in shampoo, due to its effect of removing dead skin cells. Broadly speaking, beta hydroxyl acid is most often used as an exfoliant.
Broader Discussion on Beta Hydroxy
Beta hydroxy acid is too high for use in high concentrations in skincare. It is stronger than the similarly used alpha hydroxy acid, and so is able to enter the skin more effectively but must be used in lower concentrations to avoid chemical burn. This is why most skincare products containing BHA use a solution of approximately 1 or 2 percent. This is normally a large enough concentration to exfoliate deep within the pore and fight stubborn blemishes and blackheads. The rest of the ingredients in a product containing beta hydroxy acid will be anti-irritants to soothe the skin after use, pH balancers for effective exfoliation and toners.
Well we have seen that BHA has wide-reaching applications and can be a particularly effective skin treatment. However, as we have seen it is an extremely strong substance so should be permitted only in moderation (solutions of about 1-2 percent). It is also chemically related to aspirin so any person who is allergic to aspirin should avoid salicylic acid in their skincare products.