Beta Hydroxy Acids


Beta Hydroxy Acids are organic carbon compounds generally acidic in nature. The usual structure of beta hydroxy acid contains a carboxylic acid group and a hydroxy group particle. They are called beta because the functional groups are divided by two carbon atoms. However, Beta Hydroxy Acids aren’t the only Hydroxy Acid compounds used in skin care, a member of hydroxy acid compounds known as Alpha Hydroxy Acid has a major use in the skin care history. So, What’s the difference between the Beta Hydroxy Acids and Alpha Hydroxy Acids?

Natural Occurrence: Where to find?

Beta Hydroxy Acids are organic compounds and are extracted from nature. However, there are various kinds of Beta Hydroxy acids and they can be extracted from various sources. One of the most utilized Beta Hydroxy Acid is Salicylic Acid which is used for various purposes and is widely used in skin care industry is extracted from Bark of the Willow Tree or Sweet Birch or other Salix species.

Beta and Alpha Hydroxy Acids:

AHAs being water soluble help in skin nourishing only above epidermis, however, BHAs being fat soluble can reach down the skin cells and epidermis and can nourish the skin from its depth.

Basically, they both are carbon compounds that have a carboxylic acid and a hydroxy functional group attached to them. But in case of Alpha Hydroxy Acids, the functional groups are separated by one carbon atom while in case of Beta Hydroxy Acids the functional groups are separated by two carbon atoms.

Apart from the difference in their organic structure. They both have different physical nature. Alpha Hydroxy Acids or AHAs are water soluble on the other hand Beta Hydroxy Acids or BHAs are fat soluble. AHAs being water soluble help in skin nourishing only above epidermis, however, BHAs being fat soluble can reach down the skin cells and epidermis and can nourish the skin from its depth.

Beta Hydroxy Acids Uses In Skin Care Products:

Beta Hydroxy Acids are widely used in the skin care industry because of their characteristics. Beta Hydroxy Acids are fat soluble in nature and can nourish, moisturize and renovate the skin deeply. However, there are many beta hydroxy compounds present in nature i.e. Salicylic acid, Beta hydroxybutanoic acid, Tropic acid, Trethocanic Acid, Carnitine, etc. But not all of these compounds are used in the skin care industry.

The major Beta Hydroxy Acid used in skin care industry are Salicylic BHA and some occasions Citric Acid BHA is also used to make skin care products. Salicylic BHAs are used in the formation of anti-aging and anti-marks creams while Citric Acid is used as an antioxidant.

BHA as Exfoliant:

• Beta Hydroxy acids are fat soluble in nature and are very useful for the people having oily skins. BHAs can go through the sebaceous gland of the skin and repair the skin below the epidermis. It helps in the nourishment of skin cells and renovate them to make skin brighter and shinier.

Acne is major skin problem faced by many people. It mostly occurs during the age of adolescence or because of blood impurity. But BHAs being fat soluble in nature works as an effective exfoliant and reach below the skin and helps in getting rid of Acne problem by eliminating the impurity.

• BHAs helps in the treatment of wrinkles too. However, the body does the skin renewal itself but as the body gets older the skin renewal slows down and eventually stops. However, BHAs reach below the epidermis and helps the body in skin renewal, keeping you young for a longer time.

Not just skin renewal and anti-aging, but BHAs are used widely in the treatment of various skin diseases like:

Psoriasis (Scaly and Dry Skin Patches)
Warts (Small Fleshy Bumps on Skin)
Dandruff (Shedding of dead skin cells from the scalp)
Seborrheic Dermatitis (Red marks and scaly patches on scalp)

But despite so many skin beneficial characteristics, BHA products can still be harmful to your skin and there can be side-effects of using BHA containing skin care products. But you can prevent your skin from these side effects by taking certain precautions. So, let’s learn about these side effects and the precautions you can take to prevent them.

BHA: Side effects and Precautions:

Beta Hydroxy Acids are generally acidic and fat soluble in nature. BHAs can go below your skin and nourish it. They work great on oily skins. But, in case of dry skins, they aren’t that great. In case of dry skin, the frequent use of BHA containing cosmetics can make your skin even drier and rough. If you have a dry skin you should prefer using AHA cosmetics instead of BHAs.

Below mentioned side effects are noteworthy:

• BHAs can make your skin very sensitive. If you use BHA containing cosmetics on a regular basis, your skin cells become highly sensitive and sun rays start affecting your skin causing problems like tanning and sunburns. But SPF treatments can help you prevent your skin from sun damage. Use of BHA products requires a consistent SPF treatment for your skin to make it stay healthier.

• Before using a skin product, you should always ask for the recommendation from your dermatologists. All skin products aren’t compatible for all skin types. Similarly, skin cosmetics containing BHAs aren’t compatible for all skin types and can cause itching and rashes if not used wisely.

• BHA products can cause problems to your eyes if used near them. Because of acidic nature, they affect your eyes and cause problems like irritation and red and watery eyes.

• These precautions can help you prevent the major side-effects of the BHA products to affect the body. However, if you keep using these products frequently for a longer time, they make your skin highly sensitive and can even be harmful to your skin too. These precautions are helpful for a limited use only. You should always use skin care products under the guidance of a dermatologist.

So, now we are quite familiar with BHA, its uses, side-effects and precautions. Let us now know some cosmetics containing BHA that are available in the market and you can purchase them to treat your skin problems and get an everlasting glow.


The commercial BHA containing cosmetics contain 1-2% amount of BHA and have a pH between 3 and 4. Neutrogena and Dermalogica are some of the top brands making skin care products using beta hydroxy acids. Neutrogena makes deep cleansing and blackhead removal scrubs that contains BHA. Dermalogica makes exfoliants for skin that can be used for the deep renovation of skin cells.

Pure solutions of salicylic acids are also available in the market and can be used on the recommendation of dermatologists.

You can buy these products online or from your nearby cosmetic stores and pharmacies, however before using you should get them verified from your dermatologist to prevent harm to your skin.

FAQ: – What people normally wants to know about Beta Hydroxy Acids:

1.Why is BHA better than AHA?

BHA isn’t better than AHA. They both are unparalleled and completely incomparable. BHA is fat soluble while AHA is water soluble so they both are completely different in nature. On one hand, BHA is recommended for oily skin while AHA works magic on dry skin types. The use of AHA and BHA is completely dependent on your skin type.

2.I use an exfoliant peel for my skin, it contains BHA. But lately, my skin is getting tanned even if I spend only a few minutes in sunlight. I use SPF 30 sunscreen also. What should I do?

However, BHA makes the skin sensitive to sunlight but if you are having problems even after using SPF30 sunscreen you should contact your dermatologist and ask him to recommend a better sunscreen. SPF50 sunscreen might work for you but you should surely consider your Dermatologist’s advice first.

3.Lately, I’m having burning sensations in my eyes. I came to know it when I started using my anti-aging cream for wrinkles on my face. What should I do?

It might be because you are using it too near your eyes. Try keeping it away from your eyes and if you still feel burning sensation wash your eyes. Sometimes if these things don’t work try using a different anti-aging cream.

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Jessica is a writer who lives in Queens, NY. She spends most of her time listening to One Direction, watching TV, and hanging out with her one-eyed cat, Rigby.