BHAs: What exactly are they, and why do they work?

If you’ve been around the skincare (or let’s be honest, Instagram or TikTok) block, you’ve probably heard of BHAs. This ingredient is widely touted as a top acne-buster, working to manage and maintain frustrating breakouts. And it’s true, they can!

But that being said, what exactly are they? Keep reading to learn a bit about what BHAs actually are, why they work, and, most excitingly, how you can work them into your skincare routine — naturally.

What is a BHA?

BHA is shorthand for beta hydroxy acid, the most famous of which is probably salicylic acid. Because it’s an acid, it works as a chemical exfoliant; importantly, though, a topical BHA like the natural one found in our cleanser works only on the surface of the skin and into the pores, as opposed to a chemical peel (which fully removes the top few layers of the skin).

What do they do?

BHAs are fat-soluble, meaning they dissolve into fat — that’s why these acids are so good at working their way into and clearing out pores (and so, busting oil-related acne) as well as managing oil production in general.

That being said, we’re personally fans of gentle, natural BHAs, as opposed to products that are too heavy on the actives. A gentle BHA will ensure that your skin is fresh and its moisture barrier stays balanced, but won’t totally strip your skin of its oil. Oil is important, and over-stripping your skin of its natural sebum will actually cause it to overcompensate (and thus, get too oily and clog pores).

Okay, so where do I get a gentle, natural BHA?

In our French Sea Clay + Pineapple Enzyme Cleanser! This everyday cleanser contains willow bark extract, which is actually a natural form of salicylic acid. With each wash, you get a gentle-yet-effective swath of balancing lil’ chemical exfoliants that work through your pores to slough off dead skin cells and unwanted bacteria — without causing any extra inflammation, irritation, or dryness.

PRO-TIP: If you want a bit of an added boost, try leaving the cleanser on for a few extra minutes as a mask!