Education, Physical Health, Wellness / Self-Care

What to expect when using this Skin clearing ingredient – BHA

words by: Alee Kwong
Feb 4, 2021

If you’re like me, you’ve experienced maskne and you’ve researched all the different ways you can get rid of it ASAP. All the Google searches and asking around will lead you to the same answer – beta hydroxy acid (or BHA). This magical active acid is the must-have in your skincare arsenal during a time when acne has found its way back into your life.


One of the most popular BHA products on the market right now is the Paula’s Choice Skin Perfecting 2% BHA Liquid Exfoliant ($29.50). After much deliberation, me and last two brain cells decided to cave in and give this cult favorite a try. I couldn’t be more excited to finally say “goodbye!” to the acne that had been making itself a little too comfortable on the lower half of my face. Review boasting claims like, “Will never remove from my lineup,” “I will buy this for the rest of my life,” and “OVERNIGHT CHANGED MY SKIN OVERNIGHT” had my hopes and dreams for clear skin catapulted into full orbit. I was ready to be the person who claimed that their good skin came from minding my own business, drinking water, and obsessing over one holy grail skincare product.


It took about a week and a half for my order to get to my apartment and you already know that I had been obsessively checking the tracking information until the very moment it made it to my doorstep (or rather, the building’s front desk because we are trying to have clear minds, clear skin, and a clear-of-covid existence). It arrived in the late afternoon, which couldn’t have been more perfect because I only use BHA at night. You can use it during the day too, but the idea of potentially messing up my skin more at the hands of magnified sun damage just scares me too much to do it.


Once it came time to do my nightly skincare routine, I applied it with a cotton pad after washing my face. Considering I have combination-dry/dehydrated skin, it didn’t burn when I ran the BHA-soaked cotton pad across the drier patches on my face. That was a great sign and a huge sigh of relief. I went ahead and finished up my routine and headed off to a night of insomnia.


The next morning, I woke up and my skin was as smooth as the brains people who think the pandemic is a hoax. The congestion bumps on my jawline had decreased significantly, my tone was noticeably brighter, and I just looked like I had my life together. The bold and loud claim of “OVERNIGHT CHANGED MY SKIN OVERNIGHT” no longer seemed like unnecessary screaming but actually a statement of complete accuracy. I really didn’t know how to act after the first day. I took every given opportunity to catch the glow off my face and stayed in awe of how much my problems just disappeared.


Let me tell you, this ended very quickly and I was humbled before I could even take a decent photo to record this momentous day. THE PURGE HAPPENED. What’s the purge? Well, BHA is an active ingredient that increases the rate at which your skin cells shed and renew. That means any gunk and deep dark secrets you had sitting within your pores are going to make their way to the surface quicker than you can imagine – it’s literally purging. Like the movie, The Purge, there are no real rules to the attacks and it goes on for what feels like forever. It leaves you so confused because the hellscape happening on your face is what you thought the product would obliterate. The purge crept up on me and slowly chipped away at my hope. What I thought were small one-off pimples became small angry little squatters within a few days.


How long does the purge last, you ask? It depends on the individual. Sometimes it lasts 3-4 weeks and sometimes it can last up to 6 months. During this time, make sure you are focusing on hydrating and healing your skin during the day (or on the off-days when you’re not using BHA). Active acids are extremely drying so you want to make sure you are supplementing your skin with a fair amount of hydration to prevent further damage to your skin – which can lead to more acne and scarring.


Working with active acids has major benefits, but the purge forces you to gamble. As someone who has gone through a few purges in her life, I can say that the wait is worth it and just take advantage of this time at home to let your skin do its thing, even if it makes you look busted and pizza-faced as hell.