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Ingredient focus

Ingredients In Focus: BHA

Trifonia Asmar
Writer and expert8 months ago
View Trifonia Asmar's profile
Model hiding half her face with her hand and smiling while using a BHA-infused cleansing face wash in a bathroom setting.

Adding acids into your skin care routine can often be intimidating. But when it comes to BHAs it needn’t be so scary. Gentle yet effective, they’re bursting with some seriously soothing properties and make the ideal complexion companion for easily triggered skin.  

With that in mind, here at Cult Beauty we’re shining the spotlight on all things BHAs – from what BHAs are to what they do for your skin and more – so you can face your fears and unveil radiant results.


Also known as beta hydroxy acids, BHAs are a category of (you guessed it) hydroxy acids that help promote the skin’s natural exfoliating process. While they’re naturally occurring in many plant-based sources, they’re typically created in labs when being used for cosmetic purposes. Renowned for banishing blemishes and soothing sun damage, BHAs are oil-soluble – meaning they’re easily absorbed through sebum to unclog visible pores and can be incorporated in most of your daily routine – we’re talking everything from your cleansers and toners to masks and moisturisers 


While there is a handful of acids that fall under the BHA family (including tropic and trethocanic acids), when it comes to your skin care, salicylic acid is by far the most widely renowned BHA – closely followed by citric acid. Keep scrolling to discover how to differentiate the two…  


The most common BHA, salicylic acid’s concentration ranges between 0.5 and 5 percent. Naturally derived from the bark of white willow and wintergreen leaves, it’s commonly used for its mild yet effective exfoliating benefits. Promoting natural shedding, the component looks to target dry and uneven skin while unclogging pores to prevent future breakouts.  


Before you say it… Yes, we know citric acids are predominantly classified as an AHAs. But some formulas are BHAs too. Rather than balancing out your skin’s pH levels, this specific form dries out excess sebum and diminishes dead skin cells from your pores.


Beta hydroxy acids are hardworking and multitasking ingredients that offer ample of benefits. Don’t believe us? Take a look at just some of the things BHAs can do for your skin care concerns. 

Reduce the look of pores: unlike other ingredients, BHAs target the skin’s shine and therefore are designed to deeply exfoliate the lining of pores to visibly unclog and shrink them. 

Banish imperfections: the not-so-secret secret to visibly banishing blemishes? Salicylic acid. Renowned for its ability to remove dead skin, this essential ingredient targets clogged pores, which in turn keeps the breakouts at bay.  

Remove excess oil: often described as ‘lipophilic’ (AKA oil-loving), BHAs act as agents that balance the appearance of sebum. Drawing out excess oil, the unwanted emollient is then washed away when cleansing your complexion. 

Brighten pigmentation: leave on BHA exfoliants work hard on the upper layers of the skin, encouraging dead skin cells to shed and reveal the healthier-looking and more radiant layers underneath

– not only does this uncover a dewy complexion but it also evens out skin tone too. 

Visibly smooth fine lines: adding to its long list of benefits, BHAs also feature hydrating properties. They help minimise the appearance of fine lines by improving the firmness of your complexion’s texture and tone.  


Blotting paper in a bottle, Glow Recipe’s Strawberry BHA Pore Smooth Blur Drops is the multitasking marvel that not only minimises the appearance of pores, but balances oil production too. Supercharged by BHAs and strawberry enzymes, the mattifying formula absorbs unwanted shine – without stripping your skin of necessary moisture. What’s more, blurring the lines between primer and serums, it prolongs your make up wear and creates the ideal canvas for all your looks.  

How to use: Using your fingers, evenly spread a pea-sized amount and gently pat onto cleansed, toned skin. Use daily, morning and night. Follow with moisturiser. 


The ultimate triple threat, WISHFUL’s Yo Glow AHA & BHA Facial Enzyme Scrub features three-in-one physical, chemical and enzymatic exfoliants that lift away dead cells to recover lost radiance. Visibly brightening your complexion – without irritation – the gel-to-peel formula fuses papain and bromelain to fade pigmentation while maximising clarity.  

How to use: Apply a generous amount on clean, dry skin. Gently massage the scrub in circular motions across the face and neck, rolling and sweeping away dead skin cells and impurities. Rinse well with warm water and gently pat the skin dry. 


Longing for a clearer complexion? Cue: Paula’s Choice’s Skin Perfecting 2 BHA Liquid Exfoliant. Looking to calm congested, combination and oily skin types, this gentle solution is enriched with salicylic acid to reduce breakouts and blackheads. Plus, blended with methylpropanediol and green tea extract, it enhances your hydrations levels to deliver your daily dose of dew.  

How to use: Lightly soak a cotton pad and gently apply over the entire face and neck, including the eye area (avoid lash line and eyelids). Do not rinse. At first, apply every other day and note skin's response. Then use up to twice daily. For daytime, follow with a broad-spectrum sunscreen rated SPF 30 or greater. 


Blending white willow bark (that’s a natural source of BHA) with squalene, Biossance's Squalane + BHA Pore Refining Toner is a one-of-a-kind medley that wipes away excess oil, dirt, and debris while quenching your skin’s thirst. Designed to balance out both oil and dry complexions, this featherweight formula, creates the ideal canvas for the rest of your daily regimen. Next up… Serums. 

How to use: After cleansing, pour the BHA toner onto a cotton pad and gently swipe over clean skin. It may also be poured into palm, and gently patted over skin.  


Take a plunge into TikTok’s cold-water therapy trend, without having to get into an icy tub. Enter: OLE HENRIKSEN's Cold Plunge Pore Remedy. Flooding your skin with hydration, this moisturiser brings a light yet cool sensation to your complexion while diminishing the appearance of unwanted pores. Bursting with BHAs, it’s also renowned for reducing the look of fine lines, darks sports and uneven tones.  

How to use:Apply evenly to face and neck AM and PM. 


So, now you have everything you need to know about BHAs, it’s time to level up your skin care routine and enjoy a clear, comforted and covetable complexion. 


Trifonia Asmar
Writer and expert
View Trifonia Asmar's profile
Cult Beauty’s Senior SEO Copywriter, Trifonia started out in the industry when bold brows were just becoming a ‘thing’, and shares a passion for all things fashion and beauty. Currently embracing her curly girl journey (after endless years of straightening her strands), she is finally reverting to her natural ways! When Triffy isn’t busy testing out the latest curl-saving solutions, you’ll find her binging the latest reality TV show or on a long walk listening to her ever-evolving country music playlist.