February 9, 2021

10 Best BHA Products for Blackheads and Acne

10 Best BHA Products for Blackheads and Acne
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Tired of trying to fix your skincare routine? Maybe it’s time you tried out the best BHA products to welcome clearer skin and pores!

Perhaps your skin tone is getting worse, and your favorite exfoliant has been doing the bare minimum. Or maybe you’ve finally decided to look for alternatives and came across beta hydroxy acid or BHAs.

If the idea of acids on your skin exfoliant still scares you, then it’s okay, we understand. We’ve summarized all the information you need to fix your skincare routine.

Best Value
COSRX 4% BHA Power Liquid
Our Pick
Paula’s Choice 2% BHA Liquid
Budget Pick
ZAPZYT Acne Wash Cleanser
Table of Contents

10 Best BHA Products

Paula's Choice Skin Perfecting 2% BHA Liquid

Our Pick

Key Features:

  • Lightweight formula
  • Gentle on all skin types
  • Active ingredients: salicylic acid, green tea leaf extract, and butylene glycol
  • pH level of 3.2-3.8

First on the list is Paula’s Choice BHA Liquid. It’s one of the top-selling BHA exfoliants on the market.

It’s formulated with salicylic acid to unclog and clear enlarged pores and smoothen fine lines and wrinkles. Salicylic acid is also a well-known acne remedy.

After it takes care of all your alleged skin imperfections, it effectively brightens your skin tone and leaves you with a radiant glow.

Point is, it’s going to leave your skin feeling remarkably smoother without worrying about burning sensations, regardless of the skin type you have.

Is Paula’s Choice BHA Liquid for you?

If you’re looking for a well-established and effective BHA exfoliant that quickly unclogs your pores and dries out your acne, this might be for you! It’s been tested to work almost instantly without any skin irritations, too.

Paula’s Choice has been providing consistent results for years, but take note it’s on the pricier side, so if you happen to be on a tight budget, perhaps you shall scroll a bit further.

However, if you prefer knowing your products are worth the price, then Paula’s Choice is an excellent choice!

Pros

  • Smooth and even application
  • No artificial fragrances
  • Non-greasy formula
  • Has Salicylic Acid to fight acne

Cons

  • Expensive
  • Natural fragrance

COSRX 4% BHA Blackhead Power Liquid

Best Value

Key Features:

  • Lightweight formula
  • Formulated for oily skin
  • Active ingredients: Willow bark water, betaine salicylate, sodium hyaluronate
  • pH level of 4

Next, we have one of everyone’s favorite Korean brands, COSRX.

Formulated with a variation of solvents, this BHA power liquid is made to glide smoothly against your skin and leave you with that dewy skin texture you’ve always dreamed of!

Say goodbye to dark spots, hyperpigmentation, enlarged pores, and acne breakouts.

Sounds too good to be true?

Well, in addition, this BHA formulation sinks deep into your skin and removes excess oil. Thus, providing you with extra hydration. No sickly skin texture here!

Is COSRX BHA Blackhead Power Liquid for you?

COSRX’s formulation cuts out a lot of the ingredients on other products on this list.

It has a well-optimized and simple formula with just the essentials, so if you have extremely sensitive skin, then I’d say you could give this a go!

It’s also quite incapable of drying out your skin. So if you were testing out other BHA products and eventually ended up with skin flakes, this one’s a great substitute!

Pros

  • Great value
  • Dries with a dewy finish
  • Non-overpowering fragrance

Cons

  • Formulation might be a little too gentle for over moderate acne

ZAPZYT Acne Wash Cleanser

Budget Pick

Key Features:

  • Hypoallergenic cleanser
  • Formulated for sensitive skin
  • Ingredients: salicylic acid, aloe vera, chamomile
  • pH-dependent

ZAPZYT’s BHA cleanser is formulated with 2% salicylic acid, a percentage that’s ideal to exfoliate the skin, and for penetrating into deep and clogged pores.

It’s a light BHA exfoliant in the form of a cleanser that additionally soothes your skin and reduces its redness.

Moreover, it’s great not just for the face but could be used on your body as well!

No need for buying an extra and separate salicylic acid product with this BHA cleanser.

Like leaving your skin fresh, clear, and zit-free without the drying effects of AHA BHA products?

ZAPZYT’s got your skin covered and prepared for the runway!

Is ZAPZYT’s Acne Wash Cleanser for you?

If you’re the type of person that prefers to have just one product for both your face and body, then yes, this is the only product that fits that category.

Works amazing for trying to clean your makeup as well, so let’s just say this is some sort of a 3 in 1 product.

But surprise, it also happens to be the cheapest of all the products on this list!

On top of that, it also has a hypoallergenic formula so for those of you who have extra sensitive types of skin, ZAPZYT has you covered!

Pros

  • Great value
  • Highly affordable
  • Hypoallergenic Salicylic Acid formula
  • Fragrance-free

Cons

  • Initially dries out the skin, so use a moisturizer after
  • Not to be used with other acne medications 

Clinique Acne Solutions Clarifying Lotion

Key Features:

  • Formulated for acne-prone skin
  • Powered by salicylic acid, acetyl glucosamine, and silica
  • Paraben-free
  • pH dependent

Clinique Acne Solutions is a gentle and medicated liquid exfoliator with Beta Hydroxy Acids that helps clear up dead skin cells and controls the dreaded shine from excess oil (which eventually leads to even more dreaded acne breakouts).

The formulation in this product also contains oil-absorbing powders in order to leave your skin with a smooth, matte, and brighter skin tone.

Say goodbye to clogged pores and visibly oily skin.

Prefer feeling fresh after a pretty long skincare routine? This is it, and Clinique Acne’s got it in stock just for you!

Is Clinique Acne Solutions Lotion for you?

Common BHA exfoliants too much for your sensitive and acne-prone skin?

Maybe a moisturizing BHA lotion that absorbs excess oil would work better for you. In that case, check out Clinique’s Acne Solutions!

If you also prefer a matte finish as opposed to the regular dewy finish that most products produce, this would be a great fit, too.

It’s specifically formulated for skin that’s prone to acne, so it’s great for someone that’s constantly worrying about breakouts or skin irritations as a response to new products!

Pros

  • Affordable
  • Lotion formula makes sure your skin is being hydrated
  • Balances skin pH
  • Has Salicylic Acid to fight acne

Cons

  • Initial tingling sensation
  • Smells of alcohol

Drunk Elephant TLC Sukari Babyfacial Mask

Key Features:

  • Gentle enough for sensitive skin
  • 25% AHA and 2% BHA blend
  • Contains ingredients like: lactic acid, salicylic acid, and citric acid
  • pH level of 3.5

This at-home AHA BHA facial mask from Drunk Elephant gently exfoliates dead skin cells and unclogs pores; minimizing the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.

The perfect balance of AHA and BHA in this product provides a deep exfoliation that allows cell turnover and regeneration of even, radiant new skin.

To top that off, it’s capable of delivering an incredible brightening and smoothening action that assists the reduction of redness, dark spots, and acne breakouts.

It’s clinically proven to be crafted at ideal blends to optimize the great effects of both AHA and BHA, without the dangers of irritation.

Is Drunk Elephant TLC Sukari Babyfacial Mask for you?

If you’d prefer a leave-on product as opposed to something you constantly have to put on your face, then this might be for you!

That is, if you like treating yourself to some facials here and there, Drunk Elephant’s mask would be a great addition to your weekly routine.

It’s also a great product if you have bad habits of overusing your products or over-exfoliating in general.

Simply put, it’s effective, gentle, and leaves your skin feeling slightly tingly but looking refreshed!

Pros

  • Great value
  • Weekly routine
  • Non-overpowering fragrance
  • Has Salicylic Acid to combat pimples

Cons

  • Not advisable to use this with other strong products
  • Initial tingling sensation that lasts for about 5-10 minutes

Mizon AHA and BHA Daily Clean Toner

Key Features:

  • Formulated for dry skin
  • Hypoallergenic
  • Formulated with ingredients like lactic acid, salicylic acid, and fruit extracts
  • pH-dependent

This daily AHA BHA peeling toner gently and effectively removes dead skin cells without irritating your skin.

Formulated with a mix of AHA and BHA, it’s capable of slowly removing dead skin cells and skin wastes. What more, the Salicylic Acid promotes the transformation of rough skin textures and promotes healthy skin turnover.

So if you were looking for a way to retain a healthy skin condition without worrying about acne breakouts and fine lines, this one’s for you!

Is Mizon’s Daily Clean Toner for you?

If your skin requires a mix of a hydrating and exfoliating formula, this is the first combination product on this list!

This toner removes skin blemishes & pores but keeps your skin moisturized and smooth.

Due to the variation and blend of its ingredients, it activates a 3 step cleaning system that takes charge of your skin vitality, pH balance, and dead skin cell care.

Take caution using it with other products (particularly retinol) as the combination formula might cause contradicting reactions and skin irritations.

Pros

  • Hydrates and exfoliates in one with Salicylic Acid and Lactic Acid
  • Gentler than typical combination products
  • Balances skin pH

Cons

  • Combination formula may react with other products
  • Could cause breakouts so don’t forget to do a patch test

Stridex Daily Care Acne Pads with Salicylic Acid Maximum Strength

Key Features:

  • Formulated for acne-prone and dry skin
  • Specifically made for acne medication
  • Main ingredients: salicylic acid and citric acid
  • Single-step skincare product

Among all the BHA products on this list, this has the highest level of acne-fighting medicine and formulation for moderate acne cases and breakouts.

The Salicylic Acid content removes dirt, excess oil, sweat, and penetrates to unclog pores.

Of course, we understand that seeing “maximum BHA strength” might worry you, but this comes without extra-drying, irritation, and burning effects.

It’s optimized to be effective with a one-step solution and is completely anti-inflammatory.

Is Stridex Daily Care Acne Pads for you?

Among all BHA liquid exfoliants and other skin care products, we just have to admit that sometimes we’d prefer a quick but effective solution.

After all, even with our limited time, our skin and overall beauty concerns deserve the best remedies.

If this sounds like your situation, Stridex Daily Care Acne Pads might be the one fix for your skin!

It does have the highest level of salicylic acid allowed in a formula, so it’s recommended for at least moderate acne. Make sure to moisturize after, too!

Pros

  • Good price value
  • One-step routine
  • Maximum optimized formula

Cons

  • Slightly drying if you use it on its own

SK-II Facial Treatment Clear Lotion

Key Features:

  • AHA BHA Formulation
  • Made for normal, oily, combination, dry, and sensitive skin
  • Ingredients: salicylic acid, lactic acid, citric acid
  • pH dependent

SK-II’s AHA BHA clear lotion prepares your skin for the rest of your skin care routine.

It penetrates deeply into your skin and is oil soluble in order to get rid of excess oil and leave you with brighter skin.

This AHA BHA lotion is proven to be anti-inflammatory, too.

Moreover, it tones your skin to be smooth and radiant, just as if you weren’t using a combination of acids on your skin!

Is SK-II’s Clear Lotion for you?

If your skin prefers a combination with the extra moisturizing effects, then give this product a shot!

A small amount has been proven to go a long way, as it’s formulated to go through an adjusting phase in order to prevent your skin from having acne breakouts.

So if your skin’s had a history of breaking out after using new products, then this is for you!

It’s simply light, water, and gentle overall. And although it’s a combination product, neither of them are too overpowering. It deeply cleans and sinks into your pores, without causing it to flake.

However, if you’re tight on the budget, I’d say you scroll a little more. If not, then this one’s a great and effective addition to your routine!

Pros

  • Well-optimized combination formula
  • Light formula with mildly slow (but consistent) effects to prevent skin irritations
  • Balances skin pH

Cons

  • Expensive

Paula's Choice Skin Perfecting 2% BHA Lotion

Key Features:

  • Leave-on lotion exfoliant
  • Gentle enough for sensitive skin
  • Ingredients: butylene glycol, salicylic acid, green tea leaf extract
  • pH range of 3.2 to 3.8

It contains a lightweight and non-greasy BHA formula, with just the right amount of salicylic acid, which is perfect as an exfoliant that softens the skin while it’s at it.

It’s an exfoliant and moisturizer in one without irritating your skin or leaving that sticky feeling!

Need to clarify those enlarged pores and reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles without the drying sensation?

Maybe this is the one exfoliant your skin was asking for!

Is Paula’s Choice BHA Lotion for you?

Paula’s Choice Skin Perfecting 2% BHA Lotion is the more hydrating option for those with sensitive and dry skin types.

This is particularly recommended if you’ve tried the other Paula’s Choice products which worked well on your acne but eventually dried out your skin.

Does that situation sound familiar? Time to check out this variation, then! Specifically, if your skin typically dries out quickly.

Just like the BHA liquid, however, you’re going to need some budget for this. But it is effective, so that choice is solely yours to make!

Pros

  • Hydrating formula
  • Lighter than typical exfoliants
  • Non-greasy

Cons

  • Expensive

Vichy Normaderm Daily Acne Treatment Face Wash

Key Features:

  • Light and oil-free formulation
  • Suitable for all skin types
  • Ingredients: salicylic acid and coco-betaine
  • pH adjusting

Vichy Normaderm’s BHA face wash is greatly recommended for oily, combination, and acne-prone skin.

This cleanser formulated with salicylic acid has a light fragrance but effectively targets acne breakouts, skin blemishes, pores, dry skin, and skin redness.

While it doesn’t claim to be a BHA exfoliator, it’s been dermatologically proven to remove dead skin, tighten pores, lighten acne marks, and reduce the production of oils on the skin.

If you’re looking for a better way to clean your face with the extra benefits of making your skin look even more radiant, maybe this BHA product can suit your needs!

Is Vichy Normaderm’s Daily Acne Treatment Face Wash for you?

If you prefer to have science back your product choices up, this one has you covered!

This is a clinically proven face wash with a gel-like consistency.

With that said, it’s allergy tested so you don’t have to worry much about skin irritations here. Even if your skin has been known to be on the sensitive side!

It’s been proven to work in a couple of days while leaving your skin clean, fresh, and smooth all at once.

If your face wash just wasn’t working out for you (apart from the other products on your skincare routine), this one’s great if you were looking for a lighter substitute.

Pros

  • Great value
  • Paraben and alcohol-free
  • Allergy tested
  • Non-overpowering (minty) fragrance

Cons

  • Slight peppermint fragrance might not be great for all

What Is BHA?

What Is

Perhaps you’ve come across this article looking for skincare products for your dead skin cells, enlarged pores, lines and wrinkles, and everything else you think is disrupting your beauty.

Chances are, you saw the words beta-hydroxy acid (BHA) or alpha hydroxy acid (AHA), and wasn’t oriented about what they actually were.

BHA is an acronym for beta hydroxy acids, a nonabrasive and oil-soluble acid derived from salicin.

Salicin, another name for a component found in willow bark, is an anti-aging and anti-inflammatory chemical.

BHA is an acid found in thousands of products in the skincare and cosmetics industry.

The best BHA products are highly recommended by clinical dermatologists for reducing skin blemishes, bumps, and enlarged pores.

How BHA Exfoliating Products Work

When beta hydroxy acids (BHAs) are formulated in skincare products such as a liquid exfoliant, lotion, and other skincare products, it functions as an exfoliator, anti-inflammatory, and anti-aging agent.

Moreover, it’s partnered with natural soothing and calming properties which are furthered by the ingredients in the products.

The best Beta Hydroxy Acid exfoliants work on the uppermost levels of the skin, loosening bonds between the top surface layers and deeper layers which contain all the excess oil and dead skin cells.

Basically, what it does is help dissolve all the oils trapped into your skin, and that’s essentially why it’s great for oily, bumpy, congested, and acne-prone skin.

BHA Exfoliants

Beta Hydroxy Acid exfoliants are categorized as a chemical exfoliant, which means they don’t physically remove the layers of your skin.

In fact, the natural properties of the best BHA products aid in treating a multitude of skin issues and ailments.

The best BHA exfoliant is commonly going to be less harsh and cause milder side effects (if any), as opposed to a physical scrub which could break the skin barriers.

When looking for the best BHA exfoliant for your skin, it would be a great idea to take note of the ingredients written on the labels.

It’s also good to keep the following 2 important guidelines in mind:

  • While these exfoliating products are generally mild enough for sensitive skin, a BHA exfoliant with a concentration of 5% and above might worsen skin conditions.
  • Avoid using Beta Hydroxy Acids on already irritated or infected skin areas as this may worsen skin conditions.

How to Use an Exfoliant That Contains Beta Hydroxy Acids

You should be following the instructions written on the label as these are specifically tailored for that one best Beta Hydroxy Acid product you have.

On a general note, an exfoliating product formulated with Beta Hydroxy Acids can be part of your skin regimen depending on your needs and the recommendations of your dermatologist.

A great way to do this would be:

  • Rinse your face with a gentle cleanser.
  • Apply your favorite toner (make sure that the ingredients on these do not clash with your BHA exfoliant).
  • Exfoliate with your BHA product.
  • Apply sunscreen.

This is commonly recommended to be done once or twice daily, but you may always switch to every other day depending on how your skin reacts to it.

Ingredients In the Best BHA Products

Ingredients

All the products you’ve come across in this article have Beta Hydroxy Acids in them.

That doesn’t mean all of the products with Beta Hydroxy Acids you find will work the best with your skin.

Here’s a summary of common ingredients you’ll find in the best BHA exfoliators (Don’t forget to cross-reference with your allergies and medical conditions, too!).

Salicylic Acid

Salicylic acid is at the top of every dermatologist’s recommendations. It’s globally considered a natural and safe BHA exfoliant that’s commonly used as a treatment for several skin ailments.

Salicylic acid works by softening the keratin on the skin which is what makes it one of the best BHA product ingredients.

This natural beta hydroxy acid makes it easier to exfoliate the skin and remove dry skin that has built up over time.

To add more to this ingredient, salicylic acid has also taken with it the skin-soothing effects of willow bark.

More than it being an anti-inflammatory and antibacterial ingredient, BHA products that contain salicylic acid help in the fading of acne scars and smoothening overall skin texture.

Glycolic Acid

Glycolic acid is an alpha hydroxy acid that belongs to the category of the anti-agers such as retinol and hyaluronic acid.

On a molecular level, glycolic acid is the smallest among the AHAs, which means it’s readily absorbed into the skin and immediately makes your skin smoother.

Moreover, it regulates skin tone and cleans out pores to prevent the formation of acne, and reduce fine lines and wrinkles on the skin.

Glycolic acid products have also been found to increase the production of hyaluronic acid, which is a natural component on your skin that keeps it hydrated.

It is, however, not recommended for sensitive skin, as it may cause a burning sensation.

Green Tea Leaf Extract

Clinically speaking, green tea extracts have antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and antimicrobial properties.

They’ve been proven to help in the treatment of acne, pores, and the regulation of oils by reducing sebum excretion.

In fact, an experiment with over a thousand participants showed significant reduction in red bumps and acne on their skin after using products with green tea extracts.

Citric Acid

Citric acid is a natural component in a variety of citrus fruits.

It’s considered an alpha hydroxy acid commonly found in a lot of exfoliating products, but citric acids come with little risk.

Generally speaking, it can brighten skin, correct uneven skin tone, soothe acne, unclog pores, and balance the skin pH.

Due to its multiple benefits and ability to adjust skincare formulas, it’s an addition to a lot of exfoliant products.

Lactic Acid

Lactic acid is one of the most popular alpha hydroxy acids, which is why you’ll see them even on products with Beta Hydroxy Acids.

They’re naturally found in dairy products and is one of the more gentle options among acids in the skin care and cosmetic industry.

It exfoliates the skin by aiding older cells on the skin’s surface to peel by dissolving the bonds between dead skin cells.

To add, lactic acids also speeds up cell turnover and regulates the natural moisture factors of the skin, which means it’s hydrating and can firm your skin.

Combining AHA and BHA

Combining

Perhaps you’ve already explored a lot of skincare products and have encountered terms such as beta hydroxy acid (BHA) and alpha hydroxy acid (AHA) a few times.

In fact, this combination is said to result in fuller skin as it yields huge amounts of collagen production.

But depending on the type of skin you have, this could cause your skin to be irritated from too many acids and chemicals.

These side effects are often more evident on those with either dry skin types or sensitive skin; we don’t want burnt skin, do we?

The Difference Between AHA and BHA

AHA

Alpha hydroxy acids are water-soluble, meaning they retain the skin’s moisture while they exfoliate the skin, and even, reduce the size of pores.

Examples of these would be glycolic acid and lactic acid; the latter of which you may find on a lot of the best BHA exfoliating products.

AHAs cater more towards dry skin types as using it prevents further drying.

Just like Beta Hydroxy Acid exfoliants, however, they peel away dead skin cells, reduce acne scars & pores, and prevent skin blemishes.

Moreover, they are capable of tightening the skin and reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles which could disrupt the radiance of your new skin.

Additionally, studies show that AHAs may increase the skin’s sensitivity to ultraviolet radiation.

So here’s a friendly reminder to wear enough sunscreen!

BHA

Beta hydroxy acid (BHAs), on the other hand, are best for those with oily skin types and for treating clogged pores & bumps.

That is, the best BHA exfoliants penetrate the top layers of the skin until it reaches the fatty and oily tissues in and on your skin.

This allows the beta-hydroxy acids to counter acne formation, pores enlargement, and remove dead skin cells, oils, and bacteria.

As opposed to AHA, no studies have shown Beta Hydroxy Acids increase the sensitivity of the skin towards ultraviolet radiation.

In fact, the best BHA products are recommended to have formulations that prevent skin irritation by the sun’s rays.

But don’t get too complacent! A little sunscreen isn’t going to hurt you!

Safety Precautions

You may already have one product or a few in mind, and now you just have to know how to optimize the best BHA products for your skin type!

  • Test any product that contains BHAs on a small area of the skin before directly applying it to your face.
  • If you’ve used products with BHA and experience signs of skin irritation or stinging, stop using the product and consult a dermatologist.
  • Follow the instructions on the label. Even if you had the best BHA products on hand and exceed the recommended applications, your skin isn’t going to be the most thankful.
  • Keep BHA products away from the skin of infants and children.
  • Remember you still need sunscreen even if you use the best BHA product.

 

The bottom line with safety precautions for your skin is that whether you’re using salicylic acid, glycolic acid, or other types of beta hydroxy acid, your skin tone isn’t going to improve if you don’t cooperate with it.

Want those enlarged pores, fines lines, and wrinkles gone? Just understand your skin, your products, and their producers’ instructions, and you’ll be fine!

Final Verdict

Final Verdict

If you’ve reached this portion, hopefully, you can make a sensible and effective choice regarding which top-rated BHA product should be the latest addition to your shopping cart and skin regimen.

Whether you need a BHA exfoliator, a BHA mask packed with salicylic acid, a cleanser, or an AHA BHA combination, we hope that information here aided the needs of your dear skin.

After all, your skin only deserves the best BHA thing possible.

We personally recommend using Paula’s Choice 2% BHA Liquid because it’s gentle enough for all skin types. It also has other nourishing ingredients that won’t dry out your face.

For a more affordable option, you can go for the ZAPZYR Acne Wash Cleanser. It’s highly effective for sensitive and acne-prone skin.

There are thousands of options for you, and we are certain a single product should be able to keep your skin and pores in check. Just remember that your pick should be centered within your needs and preferences.

And on the flip side, if it’s whiteheads that you’re more worried about, then we recommend that you use Face Washes That Fight Whiteheads and Acne.

There’s definitely a product out there for you and your skin! Say goodbye to pores and bumps!

If you have more serious pigmentation issues, then you can also check out the Best At-Home Chemical Peels for Dark Spots and Scarring.

Paola Diaz
Paola Diaz

Hi, I'm Paola! A skin care enthusiast and nature lover. Creating content that promotes proper skin treatment and keeping a healthy glow is my way of sharing with the world how healthy skin can go a long way. I’m a firm believer of natural beauty that radiates inside all of us. All we need is the right kind of nourishment that inspires our wellness from inside out. So it’s really not about physical beauty alone – it’s the beautiful life we can create for ourselves when we connect with our own nature and see there is beauty that shines from every one of us.