One of the most effective ingredients against clogged pores and breakouts is Beta-Hydroxy Acid. And, chances are you’ve already been using this exfoliating wonder since a tender young age (i.e. puberty). Ever tried a product with Salicylic Acid? Congratulations: You’ve been using one of the most time-tested Beta-Hydroxy Acids around.
So what are they? Beta-Hydroxy Acids (or BHA) are similar to Alpha-Hydroxy Acids (or AHAs) in that “ they are used for chemical exfoliation of the skin,” explains dermatologist Dr. Hadley King, “they dissolve the bonds that hold dull, dead skin cells on the surface of the skin so they will gently shed, revealing smoother, brighter skin underneath.”
Unlike AHAs though, BHAs are oil soluble. This, according to dermatologist Dr. Joshua Zeichner, allows them to “penetrate into the hair follicles and oil glands,” he says, explaining that “for this reason, they are commonly used in patients who have oily skin or suffered from acne.” If you’ve ever wished you could somehow “unplug” or “degunk” clogged pores, BHA is the ingredient you need in your life.
As mentioned before, Salicylic Acid is one of the most common BHAs and is quite gentle, but for a small group of people, it can still be a little too potent. Fortunately, there are some all-natural options that can give you the pore-clogging, dead-skin dissolving powers of Salicylic, but at a less intense level. Tea Tree is one such ingredient.
Tea Tree has been “proven to decrease acne and is antimicrobial,” Dr. King explains, meaning it not only kills the bacteria that can cause acne, but also prohibits it from growing. If you have easily irritated skin and you’re just starting out with Tea Tree, Dr. King recommends using it once a day or even once every other day. Her favorite way to introduce the ingredient is with a cleanser, like the Leegeehaam Grow Tea Tree 30 Cleansing Foam. Think of it like Tea-Tree training wheels — because it doesn’t stay on your skin very long, you have less of a chance of causing sensitivity, but still get all those breakout-banishing benefits.
Ready to go all in on a Tea Tree routine? Try the Leegeehaam Bye Bye Breakouts Tea Tree Routine Kit, which includes that clarifying cleanser, plus the Grow Tea Tree 70 BHA Toner, a potent, yet non-irritating gel formula that’s made of 70 percent Tea Tree extract. It’s a lightweight option that works to eliminate impurities and gently exfoliate dead skin cells. The kit has also got the Grow Tea Tree 70 Spot treatment, which is a must for anyone who wakes up to an angry pimple camping out on their chin. Follow it up with the Grow Tea Tree 95 Essence, a serum made with 95 percent(!) Tea Tree extract, and the Grow Tea Tree 80 Cream, which provides skin-soothing hydration that won’t clog pores or feel greasy on your skin.
Yet another natural BHA is Witch Hazel, an ancient plant that has been used for generations to treat everything from excess oil to undereye puffiness. Finally, there’s Willow Bark — while modern Salicylic Acid is mostly developed synthetically, back in the day, it was primarily derived from the bark of willow trees (i.e. willow bark). Still, Willow Bark is a natural source of BHA and another ingredient you’ll commonly find, either as an alternative or alongside synthetic salicylic acid.
BHAs really are a savior for anyone dealing with any type of skin congestion. “BHAs can help reduce blackheads, whiteheads, pimples, and milia,” Dr. King notes. And, even if you’re not dealing with widespread acne, BHAs can play an important role in your skincare routine, too. If you find yourself looking oily, your makeup just can’t seem to stop sliding off, or your pores look the size of a quarter, then BHA can help you get your complexion under control.
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