What is it used for?
Salicylic acid (BHA) has several uses – it’s the key active in Pepto-Bismol – but in skincare it is mainly used to fight acne, thanks to its anti-inflammatory, anti-microbial and exfoliating properties. Since it has the ability to penetrate the skin it offers deep pore exfoliation as well as acting on the skin’s surface. Percentages of 0.5 to 2 per cent are usually gentle enough for at-home use.
What are the pros and cons of using it?
Because it is oil-soluble, BHA is great at clearing pores of sebum and dirt without manual exfoliation. As well as treating existing blemishes, it also helps to prevent future breakouts by neutralising bacteria within the pores before it has the chance to develop into spots. Other benefits include improvements to skin thickness, barrier function and collagen production. On the negative side, salicylic acid can be unsuitable for those with aspirin allergies and can also be drying, so is better for oilier skin types. Irritation and mild stinging can occur, so introduce slowly at first before building up to everyday use.
Which products can I find it in?
BHA can be found in everything from cleansers to masks, but work well layered onto skin before your serum or moisturiser. Alternatively, choose a face wash with a good dose of salicylic acid and massage it into skin for several minutes, giving it time to work its magic. For your BHA fix try Paula’s Choice Skin Perfecting 1% BHA Lotion, La Roche-Posay Effaclar K Acne Treatment Fluid or Skinceuticals Blemish Age Cleansing Gel.