A BHA peel (scientifically known as beta hydroxy acid) is one of the gentlest chemical peels available. The procedure exfoliates the skin, treats pigmentation inconsistencies and sun damaged skin, reduces the appearance of age-related fine lines and wrinkles, and helps fight acne. The BHA solution contains salicylic acid - a colorless and odorless element of natural origin, found in sweet birch, wintergreen leaves, and willow tree bark. (It's also one of the key ingredients of aspirin.)
Like most peels, the BHA solution comes in a variety of concentrations. The higher the acid content, the deeper the peel. Even at its highest level of acidity (normally 30%) the BHA peel remains one of the mildest chemical peels, affecting only a very thin layer of the skin's outer surface. In fact, if you've ever used face wash you've probably already scrubbed your face with a very low-grade salicylic acid.
What It's Good For
The BHA peel is mild enough to apply to your face, chest, hands, arms and neck. It reduces the appearance of age-related fine lines and wrinkles, like crow's feet, and helps fight acne. BHA peels also exfoliate dead skin cells, treat pigmentation issues, such as rosacea and sun damaged skin, and lessens oil production.
Who it works for: BHA peels are gentle and well tolerated by individuals with sensitive skin. Salicylic acid is oil soluble, so the mixture is actually attracted to the body's natural oils. This makes the BHA perfectly suited to oily skin. A BHA peel can treat even the shiniest of complexions, penetrating clogged pores and clearing out blackheads and whiteheads.
The BHA peel has been found as a safe and effective type of skin resurfacer for clients of Asian descent. The darker your skin, the more susceptible you may be to post-procedure skin blotches and further unevenness. The acid solution may lighten dark skin pigment unattractively.
Recommended age range: The FDA and the National Toxicology Program warn that the chemicals found in BHA products could be harmful to children and infants.
When will I see results?: At least four BHA peels are usually needed in order to see significant changes in the quality of your skin. One procedure may be the equivalent of using a strong exfoliant. As this type of chemical peel only affects the outermost layer of the skin, the results are not as long-lasting as more intense peels.
How long it lasts: The lifespan of your BHA peel will depend on the quality of your skin and how you take care of your face after your chemical peel.
Key benefits of BHA peel: Salicylic acid, the main component of a BHA peel, is an anti-inflammatory that helps decrease redness during and after the chemical peel. Your procedure is less obvious afterwards. When used as a preliminary treatment, a BHA peel can enhance the outcome of stronger chemical procedures like a Jessners peel.
A study was conducted by the Saint Louis University School of Medicine comparing the effects of two similar superficial chemical peels - the BHA peel and the AHA peel, two months after the treatment, where the solution was applied every two weeks for a total of 12 weeks, or six treatments. Researchers found that a BHA peel of 30% concentration had fewer negative side effects on the skin.
Licensed uses: BHA chemicals are FDA approved for the prescription treatment of dry skin.
Did you know?: Aspirin is a related acid, called acetylsalicylic acid. That's why some home remedies for acne recommend a mask of crushed aspirin.