A Complete Guide Through BHA Chemical Peel

By PMUHub Editorial Team| Last updated on April 21, 2023

A BHA chemical peel is a popular skin treatment that uses beta-hydroxy acids to exfoliate the skin, resulting in a clearer, smoother complexion. Let’s help you determine if a BHA chemical peel is worth considering for your skin

bha chemical peel

Image source: Instagram @elizabethpacheco.med

Chemical peels are generally well-liked skin care procedures that can help your skin look and feel better. They function by removing the top layer of dead skin cells with a chemical solution to reveal smoother, younger-looking skin underneath.

But what does the BHA chemical peel specifically do? Let’s explore the properties of beta hydroxy peel, compare it to other peeling solutions and answer the question of whether they’re a good option for you.

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What Is BHA Chemical Peel?

BHA stands for beta hydroxy acid, which is a type of chemical exfoliant used mainly for its incredible ability to unclog pores and reduce excess oil production.

The most well-known BHA chemical peel is salicylic acid.

Salicylic acid is a lipophilic (oil-loving) acid, which means it can penetrate deeply into the pores and dissolve the “glue” that holds dead skin cells and oil together. This makes it especially effective at treating acne-prone or oily skin.

And while salicylic acid is the most commonly used beta hydroxy peel, there are other types of BHAs as well. However, most of them are only used in skincare products, or in combination with other acids, rather than as a BHA chemical peel treatment.

what is BHA chemical peel
Image source: Freepik

Different Types of BHA

Beta Hydroxy Acid peels are oil soluble (not water soluble like AHAs) which makes them the best solution for those with oily skin and enlarged pores.

They are also more potent and can reach deeper areas of the skin, which is why it’s often considered a resurfacing treatment. And although BHA peels are stronger than AHAs, they are still considered to be of moderate intensity.

Most BHA chemical peels use a concentration of 20-30%, but the strength of the solution will vary depending on your skin type and concerns.

Here are different types of BHAs used in cosmetic/beauty industry:

Salicylic Acid

As already mentioned, this is the most commonly used BHA facial peel. It’s very effective in penetrating and unclogging pores, making it ideal for those with oily or acne-prone skin.

Betaine Salicylate

This is a milder form of salicylic acid that is derived from sugar beets. This ingredient is often used as a replacement for salicylic acid. It’s gentler on the skin, making it a good option for those with sensitive skin.

Willow Bark Extract

This is a natural form of salicylic acid that is derived from willow bark. It is gentle on the skin and used in products dedicated to sensitive and acne-prone skin.

Hybrid Peels

The beta hydroxy peel is easily combined with other chemical peeling acids, like TCA or, more commonly any of the AHAs.

An AHA+BHA peel is a type of chemical peel that combines the properties of both: AHAs, such as glycolic acid and lactic acid, work on the surface of the skin to exfoliate and promote cell turnover while BHAs, penetrate deeper into the pores to help remove excess oil and dead skin cells.

Together, these acids can help improve the overall texture and tone of the skin.


FDA lists out BHA ingredients as:

  • salicylic acid (or related substances, such as salicylate, sodium salicylate, and willow extract)*
  • beta hydroxybutanoic acid
  • tropic acid
  • trethocanic acid

But, other than salicylic acid, these ingredients aren’t commonly used as a chemical peeling treatment, but are more-so used as a part of skincare products.

Is a BHA Chemical Peel Right for Me?

If you’re considering a BHA chemical peel, it’s important to consult with a trained esthetician or dermatologist to determine whether it’s right for you. A BHA chemical peel may not be suitable if you:

  • Have very sensitive skin
  • Are pregnant or breastfeeding
  • Are currently using certain medications or topical treatments that can increase your skin’s sensitivity
  • Are allergic to salicylates
  • Have active dermatitis, rash, broken skin,or sunburn

In addition, it’s important to have realistic expectations about what results a BHA facial peel can achieve. While it can provide significant improvements in skin tone, texture, and acne reduction, it may not completely eliminate all of your skin issues. At least not after just 1 session.

Besides, it’s always a good idea to consult with a skincare professional before trying a new treatment to determine if it’s right for your skin type and concerns. They can also help you weigh the potential benefits against the potential risks and downsides.

Also, be sure to do a patch test before applying the peel to your entire face.

Image source: Instagram @imageskincareaus

BHA Chemical Peel Benefits

BHA chemical peels offer a number of benefits for the skin, including:

  • Unclogging pores
  • Treating acne and preventing future breakouts, blackheads, and whiteheads
  • Reducing oiliness
  • Smoothing texture
  • Improved skin tone and texture
  • Helps reduce the appearance of fine lines, wrinkles, and other signs of aging over time
  • Helps reduce the appearance of dark spots and hyperpigmentation
  • Stimulates cell turnover
  • Reduced redness and inflammation with its anti-inflammatory properties
  • Brightens and rejuvenates
  • Suitable for all skin tones

So, BHA chemical peels can be used on a variety of skin types and concerns, but they are especially effective for treating:

  • Acne
  • Blackheads and whiteheads
  • Oily skin
  • Enlarged pores
  • Rough texture
  • Uneven skin tone

You can read more about how BHA works on specific skin conditions, as well as what its limitations are here.

BHA Chemical Peel Downsides

While BHA chemical peels can have many potential benefits for the skin, there are also some downsides to consider. This treatment may cause:

  • Irritation
  • Redness
  • Dryness and tightness
  • Increased sensitivity
  • Sun sensitivity, increasing your risk of sunburn and other forms of sun damage
  • Not suitable for all skin types (very sensitive skin, and certain skin conditions, such as rosacea, eczema, or psoriasis)
  • May require some downtime, depending on the strength of the peel used

Image source: Instagram @sjraesthetics

What Should I Expect During and After a BHA Chemical Peel?

During a BHA chemical peel, the solution is left on the skin for a few minutes, during which time it works to dissolve the outer layer of dead skin cells and unclog pores.

Some people report feeling a mild stinging or tingling sensation during the treatment, but this is usually temporary and should subside quickly. It should not be painful.

After a while, it is neutralized with a special solution to stop the exfoliation process. You may notice some redness and mild swelling after the treatment, but these side effects should subside within a few hours to a few days.

It’s important to avoid sun exposure for several days after a chemical peel, as your skin will be more sensitive to UV rays. You should also avoid using any harsh products or exfoliants on your skin for at least a week.

You may notice some peeling or flaking in the days following a BHA chemical peel, but this is normal and will subside as your skin regenerates. It’s important to keep your skin hydrated during this time by using a gentle moisturizer and avoiding anything that may irritate your skin.

More detailed information about the procedure, its safety, and aftercare can be found here.

Can You Do a BHA Chemical Peel at Home?

It is generally not recommended to do a BHA chemical peel at home, as it can be potentially dangerous if not used correctly.

When it comes to a professional-grade BHA chemical peel, it should only be performed by a licensed skincare professional who has been trained in the proper application and safety measures of the treatment.

But – there are at-home chemical peels, formulated to be safe for use by non-professionals. These products include BHA acid peel solutions as well as products containing BHAs.

However, these are less potent and less effective than the ones offered at a salon, so you need to use them for an extended period of time to be able to see results.

It’s important to note that, although chemical peels intended to be used by non-professionals are formulated differently to be safer, improper use can still result in skin irritation, burns, and scarring.

How to Choose the Right Product for BHA Peel at Home?

Choosing the most suitable BHA product for your skin needs can be challenging. So, to help you navigate in the oversaturated market, here are some guidelines on which properties to pay attention to:

First and foremost, choose the appropriate strength. Look for a BHA chemical peel product that is a good choice for your skin type and concerns.

If you have sensitive skin or are new to chemical peels, start with a low-strength formula and work your way up to stronger concentrations as your skin becomes accustomed to the treatment.

The formulation is another factor when choosing a BHA chemical peel suitable for your skin type. For example, if you have dry skin, look for a product that contains hydrating ingredients like hyaluronic acid.

You can also look for a BHA chemical peel that contains additional beneficial ingredients, such as soothing agents like aloe vera, to help reduce irritation and promote healing. This is especially great if your skin is reactive.

And last but not least – pH level. Make sure that the BHA chemical peel you choose has a pH level between 3 and 4 as that’s the optimal range for BHAs to be effective in removing dead skin cells and unclogging pores.

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BHA Chemical Peel – Main Takeaways

A BHA chemical peel offers numerous benefits to the skin, including exfoliation, acne reduction, improved skin tone and texture, reduced hyperpigmentation, and inflammation reduction.

Salicylic acid is typically the primary ingredient used in BHA facial peels, but it can also be combined with AHAs for optimal results.

If you’re considering a BHA chemical peel, consult with a dermatologist to determine whether it’s the right choice for you. Plus, they can advise you on the necessary precautions to take before, during, and after the procedure to ensure that your skin is protected and heals properly.



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