Lotion exfoliants are fantastic for all skin types because they stop you from tugging at your skin. You put them on like a serum and in 5 seconds exfoliating begins. They work hard for you while you go;
A) Enjoy a 5 minute phone call with a BFF for a quick (1 hour *winks*) catch-up
B) Shop the ASOS sale – yes please
C) Enjoy an entire family pack of chocolate for 1 – because truth be told, that’s just how you roll
Truth: Lotion exfoliants are fantastic for all skin types.
Truth: Not all lotion exfoliants are fantastic for all skin types.
How boring would it be if every kind of liquid exfoliant was your skin’s perfect cup of tea ‘eh. It would be like every friend you know having the exact same hair cut.
Now, If you have a combination or oily skin type – there’s already 1 type of liquid exfoliant perfect for your skin type – welcome dear friend to the family of BHAs.
Truth: BHA exfoliants are fantastic for oily and combination skin types.
Truth: Not all BHA exfoliants are fantastic for all oily and combination skin types.
So just how do you find the best BHA exfoliant for your skin type?
Dear skin savvy, you have great questions. Come find out how to choose the absolute best BHA exfoliant for your skin type and budget – with carefully hand-picked recommendations (!). Ready? Let’s go…
Recap: How Liquid Exfoliants Work
Imagine if every time you did laundry, you had to supervise the washing machine like a lifeguard on active shark-watch duty. Yikes. Liquid exfoliants have the very same benefit as your super-time-save washing machine.
They work while you don’t have to.
Physical exfoliants like facial scrubs, Clarisonic brushes, muslin cloths and more work while you work. They buff, scrub and polish while you buff, scrub and polish. How much effort they put in is your effort.
Pssst! Which is why physical exfoliants are so easy to over-do. They can make your skin red, angry and irritated.
Plus physical exfoliants only touch the surface. They don’t absorb, so they can’t get past the top few layers of your skin.
In walks liquid exfoliants with a shoulder flick.
A) Liquid exfoliants take 5 seconds to apply to your skin and continue to work for hours after – slowly dissolving the skin glue holding together past their best dead skin cells.
B) Leave on liquid exfoliants work gradually instead of all at once.
C) Liquid exfoliants absorb into your skin helping even more layers of your skin than a physical exfoliant can.
D) We made it to D – must be good right (!) As a liquid – lotion exfoliants can penetrate oil filled pores – here’s where spots and blackheads brew.
Not bad ‘eh.
Recap: Why BHAs Are Best for Your Oily/Combination Skin
Different types of liquid exfoliants have different types of benefits for your skin. Each kind has a different CV. And you want to be using the best BHA for the job ‘eh. Why choose anything less – you deserve The Best my friend.
BHAs, which is short for beta-hydroxy acids are a type of ingredient which love oil. And when something loves something else – intimate moments are a given. BHAs can plunge right into oil filled pools. They love oil, they dissolve in oil and they want to be near oil – always.
— Cheryl Woodman (@HonestyForSkin) 9 April 2018
Truth: Your oily/combination skin type has more natural oils than a normal/dry skin type.
Truth: Oily/combination skin types have pores which are filled with skin oils – a key trigger of vicious spot cycles.
Truth: BHAs out of all liquid exfoliants dissolve best in oil aka they work best for oily/combination skin types.
Use something other than a BHA on your oily/combination skin type and it’s like using a lawnmower to cut your hair – It’s CV skill set just isn’t right ‘eh. Be sure you’re always choosing the best BHA skin scissors for your skin type.
Best BHA exfoliants Overview
Right – now you know a BHA exfoliant is the absolute best for your skin type – where do you find one? Which do you choose? Will a BHA lotion always be called BHA on the label (hint: no dear friend, they won’t). Which is why below I have a list of 6 best BHA exfoliant options, each is a little different and each will be best for slightly different oily/combination skin types. Take a peek below and find out which is going to be perfect for you;
- Paula’s Choice Skin Perfecting 2% BHA Liquid – best BHA exfoliant for potency
- The Ordinary’s Salicylic Acid 2% Solution – best BHA exfoliant for potency and price
- Green People’s OY! Clear Skin Purifying Serum– best BHA exfoliant for lovers of natural skincare
- Benton Aloe BHA Skin Toner Tonique – best BHA exfoliant for gentle, everyday upkeep
- COSRX BHA blackhead Power Liquid – best BHA exfoliant for natural potency
- Mizon AHA & BHA Daily Clean Toner – best BHA exfoliant for combination to normal skin types aka you have a slightly oily T-zone and normal, sometimes even dry cheeks
Best BHA Exfoliants Review
Want more detail before you choose a best BHA exfoliant for your skin type? I’ve got your back dear friend. Below you’ll find a speedy yet in detail review for each of the 6 best BHA exfoliants above.
Already decided which is for you? Perfect – no need to chat more, you’ve got what you need – awesome.
Want more info because you’ve been around the skin block a few times and need reassurance your pick is truly perfect for your skin? Also awesome – I’ve got just what you’re looking for…
For your skin if you want a simple, high-strength BHA exfoliant which works.
Active ingredient: 2% salicylic acid.
Other helpers: Green tea extract (antioxidant able to help soothe skin).
It’s award-winning for a reason dear skin savvy. Paula’s Choice Skin Perfecting 2% BHA Liquid exfoliant is a straight froward formula with the maximum EU allowed, shop bought dose of salicylic acid. Going on like a toner, a small dose on a cotton pad is all that’s needed to help treat your skin. The formula also contains known penetration enhancers – ingredients which help actives get to deeper layers of your skin. A bonus for helping skincare products work.
With high strength liquid exfoliants some people experience an amount of skin peeling and flaking – so long as this isn’t accompanied by redness, inflammation or sensitivity – these changes are A-OK. Liquid exfoliants gradually dissolve the skin glue holding together your top layer dead skin cells, if you use a physical exfoliant they’d get washed down the skin, when you use a liquid exfoliant – sometimes they become visible.
Ingredients list: Aqua, Methylpropanediol (hydration), Butylene Glycol (hydration), Salicylic Acid (Beta Hydroxy Acid, exfoliant), Polysorbate 20 (stabilizer), Camellia Oleifera (Green Tea) Leaf Extract (skin calming/antioxidant), Sodium Hydroxide (pH balancer), Tetrasodium EDTA (stabilizer).
For you if you want a high-strength, pore refining, BHA exfoliant to use as a spot treatment – oh that’s also extremely purse friendly!
Active ingredient: 2% salicylic acid.
Other helpers: Witch hazel water (astringent, helps refine the appearance of pores).
The Ordinary are a skincare brand to know. Price friendly and packed with active ingredients. The Ordinary’s Salicylic Acid 2% Solution is extremely similar to Paula’s Choice Skin Perfecting 2% BHA liquid. Both have a 2% dose of BHA, both are balanced to a pH level which makes the salicylic acid effective and both contain a penetration enhancer.
…and although The Ordinary’s version of 2% BHA is designed as a spot treatment you can also use the solution as an all-round toner, you’re just going to need to buy more bottles to make up the quantity for a month+.
Pssst! If you’re wondering what the heck is pH, read this article and know that the best BHA exfoliants need to be balanced to the same pH as salicylic acid’s pKa – think of it like a body measurement, when the pH is balanced here, your skin gets minimal irritation for maximum effectiveness. Both The Ordinary and Paula’s Choice hit this spot on.
Ingredients list: Aqua (Water), Hamamelis Virginiana Leaf Water, Cocamidopropyl Dimethylamine, Salicylic Acid, Dimethyl Isosorbide (penetration enhancer), Trisodium Ethylenediamine Disuccinate, Citric Acid, Polysorbate 20, Hydroxyethylcellulose, Ethoxydiglycol, Potassium Sorbate, Sodium Benzoate, 1,2-hexanediol, Caprylyl Glycol.
For you if you want a natural BHA exfoliant which will be extra kind to skin.
Active ingredient: Willow bark extract – contains salicylic like actives which are studied to be kinder to skin aka less irritating.
Other helpers: Tea tree oil (anti-bacterial known to help fight spots), rosehip oil (natural source of vitamin A known to help acne, contains linoleic acid known to help fight spots and oily skin), yucca root extract (anti-inflammatory).
Dear friend if natural skincare is your love, look no further for a BHA exfoliant than Green People’s OY! Clear Skin Purifying Serum, just look at that ingredients list below. In addition to willow bark extract which is the natural containing salicylic like actives, you also have a significant amount of skin soothers plus anti-inflammatory actives. Fantastic for all skin types but also perfect for spot prone skin types. Acne and spots are an inflammatory skin disease, so any skincare ingredient which acts as an anti-inflammatory can help weaken your breakouts.
The willow bark extract Green People use in this BHA exfoliating serum is a natural source of salicin which studies prove at 0.5% can significantly increase your skin’s cellular turnover rate aka exfoliate your skin. Oh and best bit, the same study proves salicin’s multiple anti-ageing benefits – not bad ‘eh.
Another study tells us salicin when used in a serum at 0.5% has significant improvements on;
- Pore size
- Overall appearance
- Pigmentation (at 4 weeks use)
Ingredients list: Aqua (Water), Salix Nigra (Black Willow) Bark Extract, Glycerin (Vegetable Derived), Aloe Barbadensis (Aloe Vera) Leaf Juice Powder, Olea Europaea (Olive) Fruit Oil, Helianthus Annuus (Sunflower) Seed Oil, Rosa Moschata (Rosehip) Seed Oil, Althaea Officinalis (Marshmallow) Root Extract, Chamomilla Recutita (Chamomile) Flower Extract, Rosmarinus Officinalis (Rosemary) Leaf Extract, Aroma [Lavandula Angustifolia (Lavender) Herb Oil, Cymbopogon Citratus (Lemongrass) Leaf Oil, Pelargonium Graveolens (Rose Geranium) Oil, Melaleuca Alternifolia (Tea Tree) Leaf Oil, Vanilla Planifolia (Vanilla) Fruit Extract], Yucca Schidigera (Yucca) Stem Extract, Xanthan Gum, Chondrus Crispus (Irish Moss) Powder, Benzyl Alcohol, Salicylic Acid, Sorbic Acid, Citral, Citronellol, Geraniol, Limonene, Linalool.
4. Benton Aloe BHA Skin Toner Tonique Review
For you if you want a gentle and hydrating daily use salicylic acid toner.
Active ingredient: 0.5% salicylic acid.
Other helpers: Several hydrating and soothing actives – aloe vera, hyaluronic acid, glycerin, beta-glucan.
At a concentration of 0.5% salicylic acid, if you have a particularly sensitive skin type or prefer to use smaller amounts of active – but use them every day, then Benton Aloe BHA Skin Toner Tonique is the best BHA exfoliant for you. While most of the BHA liquids on this list use salicylic acid in it’s maximum 2% concentration, for some skin types less is better. Like having 1 slice of chocolate cake instead of scoffing the whole lot and regretting it later #BeenThere.
The overall formula of Benton Aloe BHA Skin Toner Tonique is pure skin love with a bottle full of soothing hydrators. If you’ve experienced flaking from BHA exfoliants and you didn’t like it – Benton BHA Toner says POW! to that.
Ingredients list: Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Water, Sodium Hyaluronate, Snail Secretion Filtrate , Glycerin, Pentylene Glycol, Zanthoxylum Piperitum Fruit Extract, Pulsatilla Koreana Extract, Usnea Barbata (Lichen) Extract, Polysorbate 20 (solubilizing agent), Salicylic Acid (0.5%), Arginine, Althaea rosea flower extract, Aloe barbadensis leaf extract, Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Juice, Beta-Glucan, Polyglutamic Acid, Aspalathus Linearis Extract, Portulaca Oleracea Extract, Psidium Guajava Fruit Extract, Acrylates/ C10-30 Alkyl Acrylate Crosspolymer, Xanthan Gum.
5. COSRX BHA blackhead Power Liquid Review
For you if you want a BHA liquid with natural potency plus a simple ingredients list.
Active ingredients: Willow bark water + Betaine salicylate – rumored at 4% BHA – but make sure you read on to learn why this is greater than the usual allowed 2%.
Other helpers: Panthenol (pro-vitamin B5 – aids skin’s metabolism and hydration), hyaluronic acid.
COSRX BHA blackhead Power Liquid is the only BHA exfoliant on this list containing more than 1 BHA exfoliant; willow bark water and betaine salicylate – an active derived from sugar beets. Instead of using water as the 1st ingredient, COSRX are using willow bark water – it’s those salicins again and a nod to packing in active, skin helpful ingredients only.
Note: this is not willow bark extract, which has a much greater concentration of salicins than willow bark water, so having willow bark water as ingredient no.1 will not make COXRX BHA Liquid too hot to handle.
Betaine salicylate which is the primary active ingredient in COSRX BHA blackhead Power Liquid is a pretty new active. So far only supplier studies are known about… and they show betaine salicylate has the same activity as salicylic acid when used at double the concentration aka 4% betaine salicylate would have the same effect as 2% salicylic acid.
Ingredients list: Salix Alba (Willow) Bark Water, Butylene Glycol, Betaine Salicylate, Niacinamide, 1,2-Hexanediol, Arginine, Panthenol, Sodium Hyaluronate, Xanthan Gum, Ethyl Hexanediol
6. Mizon AHA & BHA Daily Clean Toner Review
For you if you have very dry cheeks but an oily T-zone.
Active ingredients: Glycolic acid, Lactic acid, Salicylic acid.
Other helpers: Panthenol (pro-vitamin B5 – aids skin metabolism and hydration), hyaluronic acid.
Is this you? A super oily T-zone but also super dry cheeks? Fact is, AHA exfoliants aka alpha hydroxy acids work best for areas of dry skin – not BHA liquids. The reason why Mizon AHA & BHA Daily Clean Toner will work a treat if your skin type is 100% combination.
There are 3 liquid exfoliants in Mizon’s bottle – Glycolic acid, lactic acid and our famed salicylic acid. Glycolic is an AHA exfoliant great for dry skin areas, lactic acid is an AHA with skin hydrating properties and salicylic acid – well dear skin savvy you know all about that guy ‘eh. Mizon AHA & BHA Daily Clean Toner is your skin’s version of a roast dinner – you have protein, potatoes and vegetables – a mixture of everything which can help your body be great.
Ingredients list: Water, Butylene Glycol, Alcohol, Glycerin, Carica Papaya Fruit Extract, Butylene Glycol, Portulaca Oleracea Extract, Arnica Montana Flower Extract, Artemisia Absinthium Extract, Achillea Millefolium Extract, Gentiana Lutea Root Extract, Glycolic Acid, Peg-60 Hydrogenated Castor Oil, Lactic Acid, Sodium Lactate, Salicylic Acid, Disodium Edta, Methylparaben, Propylparaben, Fragrance.
Which best BHA exfoliant are you choosing? Come tell me in the comments below – oh and if you have more questions, don’t be shy dear friend, come and drop me yours below…
Cheryl Woodman is a scientist & award winning skincare formulator who is more friend next door than bow tie wearing professor. As creator of Honesty For Your Skin her aim is to help you care for your skin in the best ways possible. She is founder of the natural & fragrance free skincare brand Honesty while also hosting 1 to 1 skincare coaching to help you get your best skin yet. Learn more here at www.HonestyForYourSkin.co.uk/Skin-Coach