Everything you need to know about Beta hydroxy acid - bha

AHA and BHA are types of hydroxy acids which are found in various cleansers, toners, moisturizers, peels and masks. The main purpose of these hydroxy acids are to exfoliate the skin  and remove the layer of dead skin cells or the outermost layer of skin.

Both of them are highly effective in deep exfoliation and the difference between them lies in their use.

What is BHA?

Full form of BHA is beta hydroxy acids and is highly essential for our skin. BHA structure is simple and actually it is an organic carboxylic acid with a hydroxyl group at the beta position of the carboxyl group. So, they differ with alpha hydroxy acids only in the position of the hydroxyl group otherwise their structure is quite similar.

The most common BHA, that is known for its acne fighting capabilities is known as salicylic acid.

Salicylic acid is fat soluble and is good for oily skin and because of this it has an enhanced ability to penetrate pores. Thus, salicylic acid is present in a lot of OTC products. 


It even has the ability to fight bacteria and reduces redness and inflammation. It treats calluses and other areas of dry skin.

How to use it?

BHA can be used daily, but you have to first get your skin accustomed to it. Although BHA’s don't make your skin as sensitive to sun as AHA does , a mild sunscreen should be applied while using products with BHA like salicylic acid. This will prevent sun damage and various skin related disorders.

BHA skincare

Our skin has the natural property of removing the top layer of dead skin cells regularly, but as the age increases and unprotected sun exposure can lead to delaying of this natural process of shedding or may even stop altogether.

This leads to dull and dry skin, clogged pores, wrinkles,unfirmness and uneven skin tone. So to help the skin get back its property of exfoliating dead skin cells can be done by using skincare products with BHA or AHA. These both play a very important role in rejuvenating the skin’s appearance and bringing the glow back.

BHA plays the role to unglue and loosen the bonds between the dead skin on the surface. Once these bonds are broken gently and evenly, skin naturally sheds these dead cells. You won't see your skin exfoliating but you can see the change in the texture of your skin.

To work efficiently BHA exfoliants must be formulated with a narrow pH range between 3 to 4. Thus all products containing such exfoliants should be used gently and only after proper medical advice.


AHA stands for alpha hydroxy acids and BHA stands for beta hydroxy acids.

AHA’s are water soluble and only work on the skin's surface. They are generally preferred for normal to dry skin, sun damaged skin, this is because of its highly moisturising abilities. These help peel the surface of the skin, so that new layers of skin cells can take their place. Thus it makes your skin smoother and gives your skin the glow and shine back.

Glycolic acid, lactic acid, citric acid, tartaric acids are some of the AHA’s which have strong exfoliating properties.So, it is recommended to wear sunscreen  every morning to prevent sunburns, age spots or skin cancer.

On the other hand, BHA is oil soluble and goes deep into the pores of your skin, to remove the dead skin cells. It even has natural skin calming properties and thus it works gently on sensitive skin.

BHA products

There are various products available, which contain beta hydroxy acids like salicylic acids etc. Salicylic acid should be left undisturbed for some time, so that its complete magic can be seen. 

However, there are some products like aha bha serums, aha bha cleansing solutions etc, which contains both the acids in definite proportions.

Whatever product we use, the main result that should be seen is fine and smoother skin. Thus, it is necessary that before using any kind of product, we should seek medical help from our dermatologist.

Both AHA and BHA have similar effects, and we can use any one as an exfoliating agent. However, each ingredient can be used to achieve different skin related goals. 

If you are still confused regarding which product to use or which ingredient is best for your skin, consult your dermatologist.


1. Can you use AHAs and BHAs together?

It is seen that if both AHA and BHA are used together, then they can be highly effective due to increased collagen synthesis, which can make the dermis and epidermis plumper.

But, since both of these are strong exfoliating agents, they can cause a lot of dryness and irritation depending upon the skin type. So, consult the dermatologist before using such products.

2. Is salicylic acid a BHA?

Yes, salicylic acid is a highly potent beta hydroxy acid whose concentration varies from 0.5 to 5 percent depending on the product in hand. It is well known for acne treatment and even helps in maintaining a normal skincare routine.

3. Is AHA and BHA good for skin?

Yes, AHA and BHA are highly good for skin and are very strong exfoliating agents. These both help in loosening the bonds between the dead skin cells and help in their shedding. Thus bringing back the smoothness and the glow to the skin.

4. What acids are BHA?

BHA are carboxylic acids in which a hydroxyl group is present at the beta position of the carboxyl group. These are highly efficient exfoliating agents and even reduces the inflammation and redness present on the skin. These help in smoothing the texture  of the skin and bringing the glow back.

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