Part 1: Clear Skin Essentials — BHA Products

I’ve been thinking more about what I really NEED to have in my collection. So I thought I’d do some posts on what I consider my Skincare Staples. Keep in mind I am 35 and I have oily/combo skin, that is prone to dehydration, and acne-prone as well. And what works for me may not work for you.

BHA (salicylic acid) treatment

I will cover spot treatments in another post, but for this post I am focused more on BHA products that are meant for use over your entire face to both prevent and treat.

[Click here for a post on the difference between AHAs and BHAs]

Using a BHA product has helped to keep my pores clear and unclogged. When pores are clear and unclogged, they are less visible. It is also antibacterial and anti-inflammatory.  Using these products has helped to get rid of the pesky blackheads on my chin and nose and is also great for helping to get rid of milia (those hard white bumps that sometimes appear, especially under your eyes).

HOW OFTEN DO I USE IT: Originally I was using Paula’s Choice 2% BHA liquid every other morning, and sometimes even every morning. Honestly I became obsessed with how it was helping my skin and then I started to overuse it. So I finally came to my senses (and remembered that more isn’t always better) and scaled back how often I use it. Recently I have been use one of the two products  below about 2 mornings a week and that seems to be my sweet spot. But certain times when my skin is acting up I will do 3-4 times as week. (You can also use this at night rather than in the morning. I just got in the habit of using this in the morning and if I did use an AHA, I would use that at night).

HOW DO I APPLY IT: For the 2% BHA liquid, I apply this after cleansing by putting some on a cotton pad and pressing it all over my face (focusing first on chin and nose, where I am more likely to have some blackheads). For the 4% I just squirt one pump into my hands and rub it in, starting on chin, forehead and nose and using whatever is left on cheeks.

I apply it after I have applied a vitamin C Serum and let it fully absorb. The reason for this is just personal preference. I like to apply pH-dependent actives (that are all the same consistently, in this case liquid) in the order of their ideal pH (going from lowest pH to highest). (See this great blog post that inspired that). But applying before vitamin C also would work. I am just sure to apply before thicker serums or creams. I want this as close to my skin as possible, so usually it is the first or second thing on my skin after cleansing.

Current Stash

NOTE: I don’t need two BHA serums in a collection. Just having the 2% BHA served me well for a year

My top favorite has been Paula’s Choice Skin Perfecting 2% BHA Liquid Exfoliant. I’ve gone through 1.5 bottles over the past year.

Paula’s Choice Skin Perfecting 2% BHA Liquid Exfoliant

Price: $29 / 4 oz ($7.25 per oz).

  • NOTE: I always wait for coupon codes.
  • Right now through Dermstore use GLOW18 and save 20%. AND if you use eBates you can save more (today you end up getting 4% back.
  • Skinstore has a deal for 25% off with code EB25 AND you get 9% back through ebates
    (Click here to get an additional $10 in your ebates account after your first purchase of $25 or more)

Ingredients: Water, Methylpropanediol, Butylene Glycol (slip Agents/penetration Enhancers), Salicylic Acid (beta Hydroxy Acid/exfoliant), Camellia Oleifera (Green Tea) Leaf Extract (anti-irritant/antioxidant), Polysorbate-20 (solubolizing Agent), Sodium Hydroxide (pH Balancer), Tetrasodium EDTA (chelating Agent).

This was a real game changer for me when I tried it. It was one of the first products that seemed to really make a difference when it came to pesky blackheads and clogged pores. I have recommended this to family and friends and I think it is an all around great product.

Some people don’t like the feel of the 2% skin perfecting liquid. I think their complaint has been that it leaves a film, but since I always layer something on top that doesn’t bother me and I haven’t noticed that. But I heard the RESIST daily pore-refining treatment 2% BHA (blue bottle) ($33 / 3oz) doesn’t leave that film. So I’m curious to try that one next! (Also, the RESIST 4% also doesn’t leave a tacky film).

RESIST Advanced Pore Refining Treatment 4% BHA

More recently I received the RESIST advanced pore refining treatment 4% BHA from my friend (@lathertolashes) and I am loving it. I really like this one since I am really down to about 1 time a week using a BHA. So having a slightly stronger one works just fine. But when I was using it more frequently I think the 2% was better for me. This is a much smaller bottle, but have been using it weekly since Nov. (it is now almost April) and I still have at least half left. In my previous post I showed how I love to mix this with a sulfur mask by The Granola Goat as an excellent spot treatment. But in general, the way I use this is to squirt one pump in my hands (not on a cotton pad like the 2% liquid) and then rub it all over my face (but especially on the areas with congestion).

Price:$36 / 1 oz

  • (same sale deals apply as above. And since this order would be over $25 you would also get the $10 added to your cash back check from ebates using my link, making this an even better deal).

Ingredients: Water (Aqua), Butylene Glycol, Dimethicone, Salicylic Acid, Hydroxyethyl Acrylate/Sodium Acryloyldimethyl Taurate Copolymer, Glycerin, Aminomethyl Propanol, Adenosine, Allantoin, Dipotassium Glycyrrhizinate, Vitis Vinifera (Grape) Seed Extract, Avena Sativa (Oat) Bran Extract, Punica Granatum Fruit Extract, Sambucus Nigra Fruit Extract, Camellia Oleifera (Green Tea) Leaf Extract, Camellia Sinensis (Green Tea) Leaf Extract, Chamomilla Recutita (Matricaria) Flower Extract, Lycium Barbarum Fruit Extract, Peucedanum Graveolens (Dill) Extract, Hydrogenated Lecithin, Xanthan Gum, Citric Acid, Disodium EDTA, Benzyl Alcohol, Phenoxyethanol.

Finally, here is more info on one that I don’t own, but I plan to try after my Skin Perfecting 2% BHA is empty.

Paula’s Choice RESIST Daily Pore-Refining Treatment 2% BHA

Price: $33 /  3oz ($11 per oz)

Ingredients: Water, Dipropylene Glycol, Pentylene Glycol (slip Agents And Penetration Enhancers), Salicylic Acid (beta Hydroxy Acid Exfoliating Agent), Butylene Glycol (slip Agent), Polysorbate 20 (emulsifier) Palmitoyl Tripeptide-1, Palmitoyl Tetrapeptide-7 (cell-communicating Ingredients), Dipotassium Glycyrrhizate (anti-irritant), Nordihydroguaiaretic Acid (antioxidant), Oleanolic Acid (anti-irritant), Sodium Hyaluronate (skin-repairing Ingredient), Allantoin (anti-irritant),Trehalose (skin-repairing Ingredient), Panthenol (skin-conditioning Agent), Glycerin (skin-repairing Ingredient), PEG-60 Almond Glycerides (emulsifier), Caprylyl Glycol (skin-conditioning Agent), PEG/PPG-18/4 Copolymer (solvent), Methyl Gluceth-20, Bis-PEG-18 Methyl Ether Dimethyl Silane (skin-conditioning Agents),Glycereth-26 (emollient Thickener), Sodium Metabisulfite (stabilizer), Sodium Hydroxide (pH Adjuster), Carbomer (gel-based Thickener), Disodium EDTA (chelating Agent).

The main difference is that this one has more anti-irritant ingredients in it and it also has some peptides that are supposed to help thicken the skin. Plus, people seem to like the feel of this one better on the skin.