Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Ask OutInAPout:
BHA and Acne: What Do I Need to Know?

The Question today comes from Jen, who writes:

Hey...I have a question for you, because I think you will have an answer for me. I've recently been having issues with acne, some really deep deep stuff and i can't seem to get rid of it, and it's just getting worse and worse. I just bought a BHA liquid with 2% concentration of salicylic acid and i was wondering if there are any precautions i should be aware of when starting to treat with it. thank you so much for your help. ^-^

My Answer:

Hey Jen,

I hope I can help! First and foremost- have you pinpointed the cause of your change in skin temperament? If not, try to analyse what changes have occurred since your skin changed- have you stopped/started any medications? Changed skin care or makeup routines? Is the breakout localized to one area (if so, read this!) Just a few things to think about.

As far as your BHA (aka salicylic acid) product, the first thing to be aware of it that if you have a known allergy to aspirin, you should not use BHA since it's very closely related (the chemical name for aspirin is acetylsalicylic acid). As long as you're OK on that front, the most important thing to know it that since BHA is designed to exfoliate, and thus reveal new skin, that new skin is going to be more sensitive to the sun- so it is VITAL that you ALWAYS (notice the caps) use a daily sunscreen of SPF 15 or higher- even if the only actual sun you see is in the car on the way to work!

As far as precautions, the biggest one I'd start by looking at the ingredient label- if the product lists SD Alcohol, Alcohol Denat, Denatured Alcohol, isopropyl alcohol or just plain alcohol, I'd stay away. Alcohol is extremely irritating, drying and can contribute to cell damage. There ARE some safe, even beneficial, types of alcohol that you don't need to worry about- if you don't know how to tell good from bad, here's more details!

Also be aware that the formula that you choose has to have the correct pH (3-4 is ideal) for the BHA to even work. Unfortunately, usually the only way to tell the pH of the product is to test it yourself. I actually have litmus strips that I use to test my products. Seems silly, but it beats spending time and money on a product that was never going to work in the first place. 

The only other precaution I can give you is to start slowly if you have sensitive skin or have been known to have reactions to other skincare. 2% is on the high end of concentration for salicylic acid in over the counter facial treatments, so you may want to start by using it just twice a week for the first couple of weeks, then step up to every other day for a week, and then, if you're not having extreme redness, dryness or flaking, go to every night. Also, I wouldn't use your BHA with any other products that contain AHAs or retinol- I'd even give any scrubs a rest until you're sure your skin has adjusted. You may also want to consider only using it on the effected areas, especially if your skin is in the normal to dry range.

Of course, I'm not a dermatologist, but I have many years of experience in the skincare/cosmetics field, so I've seen a lot and heard feedback on just about every skin condition you can imagine (I once met a lady who used Borax on her face! eek!!!) I started this blog to share my knowledge and experiences in the hopes that others will benefit, so I'm always happy to answer questions! Please pop in sometime to let us know how things are working for you! Good luck!!!

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