Here’s a skincare junkie’s dream trivia question: what’s the difference between an AHA and a BHA?
Both are hydroxy acids (AHA stands for alpha hydroxy acids and BHA for beta hydroxy acids) and are a big deal when it comes to exfoliating the skin. However while AHAs tend to take up a lot of the glory (being alpha and all) BHAs are certainly no slouch.
The difference? AHAs are water-soluble acids made from sugar cane, fruit and plants. Given their make-up you can add them to other water-based products if you want to amp up hydration levels at the same time. Glycolic acid is a big one under this umbrella. AHAs are good for helping to shed dead skin cells and stimulate collagen and can therefore target sun damage and fine lines.
BHAS meanwhile are oil soluble, which means they are able wiggle deeper into the skin’s pores and help remove excess sebum and dead skin cells. Salicylic acid (which comes from bark willow, making it a natural substance), is one of the best known in the BHA family. Because of its clearing house capabilities, and anti-inflammatory properties, it’s particularly useful for acne-prone or congested skin types.
For pregnant and breastfeeding women salicylic acid may not be suitable and it might be a bit much for super sensitive skin types too.
A salicylic acid cleanser is an excellent kick-off for a skincare regime with a particular focus on properly cleansing the face and hitting refresh for smoother, clearer and softer skin.
Given the effectiveness of salicylic acid there are loads of options on the market. So to make things easier we’ve found the ones worth adding to cart now, across a range of price points, skin types and skin concerns.
The best salicylic cleansers to shop now
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For break-out prone skin
This will help clear out pores and brighten your skin to boot.
Paula’s Choice Clear Acne Pore Normalizing Cleanser, $29, available at Paula’s Choice
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For oily skin
For oilier skins, this from French pharmacy brand La Roche-Posay, will help thanks to its two per cent concentration of salicylic acid.
La Roche Posay Effaclar Foaming Cleanser, $33.90, available at Guardian
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For irritated skin
For skin in need of some TLC and a deep clean try this from Verso. As well as salicylic acid it also has antioxidants such as niacinamide, which helps with skin texture, and purslane for soothing and hydrating as well as zinc PCA for helping with acne.
Verso Acne Deep Cleanse, $54.13, available at Revolve
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For sensitive skin
While salicylic acid will likely be too much for truly sensitive skin, if you only occasionally suffer a touch of irritation this salicylic acid and thyme extract infused cleanser is for you. It has calming properties from added aloe vera.
Future Flash 10 Botanical Deep Cleanser, $129, available at Freia
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For those wanting to look on the bright side
This powerhouse from Dermalogica tackles both congestion and the signs of ageing. Skin will feel smoother and brighter.
Dermalogica Clearing Skin Wash, $75, available at Dermalogica
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For combination skin
Alpha-H is one of the bees knees when it comes to exfoliating products. This cleanser will target blemishes and soothe inflammation.
Cosrx Salicylic Acid Daily Gentle Cleanser, $14.90, available at Watsons
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For those who want both
Want bang for your buck? This cleanser has both AHAs and BHAs to cleanse, exfoliate and tone.
Dr Dennis Gross Alpha Beta Daily Cleansing Gel, $21, available at Sephora