What is the best BHA exfoliant?
Like the ever-popular salicylic acid, beta hydroxy acids remove dead skin cells on the surface layer of the skin to reveal the fresh, healthy-looking skin underneath. Beyond their exfoliating properties, BHAs help to minimize and prevent acne, keep your skin from overproducing oil, unclog your pores, reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, improve skin texture and more. They also contain anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial properties.
What to consider when looking for a BHA exfoliant
BHA exfoliants are an excellent skincare element for those with oily or acne-prone skin. Those with dry skin may prefer alpha hydroxy acids (think glycolic and lactic acid). BHAs are suitable for those with sensitive skin, but users may like lower concentrated formulas.
Always look for BHAs formulated alongside other skin-enriching ingredients. Ingredients that soothe and hydrate, like green tea and hyaluronic acid, for example, help prevent any drying out of the skin. You should also avoid common stripping or irritating ingredients like parabens, sulfates, fragrances, essential oils and phthalates.
Type of exfoliant
BHA exfoliants come in various skincare products, including serums, cleansers, toners, acne spot treatments and more.
Most BHAs come in products at a concentration of under 2%. Some ointments feature higher concentrations of up to 6% offered at a clinical level.
BHA exfoliant cost
Most BHA exfoliant products cost $10-$30. Drugstore brands range from $9-$20, while high-end luxury brands ask for $30-$65.
Below, we’ve rounded up the best BHA exfoliants of 2021.
Best overall BHA exfoliant
Best of the best overall BHA exfoliant
Our take: This option is a lightweight, liquid BHA exfoliant with a myriad of benefits.
What we like: It has 2% salicylic acid helps remove dead skin cells and regenerates new ones, clear pores, smooth out wrinkles and even out the skin’s complexion, while green tea soothes skin. This option is paraben, phthalate, formaldehyde and fragrance-free.
What we dislike: Some users who experience cystic acne found it exacerbated their condition.
Best bang for your buck overall BHA exfoliant
THE INKEY LIST Beta Hydroxy Acid (BHA) Blemish + Blackhead Serum: available at Sephora
Our take: This is a thin, viscous BHA exfoliating serum that calms oily, acne-prone skin.
What we like: It has 2% salicylic acid exfoliates, fights acne and more, while hyaluronic acid hydrates and zinc PCA conditions skin. It is paraben, phthalate, formaldehyde and fragrance-free.
What we dislike: Some users didn’t notice a change in their skin after using it consistently.
Best BHA exfoliating facial cleanser
Best of the best BHA exfoliating facial cleanser
Our take: This is a creamy, luxurious-feeling facial cleanser designed to fight acne.
What we like: It unclogs pores and breaks down oil. It has 2% salicylic acid and micro-exfoliating lipo-hydroxy acid (a salicylic acid derivative) that helps shed dead skin cells and allow new cells to surface. It is fragrance, oil and paraben-free, as well as non-comedogenic.
What we dislike: It may be too strong for those with sensitive skin and too drying for those with dry skin.
Best bang for your buck BHA exfoliating facial cleanser
Our take: This is a gentle, effective facial cleanser formulated to prevent and treat breakouts.
What we like: It helps control oil and deeply cleanses skin. It has 1.5% salicylic acid fights breakouts and exfoliates, while green tea soothes skin. It is cruelty, paraben, sulfate and phthalate-free.
What we dislike: Some users with dry skin experienced irritation, dryness or itchiness.
Best BHA exfoliating toner
Best of the best BHA exfoliating toner
GLOW RECIPE Watermelon Glow PHA + BHA Pore-Tight Toner: available at Sephora
Our take: This is a lightweight facial toner that soothes and exfoliates skin.
What we like: It has a good balance of hydration and exfoliation. The BHAs in willow bark and betaine salicylate help skin shed dead cells and create new ones, while polyhydroxy acid does the same at a more gradual rate. The cactus water, watermelon extract and hyaluronic acid hydrate and enrich skin. It is vegan, as well as cruelty, paraben, phthalate and formaldehyde-free.
What we dislike: It does contain a very insignificant amount of fragrance that some users may find irritating.
Best bang for your buck BHA exfoliating toner
Our take: This is a pleasant and refreshing facial toner that revitalizes the skin’s surface.
What we like: It has 2% salicylic acid dissolves excess oil and improves skin’s texture, while moringa seed extract and moringa water, as well as papaya enzymes, to nourish and purify the skin. It is cruelty, paraben, phthalate, formaldehyde and fragrance-free.
What we dislike: Some users didn’t notice a difference with their skin after using it consistently.
Best BHA acne spot treatment
Best of the best BHA acne spot treatment
Our take: This is a reliable acne spot treatment that reduces the appearance of acne overnight.
What we like: It has 2% salicylic acid fights zits while aloe, oatmeal and green tea calm skin. It is vegan and cruelty, paraben, phthalate, formaldehyde and fragrance-free.
What we dislike: Some users feel it’s overpriced.
Best bang for your buck BHA acne spot treatment
Our take: This is a quick-acting acne spot treatment.
What we like: It boasts the ability to minimize acne in 4 hours. The 2% salicylic acid clears skin, while patented pine and thyme extracts prevent irritation. It is cruelty-, paraben-, sulfate- and phthalate-free.
What we dislike: Some users reported a burning feeling after regular use.
Sydney Poe is a writer for BestReviews. BestReviews is a product review company with a singular mission: to help simplify your purchasing decisions and save you time and money.
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