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Ingredient: Beta Hydroxy

We most often hear the term Alpha Hydroxy Acid (AHA). So what is Beta Hydroxy Acid (BHA)? It is an exfoliating agent like alpha hydroxy, but its molecule is smaller. In the ingredients list on your skin care products and cosmetics it may be listed as salicylic acid, salicylate, sodium salicylate or willow extract. It may also be called tropic acid or trethocanic acid. BHA's are not as strong as AHA's.

Beta Hydroxy Acid (Salicylic acid) is most often used in skin creams to combat acne and help smooth signs of aging. BHA's weaken the "glue" that holds dead skin cells together and on your skin. Weakening this helps the skin discard these dead cells (exfoliation) so the newer skin underneath is revealed. BHA's are also oil-soluble so they are very effective on oily-skin types. It also has the ability to get deep into the skin's pores to unclog and clean them out. It can also help lighten dark spots.

Is it safe? Willow bark is the most common extract for BHA's (is the same willow bark used to make aspirins). The FDA and the Cosmetic Ingredient Review (CIR) both find it to be safe when it is formulated and tested to make sure it does not cause increased sensitivity to sunlight. They recommend when using a product with a BHA to be sure to use sunscreen daily. Because your skin because more sensitive to UV light when using a BHA, you should also be careful to follow the directions for use. Products with BHA should not be used on infants and children.

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