Sugaring Wax Hair Removal Guide

A guide for sugaring hair removal at home, wax’s all natural sister alternative

Waxing, shaving, laser/IPL, and even epilating are all popular and even mainstream methods of hair removal. Sugaring is a lesser known but ever growing in popularity method of hair removal. Sugaring is similar to waxing, but uses a sugaring paste or wax that is all natural and is more gentle on the skin.

In this guide:

What is sugaring?

Sugaring hair removal was first used in Persian over a millennium ago, during a time where sugar was only found in Persia or modern day Middle East. Unlike wax which sticks to both hair and skin, this ancient method of hair removal sticks to the hair while conditioning the skin.

Sugaring wax is primarily a heated mixture of water, sugar, and lemon, heated until it resembles a pliable candy like consistency. This is then applied just like you would apply wax to remove hair. Aside from lemon, there are many other additives that can be found in sugaring paste, including those that had aromatherapeutic benefits. Some other common ingredients are cornstarch to thicken, honey or molasses for additional skin conditioning, guar gum for thickening, and any essential oil for aromatherapy and fragrance.

You can buy pre made sugaring wax or paste, or make it at home yourself like the ancient Persians. To make it, the process is very simple but it takes a little bit of practice to get the consistency right. We’ll cover a great recipe later – to skip to it now, please click here.

Sugaring vs waxing

Sugaring paste feels similar to regular wax, but is actually much more gentle on the skin.

Gentle

Even the most gentlest of wax grabs both skin and hair. This allows for the wax to grab all of the hair at one time with one pass. Sugaring wax only grabs the hair and this makes sugaring less painful than waxing. Because sugaring wax isn’t as grabby as regular wax, it sometimes takes more than 1 application of sugaring wax to completely remove all of the hair. However, because the pain is minimal, this is easy to do.

Natural wax

Sugaring wax is also made of natural ingredients, usually of water, sugar, and lemon. The lemon is added for acidity to break up the sugar molecules. The water in the paste helps moisturize and condition your skin while it is applied.

Wax faster

You can also sugar large areas of hair at one time. With regular wax, there is risk of the wax drying out and making it more difficult to remove so you wax a section of skin, remove wax, and then move onto the next section. With sugaring hair removal, you can apply the sugaring wax to a large area without risk of it drying or hardening. Then you can take your time removing the sugar in smaller sections.

Not as hot

Regular waxes, especially soft waxes have to be applied hot otherwise you end up with too much wax with each application. This can result in the wax strip or cotton strip grabbing onto the wax and not the hair. Even with regular hard wax, you need for it to be very warm so that it remains pliable while you apply it on your hair.

Sugaring wax has a much lower melting point temperature than many regular waxes. So you can keep the temperature of the sugaring wax much lower and still apply and reapply.

No residue

Traditional or homemade sugaring wax leaves no residue. With some pre made sugaring waxes you may notice a small amount of residue, but this can be washed off. Unlike regular wax, sugaring requires no pre treatments or post treatment oils to help with the sticky residue. If you apply too much sugar in an area or have difficulty getting it all off, you can just wash it off with water and start again.

In fact, if you use cotton muslin strips to remove the sugaring wax, you can just throw the strips in the washing machine and reuse them again during your next sugaring session. It’s a very eco friendly hair removal method!

Get all of the missed hairs

With regular wax, you find that if you miss hairs, a second pass with the wax leaves your skin red, irritated, and resembling chicken skin. This is because the regular wax grabs both the skin and the hair. With sugaring wax, you can apply and remove the wax as many times as you need with little irritation. While sugaring should take no more than two passes to remove the hair, if you need a few applications to remove hair in a curvy or joint area, then sugaring is a great gentle option.

Better for less coarse hair

If you have thick coarse hair that you have let grow out or have been shaving, we’d recommend that you wax with regular wax first before sugaring. Sugaring is great for softer hair and will not work as well on very coarse hair. Long term shaving (without waxing in the interval) can make the hair follicles thicker, and sugaring may not be able to be remove all of the hair. However, if you have been waxing, then you may have noticed that the hair regrowing is softer and less coarse. Sugaring is a great follow up to traditional wax for long term maintenance.

If you have softer, finer hair to begin with, you already make for a great candidate for this eco and at home friendly hair removal method.

How to sugar?

Hard sugaring wax

Sugaring wax hair removal is similar to traditional wax hair removal, with a minor but important difference.

First, if you make your wax at home, you’ll find that you can make both the traditional hard and soft waxes with the sugar. Even if you do not make it at home, and buy ready to use options, you’ll notice that some have a hard wax consistency while others have the soft wax viscosity.

This means, you can make the sugaring paste a bit thicker by cooking a little bit longer and use this just like you would a regular hard wax – without cotton strips. You apply the “hard” sugaring wax in the direction of hair growth, and then remove. You apply it thickly, then you lift the edges with your fingers and remove by gripping the wax and pulling in the direction opposite of hair growth. This is the same technique that you would normally use for a regular hardwax.

Soft sugaring wax

If you prefer using strips to remove the wax, then you make the soft wax version of the sugaring wax by cooking it less. This method uses cotton muslin strips or another soft disposable wax strip like a regular soft wax.

Here’s where how you sugar breaks off from how you waxing. With the soft sugar wax, you apply the sugaring wax in the OPPOSITE direction of hair growth, press a strip down on the wax, and quickly pull in the SAME direction of hair growth to remove. This is the exact opposite of how regular soft wax is applied and removed. It seems very counterintuitive but this allows for better sugaring hair removal. If you’re not convinced, you should try both to see the difference.

Also if you use cotton muslim strips to remove hair, you can throw them all into the washing machine to wash off the hair and sugar, and reuse the strips. This can be a huge benefit. With sugaring hair removal, not only can make your own wax, but you don’t have to rebuy removal strips. It’s the ultimate money saver – no professional salon visits and no having to restock home waxing materials.

To remove any residue, wash with warm water and then moisturize. The lack of residue with sugaring makes this more ideal than regular wax for at home use.

Sugaring wax – How to make and where to buy

Sugaring predates modern day waxes because it is so simple to make. The ancient Persian recipe of heating sugar and water to make a candy like syrup was easy to make in a part of the world where sugar was abundant and hair removal was as much of an art form as routine.

At the same time, it may take an attempt or two to get the perfect consistency for at home sugaring and not end up with a sugaring paste that is too thick or runny. If you can’t get it right, don’t have the time to make it yourself, or it’s too messy of a process, but like the gentleness and ease of sugaring instead of waxing, there are a few great options of premade sugaring wax. These options are just as convenient, (if not more because it’s premade) as homemade sugaring wax. They have short ingredient lists and can easily be washed off.

Either way, let’s look at how to make sugaring wax or which to buy.

1. DIY Sugaring Wax

Want to go to our guide to making sugaring paste at home, click here.

Making sugaring wax can be a little tricky at first, but only involves 3 ingredients – sugar, water, lemon juice. It is tricky because you have to figure out when to stop cooking to get the right consistency. However, if you are a natural DIY-er and don’t mind throwing out the first learning batch that you make, then it’s easy to make sugaring wax at home.

There are several pros of making sugaring wax at home. First, you can control the ingredients. Maybe you have sensitive skin? Add a few drops of lavender oil to help condition your skin while you sugar off hair. Or you want to create a spa like experience at home? You can add any essential oil to the sugaring paste and you’ll be able to smell it and enjoy its aromatherapeutic benefits. Or you found that muslim strips you are using prefer the wax to be slightly more liquid. You can cook the sugaring paste a bit less in your next batch. These are just some of the many ways you can custom make your own sugaring paste.

Not to mention, because most people have sugar, water, and lemon juice in their kitchens all the time, you can make sugaring paste any time. No need to wait for a mail delivery or run to the store to restock sugaring paste. Make some more in 5 minutes and get to smooth skin at 6.

So, you want to make your own sugaring paste? Here is a guide to how to make different kinds of sugaring wax at home.

2. CocoJojo sugaring wax – natural ingredients

Don’t want to make sugaring wax yourself and prefer a ready to use product? CocoJojo sugaring wax is our favorite option because its simple ingredients make it most like the homemade sugaring wax.

First, let’s look at the ingredient list. It has honey, sugar, lemon juice which make up the basic sugaring wax base with argan oil, tea tree extract, and azulene oil for skin conditioning. No needless additives or chemicals. If you prefer simple products or don’t want the hassle of making sugaring wax at home, this is like if your DIY skilled friend offered to make it for you.

CocoJojo also makes several types of sugaring waxes – hard sugar wax and soft sugaring wax just like you can at home. There is also a bikini wax that is a thicker harder version of regular sugaring paste.


To read verified reviews of CocoJoJo sugaring wax, click here.

3. Gentle Bees sugaring wax – no essential oils

Gentle Bees sugaring wax is made by a very small company in Texas, and is another great ready to use sugaring wax option. You might have noticed that CocoJoJo adds skin conditioning essential oils. But, if you’re allergic to one of the oils or you’re allergic to honey, then Bees sugaring wax is a better product for you.

Gentle Bees sugaring wax only has 3 ingredients – sugar, wax, and lemon juice. These are the same 3 ingredients you use to make the basic sugaring wax at home.

It also comes in a glass container that you can microwave and use when you need to remove hair, and it makes it easy to control the temperature of the wax.


To read verified reviews of Gentle Bees sugaring wax, click here.

4. Moom sugaring wax – great for travel

Moom sugaring wax is our favorite option for sugaring hair removal while traveling. Moom is a family owned business that has been around for a long time, and has more diverse set of products than anyone else. Their kits come with everything you need – applicator popsicle sticks, wax removing strips, and easy to warm wax, and it all comes in a small travel friendly packaging.

Like CocoJojo and Bees, Moom sugaring wax also has a simple ingredient list – sugar, lemon, water make up the base and chamomile and tea tree oil offer skin conditioning properties.


To read verified reviews of Moom sugaring wax, click here.

Best 7 Epilator Reviews for Better Hair Removal

A complete guide: Epilator hair removal

Epilators have come a long way since we started using them for hair removal a few years back, with an infinite number of features, speeds, colors. There are so many options that it is confusing to pick a good epilator unless you are an epilator veteran. To skip ahead in this guide, please expand the table of contents below.

In this guide:

Reviews of the Top 7 epilators in 2018

With prices ranging from $30 to $160 and up to 10 features to shop from, picking one of many epilators available in 2017 can be overwhelming. To help you make your choice, we have rounded up the top 7 epilators of 2018. Each epilator is broken down into features as well as cons to make it easier to find the one that best suits your lifestyle and hair removal needs.

  1. Braun Silk-epil 9 9-579 – Our Top Pick Epilator
  2. This is not the most expensive epilator out there but it IS the best epilator that money can buy in 2018. Let’s see why.

    The head of this epilator is extra wide, which helps remove more hair in each pass. The head vibrates while in operation, which minimizes the pain that you might feel while epilating. The vibrations help massage and numb your skin. And finally, the Braun Silk-epil 9 9-579 epilator head also pivots with your body. This helps keep the epilator head flat on your skin’s surface in trickier areas like under arms or behind knees.

    Thanks to its Micro Grip tweezer technology, the tweezers on this epilator are much longer and wider than standard. This makes this hair removal device even better than waxing, picking up hairs that you may not even see. The Braun Silk-epil 9 9-579 can pick up even a grain of sand!

    It is cordless, with the longest lasting battery on the market, and can be used in both wet and dry environments. It’s also easy to clean with a detachable head, which you can wash or use the included cleaning brush.

    There is a built in light for better visibility. To help with sensitive skin areas, the Braun Silk-epil 9 9-579 epilator offers 2 speeds and an efficiency cap. This helps maximize hair removal and control how much hair you want epilate at any time.

    Last but not least, the Braun epilator comes with 7 extras! Yes, SEVEN! This includes a shaver head that you can use to shave, a trimmer cap for trimming hair, an efficiency cap, a high frequency massaging cap, and a facial brush. The facial brush helps remove makeup and physically exfoliate any dead skin through micro vibrations. All of these attachments are waterproof just like the epilator itself. The seventh extra is a recharging stand for the epilator.

    (The main epilator head is considered the 7th attachment, as all of the caps are interchangeable and some can even be doubled up, with 1 over the other.)

    To read more about Braun Silk-epil 9 9-579 product specifications, click here.


    What could be better

    There are really no issues with this epilator. We had to think hard about this but here are two potential issues.

    Initially, we considered the price to be a downside of this epilator. But after taking the number of attachments into consideration, the price is a 1 time cost that can save you money on razors, facial brushes, and a trimmer. For this many uses, the 1 time cost is more than reasonable.

    The second potential downside could be that you cannot use the epilator and charge at the same time. The epilator must be charged before or after each use. This could be a matter of habit for you. If you wax at home, you have to heat up the wax before you can use it. Similarly, by keeping the recharging dock nearby and in sight, this problem can easily be avoided. Just remember to charge after each use so you’re ready for the next time.

    To read more customer verified Braun Silk-epil 9 9-579 reviews, click here.

    Summary

    By almost exceeding in each of the potential features that an electric epilator can have in 2017, the Braun Silk-epil 9 9-579 is an incredibly feature heavy hair removal tool. If you’re looking for an investment epilator that has multiple uses, this is your epilator!

  3. Panasonic ES-ED90-P – Runner Up Epilator
  4. The Panasonic ES-ED90-P epilator comes in a close second to the Braun Silk-epil, offering another excellent choice minus a few features.

    This epilator comes with a 60 degree pivoting head with a built in light and 2 operating speeds to epilate more or less sensitive areas of your body in 1 go. With 46 tweezers, it falls into the mid to high range for tweezer power.

    It also comes with 6 attachments. Two of these attachments are epilating attachments, with a gentle epilation cap attachment and a precise cap attachment. The gentle cap is meant for areas of your body that have a low tolerance to pain as it reduces the number of tweezers running along your skin. The precision cap makes the head smaller so you can epilate smaller areas with more accuracy. The precision cap could be especially useful for men for beards.

    Other attachments include a shaver head, a bikini comb cap, and a pedicure buffer for removing dry skin and calluses.

    This epilator also works in wet and dry environments.

    To read more about Panasonic ES-ED90-P product specifications, click here.


    What could be better

    Again, like the Braun, price and rechargeability are the main but still minor concerns. This is still an excellent investment in terms of price in that it is far less than even 1 salon wax session.

    This epilator cannot be recharged while using it, like some corded epilators. Be sure to charge immediately after each or every few sessions to make sure it always runs when you need it to.

    To read more customer verified Panasonic ES-ED90-P reviews, click here.

    Summary

    This is another best contender in the best epilators money can buy. It is missing some of the features, like micro grab technology, a trimmer or a facial brush, from our top pick, but adds some feature options to make up for it. Depending on what extras you’ll use the most, the Panasonic ES-ED90-P could be your top choice.

  5. Emjoi AP-18 – Most Powerful Epilator
  6. Let’s start with the main feature that makes this epilator such powerhouse – It has 72 tweezers! This is almost double our first pick and runner up. With 72 tweezers, the Emjoi AP-18 is an ideal epilator for legs, arms, or other areas with a lot of hair or dense hair. Epilating with the Emjoi AP-18 will be much faster than either the Braun Silk-epil or the Panasonic epilators.

    However, this may not be the best epilator for a beginner for the same reason. 72 tweezers pulling hair is going to hurt much more than half that number. The Emjoi AP-18 also does not have any massaging or vibrating attachments that will help numb the pain for a beginner or for someone with low pain tolerance.

    But if you’re a seasoned veteran or have used an epilator 4-5 times, this is a powerful machine for you. Even if you are a beginner and plan on removing a lot of hair via epilation, it would be possible to build up tolerance and good technique by using it in smaller areas first.

    The second feature unique to the Emjoi is the dual opposed heads. What this means is that the tweezers are not just at the top of epilator, but rounded out to extend out the top as well as the sides. These dual opposing heads allows greater flexibility as you travel over your body with the epilator. You can use it both on the right and left, and angle accordingly as you epilate.

    The Emjoi AP-18 is corded with a 6.5 feet cord and offers 2 speeds.

    It also boasts a Skin Glide technology that helps it grab all hairs on your skin. This technology helps it “scoop” up any hairs that are sitting flat and remove them from the root.

    To read more about Emjoi AP-18 product specifications, click here.

    What could be better

    The Emjoi AP-18 does not have a built in light or shaving attachments. There is no efficiency cap, but you may not need one with the 72 tweezers and dual heads!

    It is not water resistant, but it comes with a cleaning brush for good hygiene. It certainly is missing many of the features that our top picks have.

    To read more customer verified Emjoi AP-18 reviews, click here.

    Summary

    While we wouldn’t make it our top choice, this is a great epilator to have in your hair removal tool arsenal because it is incredibly powerful. Don’t look to the Emjoi AP-18 for features. This is a workhorse epilator and exceeds expectations in the main goal of an epilator – remove hair.

  7. Emjoi Soft Caress Epilator – Best Hypoallergenic Epilator
  8. The Emjoi Soft Caress Epilator is a different kind of powerhouse in that it is a highly efficient epilator for those with sensitive skin.

    It only has 36 tweezers but has the “highest tweezes per minute”. There are 2 speeds on this epilator. So while there are far less tweezers, at each of the 2 speeds, the tweezers rotate very quickly to pull out hair quickly. This makes the Emjoi Soft Caress Epilator perfect for causing the least amount of discomfort on sensitive skin.

    Emjoi Soft Caress Epilator has another helpful feature for those with sensitive skin – all 36 tweezers are 24 karat gold plated with antibacterial properties. This plating makes the tweezers hypoallergenic and decreases ingrown hairs.

    It includes a massage attachment that helps numb your skin during epilation. Like the Emjoi AP-18, it is not water resistant but includes a cleaning brush. It should not be used in the shower.

    This epilator is also cordless and rechargeable. In fact, you can use it while it recharges unlike the other epilators we have covered so far. This allows you to use this epilator in any dry situations at any time!

    To read more about Emjoi Soft Caress Epilator product specifications, click here.

    What could be better

    It would be nice to see Emjoi make their epilators water resistant. The Emjoi Soft Caress Epilator has so many features alongside great epilation technology. Being able to use it in the shower would round out its feature list and make it contender for a wider audience.

    To read more customer verified Emjoi Soft Caress Epilator reviews, click here.

    Summary

    It’s hypoallergenic tweezers and fast rotating tweezers make the Emjoi Soft Caress epilator a unique product. If you have sensitive skin or are prone to ingrown hairs, this is the epilator to get.

  9. Remington EP7030 – Best Value Epilator
  10. If you’re worried about, there are a few decent options in a lower price range that offer a good value as a beginner epilator. The Remington EP7030 is one of the best in this category as Remington is one of the original companies in the epilator industry.

    The Remington EP7030 epilator has 40 tweezers and operates at 2 speeds. It also has a pivoting head with a few cap attachments. The precision cap, perfect angle cap, and massaging cap all help you customize your experience according to what area you are epilating. There is also a built in light for better visibility.

    It is rechargeable with a power adaptor and otherwise cordless, and can be used wet and dry. You can wash it off in the shower after use by removing the head or use a cleaning brush, also included.

    To read more about Remington EP7030 product specifications, click here.


    What could be better

    The epilator is highly functional, but lacks additional features that make this a versatile travel friendly tool. It also lacks some technological developments in terms of tweezers and epilator motor like our other picks.

    To read more customer verified Remington EP7030 reviews, click here.

    Summary

    There is a low frills epilator that does the job, and does it well. If you’re a student or not sure about epilation as a hair removal process in general, this is an excellent experimental product. That’s not to say that it is not good for long term use. These epilators will run for years. So if you find that you don’t need more features, you’ll find the Remington EP7030 performs very well.

  11. Codream 4-1 – Best Value Epilator with Features
  12. Are you looking for a beginner epilator with a few more multi-purpose functionalities? Look no further than the Codream 4-1 epilator.

    It is a lesser known epilator with a younger brand. But don’t let that hold you back if the features make this an appealing choice for you.

    The 4-1 refers to the 4 functions this epilator offers via attachments – epilator, shaver, hair clipper, and callus remover. Amongst the extras, the callus remover on Codream 4-1 is highly rated attachment. In terms of multifunctionality, this is a powerhouse.

    It is rechargeable via power adaptor and can be used while plugged in or as cordless. There is a built in LED light. The epilator head can be removed and washed with water. But the epilator itself is not wet/dry and should be using in dry places only.

    To read more about Braun Silk-epil 9 9-579 product specifications, click here.


    What could be better

    In terms of features, making the whole epilator water resistant would make this epilator well rounded.

    Aside from features, the Codream 4-1 epilator does lack the latest technology in both tweezers
    and epilator motor.

    To read more customer verified Braun Silk-epil 9 9-579 reviews, click here.

    Summary

    Want an beginner, budget friendly option that offers more features and versatility than the Remington EP7030? The Codream 4-1 is your epilator.

  13. Philips Satinelle HP-6401 – Best Starter Epilator
  14. For our last review, we asked ourselves – What is the cheapest basic epilator that does the job?

    Why bothering asking this question? We recognized that sometimes you want to spend the least possible money to figure out if a particular hair removal method even works for you. With that in mind, we concluded that if you want a basic starter epilator, the Philips Satinelle HP-6401 is one to try.

    It has 21 tweezers, 2 speed setting and an efficiency cap. You can also wash the top epilator head by taking it off the body of the machine, which is not water resistant.

    It is a little louder than the other epilators we have reviewed. It is also corded.

    To read more about Philips Satinelle HP-6401 product specifications,click here.

    What could be better

    Almost everything.

    This epilator has none of the features of our epilators and no additional attachments. It has a low number of tweezers and no built in light. And it is not water resistant and so cannot be used in the shower.

    To read more customer verified Philips Satinelle HP-6401 reviews, click here.

    Summary

    Remember this is a basic, no frills epilator. It is much lower in price than the others we have picked to review here. But this is also a best selling epilator and has been for many years. So it may not be fancy, but it works! The Philips Satinelle HP-6401 would be a great epilator to start your epilating journey with, and later adding a second more efficient epilator to your hair removing arsenal!

What is an epilator?

Epilators still enjoy a somewhat anonymous status. Many women have never used or heard of an epilator! This is ironic because epilators can be the ideal method of hair removal for a lot of people, men and women.

The epilator is a hair removal device that uses groups of tweezers to remove hair from it’s root. The tweezers are usually metal or ceramic. As you pass the epilator over your skin, its many tweezers rotate to grab many hairs and remove them completely just like waxing.

Epilation allows you to be hair free for longer than shaving, similar to waxing. Like waxing, when the hair regrows out from its root, you must epilate to remove it again. Depending on fast your hair grows, you could enjoy smooth skin for 1 to 3 weeks!

So why is the epilator a better alternative to shaving or waxing?

Long lasting smooth skin

Epilating gives long last smooth skin. If you remove hair by shaving, you are probably shaving anywhere from every 3 or 4 days to daily. Epilating is like waxing. It removes the hair from the root. So you have to epilate only as often as your hair regrows from its roots. That means you can enjoy smooth hairless skin for a week up to 2 or 3 weeks!

Easy

It’s also as easy as shaving, if not easier. Epilators come in many features, from cordless to rechargable to waterproof to vibrating heads that numb your skin. There is no nicking your skin or causing razor burn like shaving.

It’s definitely much easier than waxing. You may need to recharge your epilator, but there is no warming up of wax or other preparation. You even don’t need to wait for your hair to grow out ¼ of an inch, like for waxing. You can epilate the minute you start to see or feel hairs. And you can epilate from anywhere, home or a hotel.

Cheap

If you shave, how often you buy new razors or razor heads? Or you may go to a wax salon, which can cost up to $200/visit. Not to mention having to schedule an appointment and worry about hot wax burns. Even if you wax at home, you’re spending money on wax refills or waxing strips.

An epilator is a 1 time cost for several years. With epilators ranging from $40 to $140, you only have to spend that once to epilate for years. Without a doubt, epilating is the cheapest hair removal solution available to men and women today. And with technology improving every single year, epilators are becoming a go-to for hair removal for more people every year.

Features of an epilator

There are over a hundred epilators available to try out there today. You could start with any of them. So which one do you pick up? What are the differences between each epilator? Are they all the same? Why are some more expensive than others?

A few years ago, a lot of epilators were fairly straightforward. They only worked if plugged into an outlet, in dry environments (not in the shower), and sometimes hard to clean. Today, epilators are available with lots more features. Here are some of the features we looked at to differentiate a good epilator from a better one to find some of the best epilators available to us in 2017:

  1. Pulls hairs rather than breaks hairs
  2. A common question we get is: do epilators cause ingrown hairs? They can with a low quality epilator. So what does that mean?

    A good epilator will grab the hairs at their roots to pull it out completely. It should not be grabbing hairs halfway and breaking them. This will lead to faster re growth because the hair was not removed and only broken, like shaving.

    It could also mean more ingrown hairs because when a hair is pulled until it breaks halfway, it is stretched out. After it stretches and snaps, it curls back towards the skin and could become an ingrown hair.

  3. Number of tweezers
  4. The more tweezers on the head of the epilator, the faster you’ll pull out more hair. Each of the tweezers grab hairs as they rotate.

    So with an epilator that has a high number tweezers, you’ll be pulling out more hairs per pass of the epilator over your skin. This can be great because you’ll spend less time epilating.

    At the same time, if you have low tolerance for pain, more tweezers could also mean more pain. So it is important to know how many tweezers an epilator has, so you can make an informed decision.

  5. Cost
  6. Epilators can cost anywhere from $30 to $150 and prices go up with increased features, details, and accessories. Lower priced epilators can have lower number of tweezers and less convenient details, but are a good place to start if you are unsure about epilation.

    On the other hand, if you wax often or use a hair removal method that removes hair from the roots, a good quality epilator can be a useful tool. While the initial cost can seem high for an epilator will all of the features, bells and whistles available, the money you save by replacing wax salon fees quickly makes the epilator a good investment.

  7. Efficiency cap
  8. If you have low pain tolerance, the epilator cap is a must have. It is an attachment cap for the epilator head, where all the tweezers are, to help lessen the pain of epilating.

    It is curved and helps optimize the surface area that touches your skin to maximize the angle needed for epilation. The shape of the attachment cap helps you keep the epilator at a 90 degree angle, which is the best angle for epilation. It also makes epilating less painful.

  9. Easy to clean
  10. This is another must have. To make sure your epilator works for a long time, you want to be sure to clean it. The tweezers that pull hair out rotate at the top the epilator. In a good epilator, you are able to take that top portion off or apart to clean out any hairs that might have gotten stuck in there while the tweezers rotate.

    A clean epilator will also help keep your skin free of any acne or similar breakouts that are a result of bad epilator hygiene.

  11. Speed options
  12. Variable speeds help you control how fast or slow the tweezers turn. This is especially useful when you are epilating a curved and sensitive area, like an armpit or the back of knee. These areas can hurt a lot more.

    If your epilator has two or more speeds, you can continue epilating up an arm or leg by just slowing it down when you reach a sensitive area.

  13. Built in light
  14. Most of us will epilate in a bathroom, and sometimes bathrooms do not have the best light at night. Having a built in light at the head of the epilator that shines on your skin can be really helpful when you have to epilate during an evening.

    The built in light can help you see hairs that are shorter or finer so that you don’t end up with patchy areas due to bad overhead lighting.

  15. Accessories
  16. There are a lot of accessories available with some epilators. Some accessories make the basic epilator into a powerful 7-in-1 or 5-in-1 tool with attached heads for shaving hair, exfoliating, or even scrubbing your heels.

    Epilators with accessories can be the ideal choice for anyone who travels or does not have a lot of storage in their bathroom because one tool does so much more than just epilate!

  17. Cordless
  18. Corded epilators work just as fine as cordless or rechargeable epilators. However, if you travel or your bathroom outlet is too far to be comfortable, a cordless option can be a small detail that offers tremendous convenience.

    So think about where in your home you will be using your epilator, and if having a cordless epilator will make your life easier. Alternatively, if you travel often, cordless is definitely the way to go.

  19. Wet/Dry options

Want to be able to shower and epilate in 1 go? A wet/dry epilator might be your best friend. These epilators can be used in the shower with the water running. This helps with cleaning up the hair that is epilated and the epilator itself. As these epilators are water resistant, you can wash the epilator and the tweezer heads and let it dry in the shower for the next time.

These epilators are also ideal for travelers, who can use in hotels and airbnbs without worrying about the mess and cleanup.

What about pain?

All this talk about removing hair from the root brings us to an important question – How much does it hurt?

The answer depends on your tolerance for pain. We have found that it hurts less than waxing but more than shaving. However, if shaving gives you ingrown hairs then trading your razer for a good epilator may still be worth it. A well designed efficiency cap also helps with any pain you might experience.

Even if you do experience pain from epilation, there are a number of ways you can reduce epilator pain.

All in all, unless your pain tolerance is insanely low, don’t be put off by the reports of pain. With some practice, the epilator can become your go to tool for hair removal.

Best 5 At Home Waxing Kits

A complete guide to: At home waxing

Hair removal by waxing is most commonly done in professional salons by aestheticians. If waxing is your go to form of hair removal or you want to try saving time and money, waxing at home is a great option. At home waxing kits make it easy to prep and wax with little clean up needed. And they can save money. Let’s learn more about about the at home wax kit options available today.

In this guide:

Reviews for 5 of the best home waxing kits

We used countless home waxing options to select the top 5 home waxing kits available today. To help you select one to try, we evaluated each of them on features, ease of use, preparation, and clean up. Lets see what they are.

1. Gigi Student Starter Kit: Our Top Pick Home Waxing Kit

The Gigi Student Starter Kit is best kit available today. It includes everything you will need to have a salon like waxing experience right at home. The kit comes with a wax warmer, muslin wax strips in 2 sizes, applicators in 2 sizes, Pre Epilation Oil, Pre Hon, a wax off, Slow Grow, and Gigi’s All Purpose Honee wax. Gigi makes more 20 different types of waxes for different parts of your skin, from Tea tree wax as a softer antibacterial option for your face to All Purpose Honee for a 1 for all body areas solution, and the Brazilian wax for very coarse pubic hair.

Read more about our favorite waxes from Gigi.

This kit includes 1 can of Gigi’s All Purpose Honee and any of the waxes can be purchased alongside if you want a wax tailored to other areas of your body. All of Gigi’s waxes can be used with this system.

The Gigi Student Starter Kit comes with a wax warmer that you can plug in. The warmer has 3 settings at low/medium/high heat and you heat the wax to high to melt and then lower the temperature to keep it warm. The warmer also has a cover that you can use to cover up the wax container, if need be.

There is a paper collar included in the Gigi Student Starter Kit that goes around the can of wax before you put it in the warmer. The collar helps prevent drips as you scoop up wax from getting on the warmer. You can toss the collar after every or every few uses. The collars can be repurchased in packs.

However, you may quickly realize the collar is just a donut cut out of hard paper. An economical way to replace these collars can be to keep 1 collar and use it as a template to cut a new out of cardboard, cardstock, or hard paper.

The Pre Hon is a skin cleanser that is meant to be the first step of the waxing preparation. It cleans the skin of any make-up, body oils, and deodorants, and helps protect the skin from any irritations.

A bottle of Pre Epilation Oil and of Post Wax Cooling Gel are also included in this kit. The pre-epilation oil helps prepare your skin for hair removal by helping the wax removing strips grip hair rather than skin. This makes the process less painful. The post wax cooling gel helps calm your skin after hair removal.

The Slow Grow lotion is the last step of the waxing process and helps slow down future regrowth of hair through an anti-keratinization process. It also has argan oil which moisturizes and protects the skin.

And finally, the Gigi Student Starter Kit comes with popsicle stick like applicators that are wide and cut at an angle, in 2 different sizes. The can be used to scoop up and apply the wax. Once you’re done, you can throw the stick away and start with a new one during your next wax session. Popsicle sticks can be purchased for pennies at any craft store.


Cons

If you do not have an outlet that is close to where you want to use this, thena microwavable wax might be a better option. You can certainly microwave Gigi’s wax and use it as well

Summary

This is an all service wax kit meant for long term use. You may have even seen it in professional wax salons. If waxing is your go to choice for hair removal, you want a full body wax solution, and you are looking for the best at home wax kit that will last years – the Gigi Student Starter Kit is your choice!

2. Body Honee Extra Strength – Best microwavable wax

The Body Honee Extra Strength at home wax kit is the best microwavable wax option available today. The wax included in this kit is ready to use after microwaving for 1 minute. It can used on coarse hair on arms, legs, underarms, or anywhere else on the body.

However, it is extra strength, and should not be used on on your face, head, nose, or ears. Body Honee also has a separate Hard Wax that can be used for facial waxing.

The Body Honee Extra Strength at home waxing kit also comes with soothing oil based towelettes that should be used after waxing to remove any wax residue that might make your skin stick to clothing. The towelettes are 1 use only and are available for re purchase. But you can also use coconut oil, jojoba oil, or any other oil that suits your skin.

For the actual waxing, this kit offers 2 wood spatulas for applying the wax (in the same direction as the hair grows) and 8 wax strips to remove the wax and the hair (against the direction of hair growth).


Cons

There is the obvious downside of heat. Microwavable wax will cool down faster than a wax sitting on a plugged in warmer. To wax larger areas like full legs, you may need to reheat the wax in the microwave.

This is not a con as much as it is a comparison. This is a more basic kit than the Gigi at home wax kit as it is missing many of the pre and post treatment oils and lotions. However, you may find that they are not as essential for you. You can also try these products in addition if you decide that waxing is your preferred way of removing hair.

Summary

If you do not have an outlet for heating up your wax, a microwavable wax like Body Honee Extra Strength is the best and most convenient way to wax at home.

3. Bliss Poetic Waxing Kit

If you’re looking for all of the extras of the Gigi Student Starter kit but with a microwavable wax, then the Bliss Poetic Waxing Kit is worth a look.

The Bliss Poetic Waxing kit was first created for use in Bliss Spas, and then opened to the public in this waxing kit. It was one of the first at home waxing kits available on the market, and Bliss wax can be used anywhere on your body and face.

The cup of Bliss Poetic wax in this kit can be warmed up by heating it in the microwave in 30 second spurts. The cup makes it easy to use and reuse by reheating later.

The wax can be used both like soft and hard wax. It does not include any wax strips or muslin. But it has 6 spatulas in 2 different sizes to apply the wax. Then it can be removed with muslin or you can remove the wax like you normally would hard wax. Using the hard wax method of removing allows you to wax without any muslim strips.

There is a few extras in the Bliss Poetic Waxing Kit. First, there is a Super Skin Cleanser to remove body oils, makeup or other product from your skin to prepare the wax to stick to your skin and hair. The kit also comes with a Bliss Poetic Waxing pre and post waxing oil to help the wax stick to the hair and not the skin and help reduce pain. And finally there is an Ingrown Eliminating pad included to help prevent ingrown hairs.


Cons

The microwavable container in this kit is made of plastic, which makes it easier to handle while hot but also cools down the wax faster. So to wax larger areas you’ll need to microwave a few times to keep the wax at a workable consistency.

Summary

If you want a “spa like” at-home waxing experience but prefer microwavable wax instead of using an outlet, try the Bliss Poetic Waxing Kit.

4. Nair Brazilian Spa Clay Roll On Wax – Best Roll On Wax

Let’s start with the best thing about the Nair Brazilian Spa Clay Roll-On Wax: you can wash it off. Yes, that is right. This wax can be washed off! So no sticky residue ever. With the other waxes we have reviewed, you must use a post wax oil or treatment will helps remove wax residue.

In addition, the strips part of the Nair Brazilian Spa Clay Roll-On Wax kit are ALSO washable. Just like you can wash off any wax residue, you can also throw the wax strips into the laundry or hand wash them to remove the wax. Then when the strips are dry, you can reuse them!

Both of these conveniences make this a great at home waxing kit, but an even better waxing kit that can be used if you need to travel! Need to wax your legs because you didn’t have time at home and are now on the go? This kit allows you wax at home or elsewhere. Just wash your strips and pack them away.

This wax can be warmed up in the microwave or hot water and then applied onto your skin. The tube of wax looks like a toothpaste tube with a ball that rolls at the end, which applies wax to your skin. Once you are done, just wash off the ball applicator, put the cap back on, and put it away for next time.

As mentioned, this kit also comes with wax strips that can be washed. If you run out of strips or use them enough to wear them out, you can also cut up strips of muslin cloth instead or buy a pack of new Nair wax strips.


Cons

On some of these tubes of Nair Brazilian Spa Clay Roll-On Wax, the applicator balls can get a little messy. While you can certainly wash off the wax, you may end up wasting more wax than if you used a kit with a warmer or a microwavable cup.

Summary

The Nair Brazilian Spa Clay Roll-On Wax is our favorite on the go AND at home wax kit. It is minimal fuss and it works.

5. Veet Ready-to-use Wax Strip Kit

The Veet Ready-to-use Wax Strip Kit is the most minimal of the at home waxing kits available. It features 40 wax strips and 4 finishing wipes to remove wax residue.

Unlike the Nair Brazilian Spa Clay Roll-On Wax’s tube applicator, the Veet Ready-to-use Wax Strips offers the wax right on the strip. To use, rub a strip between your hands to warm up the wax, then grip each side of the wax strip and pull it apart.

In this way, each strip becomes 2 wax strips. Each wax strip can be applied to your skin in the same direction as your hair growth and then removed in the opposite direction. Then the wax strip can be throw away.

These at home wax strips can be used anywhere on your body or face. They only get as warm as you are able to warm them up between your hands, so there is no risk of burning your skin. Veet also makes a Facial wax kit with smaller strips that can work better for eyebrows or other facial waxing, but you can also cut the wax strips in this kit down to a smaller size.

The 4 finishing wipes help get rid of any wax residue. You only need 1 for each time you wax, and these can be repurchased if you decide you like them. If not, you can also use any kind of non comedogenic oil to get rid of the post waxing stickiness.


Cons

One big negatives is that if you need to wax a large area like legs more than once, you’ll need several of these at home wax strip kits. However, they certainly make do if you need a solution that works and is convenient.

This kit also does not come with many of the pre or post waxing treatments that several of our other options include.

Summary

You can’t wax endless with this kit, but it takes up even less space in your luggage than the Nair wax kit. Veet Ready-to-use Wax Strip Kit is a great utilitarian solution for a woman on the go.

Types of wax

Wax for hair removal comes in two forms – hard wax and soft wax.

Hard wax is also referred to as non strip wax, peelable wax or hot wax. Hard wax has long been advertized as the better wax as it is supposed to remove all hair without grabbing onto the skin. Commonly, it’s the recommended wax for brazilians or upper lip hair removal. It’s called hard wax because it is liberally applied while it’s pliable and viscous and then it is removed when it hardens.

However, it’s far more difficult to wax with hard wax and even takes experienced estheticians longer to wax the same area with hard wax than with soft wax. It can also be more painful. Even in professional settings, a brazilian with hard wax may take several attempts. Hard wax is applied when warm and becomes less sticky as it cools on your skin. It is then grabbed from an end by hand and quickly removed, taking the hair with it. Because there is no strip, it can be more difficult to get a grip and remove firmly, and so can be a messy and painful process.

None of the at home wax kits we review here have hard wax. All of them use some form of the other type of wax – soft wax.

(If you prefer the hard wax method, we recommend sugaring for a friendlier and less painful at home wax option. Learn more about sugaring.)

Soft wax is referred to such because it is applied when it is soft and removed while it is still soft. After soft wax is applied to your hair, a piece of muslin or wax strip is placed over the wax. When the muslim or wax strip is quickly removed, the hair goes with it, resulting in smooth and hair free skin. The strip or muslin can be discarded. Soft wax also helps exfoliate your skin and removes mature and baby hairs. Soft wax leaves your hair feeling smooth!

Many of the at home waxing kits offer soft wax in several forms – microwavable wax, wax strips, roll on wax, and wax that needs a heat set up. Each of these offer a different kind of convenience and need some kind of electric or or manual heat to soften the wax so that it adheres to your skin.

So why at home waxing?

First, professional salon waxing can really add up. It costs anywhere from $30 per visit for a small area to more than $500 per visit for full body waxes. That can be $6000 or more per year!

Let’s compare that to an at home waxing, which costs about $100 a year which some of the higher price options and even less with a lower cost one. A huge cost difference!

Another great thing about at home waxing is that it can be more convenient to be able to wax at anytime in your own bathroom rather than going to another location for a salon appointment.

If you have never had a professional salon waxing, we do recommend that you go once to see how the professionals wax once before you try at home. If you don’t have access to salons near you and have never waxed your hair before, we recommend watching a video on waxing technique first.

If you have had a professional waxing, then you have an idea of how the wax is applied and removed. Even still, there can be a learning curve to getting the wax temperature warm enough to work but not too warm, how to apply, and how to remove. However, after waxing a small portion once or twice, this learning curve can be overcome quickly.

Features of at home waxing kits

There are many features available in at home wax kits and they come in many price points. So what are the most useful features that make one wax kit a better option than the next? Here are three features to look for.

Preparation

Many of the best at home wax kits available today are soft wax. To use soft wax for hair removal, you have warm the wax so that it can stick to and remove your hair. Some at home wax kits have microwavable wax, others come with a custom heating machine, and others just need to be warmed up by rubbing your hands together. So the first feature to look for is what heating source you will need for the wax.

The most efficient at home wax kits come with their own wax warming machine that can be plugged in. These warming machines heat up the wax to different temperatures to ready the wax for use and then help keep it at an even temperature while it is used. You do need an electrical outlet near where you would like to use it.

If you do not have an outlet then microwavable wax can be very convenient. This type of wax can be microwaved for a short time and then used until it cools. Wax does not cool very quickly so you can use it for as long as it easy to work with, and then microwave again. If you need to wax in a location that does not have an accessible outlet nearby but want to wax a large area, then microwavable wax is a great solution.

Finally, there are roll on and wax strips. This type of wax can be warmed with your hands. They can be rubbed between your hands to warm up and then applied to your skin and removed for smooth skin. This type of wax can be great for small areas or for quick waxing where you do not have time to wait for wax to warm up.

Does it work?

The second important feature to consider in each at home wax kit is the efficiency – does it remove hair well? Several factors work together to create a good at home wax kit.

The wax must warm enough to use comfortably via the recommended heating method by the manufacturer, whether by microwave, by hand, or by heat warmer.

The wax strips, whether built in or offered separately as rolls, should be easy to use and easily remove the wax with little to no residue.

Some wax kits also offer accessories like catch collars that help catch extra wax or wide popsicle sticks that help spread the wax on your skin in decent quantities. These can be thrown away each time you finish waxing. These accessories are cheap but if you do not want to spend money on more, you can easily find cheaper or almost free options. We’ll cover these as we review the top at home wax kits later.

Cleanup

Finally, the last important to feature to note in these at home wax kits is how easy is it to cleanup. Does the kit offer options or accessories that can be tossed after every use and that help with cleanup?

Perhaps the wax applicator can be tossed after each use. The wax strips can be thrown out. Is the wax easy to work with at a good consistency that does not drip? Some waxes are very drippy and not cool to a easy-to-work consistency very easily and these waxes can create a bigger mess in your bathroom than is worth it.

How to wax

1. Prepare

To get started, gather your wax, popsicle stick applicators, and wax strips. Warm your wax in the microwave, hot water, or wax warmer to a comfortably warm temperature so that you do not burn yourself.

If you bought wax strips in rolls, cut a few pieces off the roll in various sizes. Wash your skin with a warm water to remove an lotions or body oils, or apply a pre waxing treatment that will remove any lotion residues from your skin.

2. Apply wax

Dip your applicator in the wax, let some of the excess drip off back into the wax container, and apply on your hair IN the same direction as your hair grows.

Depending on what you are waxing, you can get different applicator styles that can make it easier to apply the wax. Regular rounded applicator sticks are great for larger areas. The rounded applicator sticks also come in a convenient smaller size for under arms or smaller areas. Then there are also skinner angled applicator sticks that are great for eyebrows or for achieving straight lines on your bikini wax.

3. Remove wax

If you’re using soft wax, press your wax strip down on the applied wax. Then pull the wax strip off in the direction OPPOSITE hair growth. You’ll find best results in you pull at a 10-20 degree angle from your skin surface. Don’t pull straight up at 90 degrees because you’ll end up with broken instead of pulled hairs. You won’t be able to pull the wax strip off as fast either, which will also cause more pain.

A common mistake with waxing yourself is to pull the wax or the wax strip up and away. What does that mean? So let’s say your leg is horizontal to the ground and you are waxing your elg. This means, because you’re anticipating pain, you pull the wax away towards the ceiling at almost a 90 degree angle. You’re probably also breaking hair and at that angle, pulling your skin more than you need to.

What you actually want to do is remove the wax a very low angle compared to the body part your are waxing. So if your leg is horizontal, you apply the wax horizontally, and then try to remove the wax by pulling in a close to horizontal angle. This way can reduce broken hairs, remove hairs from the root, and reduce pain.

If you’re using hard wax, use your fingers to grab one end of the wax and quickly pull off the wax to remove the hair. If you can’t get a grip, use your finger tips to slightly peel up one side so you can get a grib

4. Soothe skin

Your skin will be very red after the hair is pulled out, and may even feel like it is burning. Immediately after pulling off the wax,
you can press down on the wax area to lessen the burning sensation.

After you are done waxing the entire area, you use a post waxing oil to sooth and condition your skin. You can also use an all natural aloe vera gel to quickly heal any over exfoliated skin (waxing can sometimes pull off skin too, aka exfoliation, and sometimes it is too much) or soothe any redness. You can also apply a light hydrating lotion that will not clog pores.

What about pain

Waxing can be a little painful. However, many find that it is less painful that many of the other long lasting hair removal techniques. Some may even find it waxing less painful than epilating or that epilators work better on their arms and waxing is less painful on their legs.

As you start waxing at home, you will also notice that the pain improves with your technique. You should apply the wax in the direction that hair grows and remove the wax strip against the direction of hair growth. You’ll find that there is a sweet spot angle at which the strip should be removed for little to no pain. If you have never had a professional waxing, we do recommend you experience at least session and watch closely. But if you can’t, there are countless video tutorials available on technique that can help you perfects yours for a painless wax experience.

A Skincare Guide to AHA or Alpha Hydroxy Acid

An introduction to alpha hydroxy acid (AHA), its benefits, side effects, and best products

Alpha hydroxy acids, or AHAs, are popular ingredients in skin care products for acne, anti aging,
or just general moisturizers, but rarely do these products also educate you about how to use an AHA,
the benefits they offer or their side effects. AHAs are potent and if you use them without proper care for your skin, they can result in more damage than their intended benefits. AHAs also can help deal with a wide range of skin problems, from hydration to pigmentation and scars to acne to sun damage and aging. This guide will explain the benefits, side effects, different types of alpha hydroxy acids, and offer some recommendations for best performing AHA products for skin problems.

In this guide:

What is alpha hydroxy acid or AHA?

Alpha hydroxy acid, or AHA, is 1 of 2 hydroxy acids that is commonly used in cosmetic products for exfoliation, hydration. They’re especially popular in anti aging skincare products. AHAs can be synthetic created or naturally derived from fruit, nuts, sugar or dairy products. The other common hydroxy acid is beta hydroxy acid or bha. To learn more about bha, read our guide to bha or beta hydroxy acids here.

Unlike beta hydroxy acids which are oil soluble, alpha hydroxy acids are water soluble and so cannot penetrate the skin like beta hydroxy acids. This makes them great for aged skin (like thickened skin) or sun damaged skin that doesn’t have acne issues. Alpha hydroxy acid is very potent in deal with the skin at the surface. AHA exfoliates the top layers of skin by breaking the bonds between outer layer skin cells, sloughs off dead skin and reveals new undamaged skin underneath.

It is also hydrophilic (attracts water molecules) and helps skin retain more water and feel bouncy and hydrated.

Alpha hydroxy acid makes your skin much more sun sensitive. So if you want add an AHA to routine, you MUST add a sunscreen. Otherwise you’ll be exfoliating to get new undamaged skin only to damage the young skin further with sun exposure.

We cannot stress this enough: If you want to use an AHA, PLEASE USE SUNSCREEN! Otherwise you risk even more damage to your skin than if you had not used an alpha hydroxy acid at all.

Alpha hydroxy acids are available in a variety of concentrations, from 1% to 50% and even higher, that are proportionally stronger exfoliants. But, you have to build up your skin’s tolerance from a lower to high concentration or you can risk over exfoliation, which is difficult to repair and can take weeks or even months.

Alpha hydroxy acid helps speed up the process of removing dead skin and the topmost layers of skin. This doesn’t happen overnight, but AHA helps speed this process. This results in bringing new skin to the surface that looks bright and full. So alpha hydroxy acid is a common product in products that help fight fine lines, wrinkles, other signs of aging, and in products that help reduce hyperpigmentation, acne scars, and sun damage. Thanks to AHA’s water attracting properties, it also helps improve and condition dry skin. Routine use of an AHA over time can result in smoother, more hydrated, and firmer skin.

What are the benefits of AHA

Alpha hydroxy acids offer a number of benefits, but how many of them are backed by science. Let’s take a look at some of the main benefits of AHAs.

How does AHA treat acne

As alpha hydroxy acid breaks the bonds between skin cells and helps speed up exfoliation, it can also open up or loosen clogged comedones that are at or near the surface of your skin. Studies show that AHA is effective in treating mild or moderate acne or helping maintain against future breakouts after a stronger acne treatment.

In one study, 248 patients with mild to moderate acne in Italy were prescribed Hyseac AHA cream to be applied twice a day for 60 days. These patients had comedonic acne, inflammatory acne or a combination of both. The results of that study:

The tolerability was good to excellent in 92.3% patients, without significant differences between patients using AHA cream in monotherapy (90.0%) or associated with concomitant pharmacological treatment (97.6%). The efficacy was overall high in 64.2% patients, again without significant differences related to concomitant pharmacological treatment or not (64.8% vs. 63.3%) and/or the acne clinical type (comedonic vs. inflammatory vs. mixed: 69.2% vs. 66.7% vs. 58%). [source: Baldo A1, Bezzola P, Curatolo S, Florio T, Lo Guzzo G, Lo Presti M, Sala GP, Serra F, Tonin E, Pellicano M, Pimpinelli N. (2010) G Ital Dermatol Venereol]

Most of these patients saw an improvement in their acne, no matter what type of ache they had, and no matter how the AHA was prescribed for them to use, on its own or with another treatment.

AHA for hyperpigmentation?

AHA has also been shown to reduce acne scars, post inflammatory hyperpigmentation (PIH), sun damage spots and other skin discolorations. This is thanks to how AHA speeds up exfoliation at the skin surface level.

In one study, 7 Indian patients with darker skin (Fitzpatrick skin type IV-V) and acne scarring were treated with lactic acid, an alpha hydroxy acid, every 2 weeks for up to 2 months total. These patients were monitored for 3 months after the end of the treatment as well to ensure that the perceived effects of the peels were not just short term. How did it turn out?

At the end of 3 months, there was definite improvement in the texture, pigmentation, and appearance of the treated skin, with lightening of scars. Significant improvement (greater than 75% clearance of lesions) occurred in one patient (14.28%), good improvement (51-75% clearance) in three patients (42.84%), moderate improvement (26-50% clearance) in two patients (28.57%), and mild improvement (1-25% clearance) in one patient (14.28%). [source: Sachdeva S. (2010) J Cosmet Dermatol]

Another study involved a group of 33 older female patients with a mean age of 55.5 years and moderate to severe sun damage on their hands, like age spots, freckles and other discoloration. These patients’ hands were treated twice daily for 8 weeks with a topical cream formulated of an alpha hydroxy acid, anti oxidants, and depigmenting agents. The results:

Thirty-five subjects were enrolled with a mean age of 55.6 years; 33 subjects completed the study. The IGA of the appearance of hand photodamage improved from a mean (standard deviation) score of 5.0 (0.8) at baseline to 3.1 (1.5) and 2.6 (1.3) at weeks 4 and 8, respectively (1=mild; 9=severe). Based on expert-grader evaluation, subjects demonstrated statistically significant improvements from baseline in IGA at weeks 4 and 8 in age spots and freckling at weeks 4 and 8, (P<.0003) and in skin discolorations at week 8 (P<.05). The majority of subjects reported that they perceived improvements in each of the 9 parameters associated with skin appearance. No adverse events were reported.

The appearance of age-related hand pigmentation characteristics were significantly improved at 4 and 8 weeks of treatment. Subjects reported post-treatment improvements in other characteristics associated with healthy skin. [source: Gold MH, Gallagher C. (2013) J Drugs Dermatol]

AHA for anti aging

You would guess that using an alpha hydroxy acid to remove the top most layers of skin would result in thin skin, but actually the opposite is true. In addition to AHA’s reversal of age and sun damage and discoloration as evidenced in the previous study, AHAs also help thicken your skin and increase skin elasticity and collagen density. All of these benefits help fight age related skin deterioration, like wrinkles and fine lines.

In the following study, patients applied AHAs to their forearm to measure exactly this and found positive improvements on all fronts:

Alpha-Hydroxy acids (AHAs) have been reported to improve aging skin. The mechanisms of action of AHAs on epidermal and dermal compartments need clarification. Our purpose was to determine the effects of AHAs on photoaged human skin by clinical and microanalytic means. Patients applied a lotion containing 25% glycolic, lactic, or citric acid to one forearm and a placebo lotion to the opposite forearm for an average of 6 months. Thickness of forearm skin was measured throughout the study. Biopsy specimens from both forearms were processed for analysis at the end of the study.

Treatment with AHAs caused an approximate 25% increase in skin thickness. The epidermis was thicker and papillary dermal changes included increased thickness, increased acid mucopolysaccharides, improved quality of elastic fibers, and increased density of collagen. No inflammation was evident.Treatment with AHAs produced significant reversal of epidermal and dermal markers of photoaging. [source: Ditre CM 1 , Griffin TD , Murphy GF , Sueki H , Telegan B , Johnson WC , Yu RJ , Van Scott EJ (1996) Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology]

How to use an AHA

Alpha hydroxy acid is an active. This means that it is an ingredient that has a direct and active action on skin. Other actives include beta hydroxy acids (BHA), Vitamin A (retinoids and retinol), and Vitamin C.

There is some discussion in favor and against this, but we believe that for an active to work best, it should be in direct contact with your skin for several minutes before it is washed off or further products are layered on top. This time period lets the active acid make contact and penetrate your skin undisturbed. If you wash it off, you may not have left it long enough for it act or penetrate completely.

Alpha hydroxy acids also work best in a pH environment between 5 and 6, which is slightly acidic. If you layer on more products on top of your AHA too soon, you may change the pH environment of your skin and not allow the AHA enough contact time to work as well and make it less effective.

With many AHAs that have a higher concentration, the directions for use will ask you to gradually increase the contact time over a series of weeks. For example, you only leave the AHA on your skin for a total of 1 minute the first time you use it, 2 minutes the next time, and so gradually work your way up to 4 to 5 minutes over the course of several weeks. The longer you leave it on, the stronger the exfoliation. But if you leave it on for 4 to 5 minutes on your first use, you’ll very likely end up with highly irritated skin that is red, experience painful stinging and burning, and a severe peel that will be difficult to cover up with moisturizer and makeup. I hope that sounds unappealing enough that you will take precautions and be patient with your skin while using an AHA!

If you have never used an alpha hydroxy acid before or do not know how much AHA your skin can tolerate, it is important to patch test. You can apply a drop of the AHA on the inside of your elbow or on your neck in the same way that you would apply it on your face, and see if these areas react negatively. If they do, you now know that the AHA product is not good for your face and may have negative effects.

That’s essentially a summed up explanation of how to use AHA. We’ll write a longer post on this and link it here when it’s ready if you’re interested in real studies that show the effectiveness of AHA wait times in low pHs.

AHA side effects

Alpha hydroxy acids offer a number of amazing anti-acne and anti-aging results for your skin. But they may not work for everyone as there are also a number of side effects.

Alpha hydroxy acid side effects include burning, swelling, stinging, itching, redness, peeling, and skin discoloration.

We all have skins of various thicknesses and various tolerance levels for AHA concentrations. Some may find that they’re only able to tolerate a very low concentration of alpha hydroxy acid and experience dramatic peeling and burning if they try an acid that is higher than their tolerance. Others may find that their skin can tolerate high levels of acid without even minor peeling or irritation. It may take some trial and error to figure out how your own skin reacts to various concentrations.

What’s the difference between AHA and BHA?

You may already gathered the main differences between alpha and beta hydroxy acids, but we’ll go over them once more for clarity.

Oil vs water soluble

Alpha hydroxy acids are water soluble versus beta hydroxy acids which are oil soluble. So alpha hydroxy acids do not penetrate your skin like beta hydroxy acids and instead work at the skin’s surface level to help exfoliate skin by dissolving the bonds between skin cells and shedding dead and topmost skin cells to reveal undamaged skin below. BHAs are oil soluble and work on the skin below surface level. Learn more about beta hydroxy acids with our guide to BHAs.

Sun sensitivity

Unlike BHAs which do not make your skin more sensitive to the sun, alpha hydroxy acids greatly increase your sun sensitivity. Because they exfoliate top layers of skin which are protective, using alpha hydroxy acids can make your skin more vulnerable to environmental damage (like from the sun or pollution).

So it is HIGHLY IMPORTANT that you wear sunscreen if you are going to add an alpha hydroxy acid to your routine. Even some body moisturizers for dry skin or winter weather may have some form of an AHA to aid with skin hydration, so pay attention to ingredients list to make sure none of the common forms of AHA are included in the product. If they are, wear sunscreen (even if the sun isn’t out) if you plan on going outside. Not sure what the common forms of AHA are? We’ll be covering them in the next section so check that out.

Wrinkles and fine lines

Both AHA and BHA help exfoliate your skin and remove sun damaged skin, but AHA does far more. AHA helps thicken your skin, improve skin elasticity, and increase collagen density. AHA also attracts water to your skin. So in addition to speeding up the exfoliation of your top most layers, AHA helps improve your skin in ways that will result in less lines and wrinkles and attract hydration to help your skin look more plump.

Hyperpigmentation and scars

There are several kinds of AHAs and many of them show real results in reducing hyperpigmentation, scars, and other skin discoloration. Repeat and routine use of AHAs help remove layers of damaged skin, reverse acne or sun damage, and studies have shown that pigmentation and scars can be entirely removed with an AHA.

What are the different types of AHA

1. Glycolic acid

Glycolic acid is derived from sugar and has one of the smallest molecules in AHAs found in skincare. This means it can penetrate deeper than any of the other common alpha hydroxy acids. This makes it one of the strongest AHAs, but also one of the harshest if you’re unable to tolerate this level of AHA strength.

Beginners should probably start their AHA journey with a different option. For experienced users, glycolic acid is a highly effective AHA that shows excellent results in all of the areas that alpha hydroxy acids are shown to improve for your skin.

2. Lactic acid

Lactic acid is derived from diary and people who report milk allergies should avoid this AHA.

Lactic acid has bigger molecules than glycolic but smaller molecules than mandelic acid. This makes it a gentler AHA that is a great starter acid for most people. It does everything glycolic acid does but because it has bigger molecules, the effects take a little bit longer.

Lactic acid is available in a range of concentrations for topical use. A 2% and above lactic acid concentration will help increase the hydration of your skin and a 5% and above lactic acid solution will also exfoliate your skin. Skincare products that promise exfoliation will normally have a 5% to 10% lactic acid concentration.

3. Mandelic acid

Mandelic acid is derived from almonds, so if you have a nut allergy, I would try a different AHA.

Mandelic acid has bigger molecules than lactic acid so it does not penetrate your skin as fast and also shows effects slower. This makes mandelic acid great for people who have very sensitive skin that is easily prone to rashes and irritation.

Anyone else can use it as well if you’re looking for a routine acid that will help give you a little bit of AHA power in your routine but without needing drastic results immediately.

4. Malic acid

Malic acid is made from apples but can also be created synthetically. The synthetic version is found more commonly than the naturally occurring version in skincare products, because it is easier to stabilize.

Malic acid molecules are larger than glycolic and lactic acid so it penetrates more slowly like mandelic acid. Malic acid is a great supplementary AHA alongside glycolic or lactic at low concentrations, because together they are able to penetrate at different speeds and so affect the skin at different levels.

5. Tartaric acid

Tartaric acid occurs naturally in grapes, but is also made synthetically and like malic acid the synthetic version is used in products that require a more stable acid.

Tartaric acid has a very big molecule, almost double a glycolic acid molecule. While it is able to exfoliate skin, it is used primarily as a pH adjuster to prime the way for a stronger acid like glycolic or lactic acid to go to work. However, in certain products that use AHAs with varying molecule sizes to penetrate to and exfoliate different layers of the skin, tartaric acid may be used to exfoliate the topmost layer of skin.

6. Citric acid

Citric acid is derived from, you guessed it, citrus fruit. But it also is found in berries and other fruit.

Like tartaric acid, citric acid is primarily used as a pH adjuster in skincare formulas that help keep it within a certain range so that other more potent acids have an optimal environment for effectiveness. Citric acid is also used for its antioxidant properties.

Citric acid can be confused with Vitamin C in skincare, but they are two different compounds. Vitamin C is actually L-Ascorbic acid or ascorbic acid, which is similar to but different than citric acid. Vitamin C is also another active but it is not an alpha hydroxy acid. Check out our guide to Vitamin C for your skin here.

Our recommendations for AHAs

If you want to add an AHA to your skincare routine, here are some of our top recommendations for different types of AHAs. Remember, please patch test on the inside of your elbow or your neck before using these on your face.

Glycolic acid

1. Paula’s Choice Skin Perfecting Gel Exfoliant

The COSRX AHA liquid is an 7% glycolic acid solution in a base of butylene glycol and apple water. It also has other skin conditioning ingredients and is a gentle and well formulated AHA that is great for regular use. This is a leave on AHA and does not need to be washed off.

Read more reviews of COSRX AHA 7 Whitehead Power Liquid.

2. OZNaturals Glycolic Acid Facial Peel

This is a 30% glycolic solution meant to be used as a peel. This means you apply, leave on for a set period of time, wash it off, and then continue with your routine. Because of its higher concentration,
we’ve seen results immediately, namely plumper hydrated skin and increasing brightness during the subsequent days.

OZ Naturals will give you a refund if you try their product and decide that you do not like it within 30 days from purchase

Read more reviews of OZNaturals Glycolic Acid Facial Peel.

3. Paula’s Choice Skin Perfecting Gel Exfoliant

The Skin Perfecting Gel Exfoliant is an 8% glycolic solution by Paula’s Choice. This is a leave on exfoliant. The Gel Exfoliant also includes an ingredient that is a pH adjuster to help maximize it’s efficacy, as well as antioxidants and skin soothing plant extracts.

Read more reviews of Paula’s Choice Skin Perfecting Gel Exfoliant.

Lactic acid

1. The Ordinary Lactic Acid 10%

2. Clear Lift Revitalizing Serum

3. Theraderm – Fruit Acid Exfoliant

Mandelic acid

1. Mandelic acid 5% Skin prep water

2. Makeup Artist’s Choice Mandelic Acid Serum

3. Naruko AMPM Total Brightening Renewal Treatment

A Skincare Guide to Beta Hydroxy Acid or BHA

An introduction to beta hydroxy acid (BHA), its benefits, side effects, and best products

When people refer to BHA or beta hydroxy acid, they are usually referring to salicylic acid, a common and effective topical treatment for acne or dandruff. But there are is more to BHAs or beta hydroxy acids than just salicylic acid or acne. So what exactly is BHA or beta hydroxy acid and what makes it such a notable topical? This guide will explain the benefits, side effects, different types of beta hydroxy acids, and offer some recommendations for beta hydroxy products for skin and scalp problems.

In this guide:

What is bha or beta hydroxy acid?

BHA or beta hydroxy acid is 1 of 2 of the better known hydroxy acids available in skincare for improving skin texture, speeding up skin cell renewal, and cleaning out pores of acne etc. The other hydroxy acid is AHA or alpha hydroxy acid. To learn more about AHAs, read our guide to AHAs or alpha hydroxy acids here.

Unlike AHAs which are water soluble, beta hydroxy acids are oil soluble. This means that they are exfoliate the topmost layer of your skin and also penetrate deeper and exfoliate extra oil build up in your pores and breaking deep set comedones (bumps under your skin that will become acne). This makes BHAs great for treating whiteheads, and especially blackheads.

BHAs have no humectant properties and can be drying so they are great for people with oily skin because they don’t make your face more oily.

BHAs also do not increase photosensitivity. You can use BHAs even if you don’t wear sunscreen daily without making your skin more susceptible to sun damage.

Beta hydroxy acid is also has anti inflammatory and antimicrobial properties that make it a great acne treatment. Many people who report AHAs to be too harsh in that they irritate their skin find that BHAs are a gentler way to tackle acne. Certain BHAs like salicylic acid can reduce acne inflammation without causing irritation. So what makes BHAs gentler than AHAs?

The more concentrated an AHA or alpha hydroxy acid, the more powerful and penetrative it is. In contrast, beta hydroxy acids are most effective at very low concentrations. BHAs at only 2% or 4% concentrations work best to exfoliate dead skin, clean out your pores, and act as an anti inflammatory or anti bacterial.

This also makes beta hydroxy acid an ideal ingredient for a lot of different kinds of skin care, from lotion or cleanser to toners or mouthwash. You’ll even find it in shampoos and conditioner to deal with scalp issues like dandruff or seborrheic dermatitis. Other uses for beta hydroxy acid are as a preservative, hair conditioner, skin conditioner, and an antiseptic.

Beta hydroxy acids are a truly versatile skincare ingredient with multipurpose usage. And nearly anyone can use it for a host of skin or scalp issues because it works best at low dosages and so is a gentle product.

While it works best at low dosages, it also better benefits your skin or scalp if you leave it on for some time before rinsing it off. The duration of time can vary with product and use. However, depending on what you’re using the BHA for, leaving it on for 5 to 30 minutes helps your skin absorb it better and take advantage of everything beta hydroxy acid has to offer.

What are the benefits of BHA

How does BHA treat acne

Because beta hydroxy acid is oil soluble, it penetrates deeper than your skin’s surface skin and can clean out clogged pores that cause acne. Studies show that BHAs like salicylic acid are more effective and less irritating than AHAs in tackling whiteheads, blackheads, and acne.

In one study comparing the two side by side, 20 patients were recruited to use a BHA on one side of their face and an AHA on the other side of their face for 6 total treatments in 8 weeks. The results:

Both chemical peels were significantly effective by the second treatment (p<.05) and there were no significant differences in effectiveness between the two peels. At 2 months posttreatment, the salicylic acid peel had sustained effectiveness. More adverse events were reported with the glycolic acid peel after the initial treatment. [source: Kessler E1, Flanagan K, Chia C, Rogers C, Glaser DA. (2014) J Cosmet Dermatol.]

The patients used a low concentration of salicylic acid in this study and the AHA used was a higher concentration. Still, the BHA showed longer lasting results in tackling acne and was a gentler treatment for acne patients.

This is not to say that there is no place for using an AHA or using a BHA and an AHA together in your skincare routine. But to determine if you could benefit from an AHA, you’ll need to understand its benefits and side effects first. Use our guide to AHAs to learn more about alpha hydroxy acids.

How does BHA treat hyperpigmentation or inflammation?

Beta hydroxy acid also helps tackle inflammation caused by acne and hyperpigmentation caused by acne or other pigmentation on the skin’s surface. This is also known as post inflammatory hyperpigmentation or PIH or melasma.

Like AHAs, beta hydroxy acid helps speed up the skin cell renewal at the skin’s surface. This helps remove hyperpigmented skin layers for newer skin layers. AHAs may be more effective in this but beta hydroxy acids also show good results.

In one study, 45 patients with post inflammatory hyperpigmentation were treated with a retinoid called tretinoin and salicylic acid, a beta hydroxy acid. They were divided into groups with one group only using salicylic acid, another group on using tretinoin, and a third group using both in combination. The results of that study:

Combination of salicylic acid peel and topical tretinoin treatment showed significant clinical improvement of PIH than each treatment alone with no complications. [source: Mohamed Ali BM, Gheida SF, El Mahdy NA, Sadek SN. (2017) J Cosmet Dermatol. ]

The groups that were using only salicylic acid or only tretinoin did not see notable results in reducing their post inflammatory hyperpigmentation. This is great evidence that salicylic in combination, with in this case tretinoin, can act as a powerful treatment to reducing post inflammatory hyperpigmentation.

Those of you who used to have acne and are now dealing with the aftermath know how difficult it is to reduce the post inflammatory hyperpigmentation to have a truly clear face, without acne and without acne scars and pigmentation. So this study is great news for people with post inflammatory hyperpigmentation.

How does BHA treat dandruff?

As beta hydroxy acid helps remove the top most layers of skin, it can also help treat dandruff on the scalp in the same way. Given the antibacterial, anti inflammatory, and the exfoliating properties of beta hydroxy acids, they can act to soothe itching and reduce dandruff, redness, and flaking.

One study pitted a shampoo with salicylic acid against a shampoo with zinc pyrithione, a popular ingredient in dandruff shampoos. The results:

Both shampoos were highly effective in reducing the dandruff. The combination of piroctone olamine and salicylic acid appeared to be slightly more effective than zinc pyrithione in reducing the severity and area affected by the scaling. [source: Lodén M1, Wessman C. (2000). Cutis]

So salicylic acid can be as effective, if not more, than a zinc pyrithione in reducing dandruff. Zinc pyrithione is certainly more popular in dandruff shampoos today. Many people also find it is very harsh on their hair, but with not knowing of another alternative, continue to use it. Salicylic acid is gentler on the scalp without losing effectiveness and so could be a better option for you if you suffer from dandruff.

How to use a BHA

Beta hydroxy acid is an active, which means that it is an ingredient that has direct active action on the skin. Other actives include alpha hydroxy acids (AHA), Vitamin C, and Vitamin A (retinoids and retinol).

There is some controversy over this, but we believe that to benefit from an active, you should leave it on your skin for a short period of time before applying further products or washing it off/out. This time period allows the acid to make contact and penetrate your skin and do what it is intended. If you wash it off, you may not have allowed enough time for the acid to penetrate into pores.

BHAs work best in a low pH environment. When you add more products on top, you may change the pH of your skin to less acidic and so make the BHA less effective. If you’re using a BHA as a skincare product, you can even use pH adjusting toners to make sure your skin’s surface has an acidic environment when you apply your BHA for maximum benefit. We’ve linked some pH adjusting toners that help with this at the end of this guide, if you’re interested in those.

That’s essentially a very short and summed up explanation of how to use BHA. We’ll write a longer post on this and link it here when it’s ready if you’re interested in real studies that show the effectiveness of BHA wait times in low pHs.

So to that end, you’ll notice on dandruff shampoos, the directions will ask you to leave it on your scalp for a few minutes before washing it off. You may also notice skincare products with beta hydroxy acids will ask you to wait 5 to 30 minutes before applying the rest of your skincare routine or makeup routine. This is for good reason and you’ll see greater benefits to your skin if you give the product that wait time to work on your skin.

BHA side effects

While BHAs have been shown to be less irritating than AHAs and other actives, they can still have some adverse side effects.

Some people can experience redness, stinging/burning, itching, and general skin irritation after using beta hydroxy acid at certain concentrations.

This can be avoided by finding a concentration that works for you. Various formulas will have different concentrations and type of beta hydroxy acid. Unless you’re allergic to this ingredient, most people can find a beta hydroxy acid that works for them. If you’re unsure where to start, find a low concentration to use and then build up from there if you don’t know notice any side effects.

Also, please patch test if you’ve never used a beta hydroxy acid before. You can patch test on your neck or the inside of your elbow where the skin is soft and hairless. If you experience any of the above side effects during your patch test, there are good chances that you will feel that irritation on your face as well. You can look at a different product with a lower concentration and try again.

What’s the difference between BHA and AHA?

You may have already figured out most of the differences between beta and alpha hydroxy acids, but here’s a quick summary in case you’re unclear on any of the following:

Oil vs water soluble

AHAs are water soluble and attract water to your skin and are great for dehydrated skin. BHAs are oil soluble, can be drying, and are great for oily skin. However, anyone with any skin type can add either to their nighttime routine (when it doesn’t matter if your skin looks oily, or you can layer moisturizers on top in abundance) and enjoy their benefits.

Sun sensitivity

AHAs will make your skin more photosensitivity and BHAs will not. If you’re lazy about wearing sunscreen or do not want to wear sunscreen, you can use beta hydroxy acids without worrying about making your skin extra sensitive to the sun and sun damage.

Wrinkles and fine lines

Both AHAs and BHAs exfoliate your skin, and so both can help reduce wrinkles and fine lines. While AHA is a much strong exfoliator for wrinkles and fine lines, you’ll notice some improvement with your skin texture and pigmentation with a BHA as well.

Hyperpigmentation and inflammation

BHAs are gentler than AHAs and so are less irritating. BHA has been shown to be effective treatment for hyperpigmentation and inflammation caused by acne. However, both can be also used together to improve pigmentation, skin texture, and renew your skin.

What are the different types of BHAs

The most popular form of BHA we find in skincare and haircare products is salicylic acid.

There are also derivatives of salicylic acid like salicylate, betaine salicylate, and sodium salicylate.

Other less common forms of BHA include willow bark extract, beta hydroxybutanoic acid, tropic acid, and trethocanic acid.

If you enjoy the benefits of any of these beta hydroxy acids, you can also look at azaelic acid. While it is neither an AHA or a BHA, it is an active ingredient that offers many of the same benefits like improvement pigmentation, inflammation, acne, and skin texture like a BHA. Many people find that it is a BHA amplified and at lower doses/percentages, it is similarly gentle on the skin.

Our recommendations

Here are some of our tried and tested recommendations for products with beta hydroxy acid for skincare and for dandruff. You may not find these at a drugstore, but they’re all online. Since BHA is best used at a low concentration, there are many beta hydroxy acid products available over the counter with no need for a prescription.

Since BHAs are pH sensitive, you can also choose to use a pH adjusting toner before you apply your skincare. In the next section, see our recommendations for affordable pH toners.

Salicylic acid serums for skincare – acne, hyperpigmentation, inflammation

1.COSRX BHA Blackhead Power Liquid

This is one of the most gentle BHAs we have tried. The active ingredients include alix Alba (Willow) Bark Water, Butylene Glycol, and Betaine Salicylate at 4% which is the BHA derivative. This is an Asian Beauty product by COSRX, a well-reviewed dependable Korean brand. Highly recommend.

Read more reviews of Cosrx BHA Blackhead Power Liquid here.

2. Paula’s Choice Skin Perfecting 2% BHA Liquid

Another great go to BHA with 2% salicylic acid by Paula’s Choice, a US based brand. Paula’s choice is a popular brand that offers a host of skincare products that aren’t just good markting but also effective. We have found that Paula’s Choice Skin Perfecting 2% BHA Liquid is particularly good at eradicating blackheads on the nose or chin area.

Read more reviews of Paula’s Choice Skin Perfecting 2% BHA Liquid here.

3. Skin Medica AHA BHA cream

This is a AHA and BHA combination product and so requires daily suncreen use if you want to use it. It should also be used as part of your night time routine. Skin Medica combines a 30% AHA solution with a 2% bha in the form of salicylic acid. It can be used as a 10 minute mask and then washed off or kept on as part of layered night time routine.

We’ve found that with a few uses, there is a noticed increased brightness, hydration, and a visible reduction of acne scars or sun damage. There is no smell to the product and the cream consistency feels rich yet absorbs quickly.

Read more reviews of Skin Medica AHA BHA cream here.

Salicylic acid face washes

Face washes with salicylic acid as an ingredient are very popular, esp for those who suffer from acne. They’re seemingly easy to use and can be inserted into nearly anyone’s evening or morning routine because a face wash is easier to use than a serum that requires a wait time. But the wait time is the also reason we wouldn’t recommend a lot of salicylic acid face washes over a serum or lotion. A face wash doesn’t give the salicylic acid a lot contact time on your skin to act. As we discussed in this guide, the contact time allows the acid to work and penetrate your skin. So between a face wash or a serum/lotion, we recommend using a serum/lotion that you leave on your skin for an extended period.

There is one group that could benefit from a face wash – those of you with sensitive skin who cannot tolerate acids on your skin. A salicylic acid face wash can still allow for short term contact, which should not irritate your skin or irritate it less. Here are a few popular choices:

1. Neutrogena Oil-Free Acne Face Wash With Salicylic Acid

2. CeraVe Renewing SA Cleanser 8 oz Salicylic Acid Cleanser

3. Philosophy Clear Days Ahead Oil-Free Salicylic Acid Acne Treatment Cleanser

Salicylic acid shampoo for dandruff

If you’re looking for a dandruff shampoo with a gentle BHA to help reduce redness, itch, and flaking, these shampoos utilize salicylic acid and its derivatives to target dandruff without stripping your hair of its moisture:

1. Neutrogena T Sal Therapeutic Shampoo – Has 3% salicylic acid

2. Selsun Blue Naturals Dandruff Shampoo – Has 3% salicylic acid

3. Avalon Organics Anti Dandruff Shampoo – Has 2% salicylic acid

4. MG217 Psoriasis Shampoo and Conditioner – Has 3% Salicylic Acid

ph adjusting toners

Want to reap the full benefits of a BHA in your skincare routine by making sure your skin is at the correct pH level for your BHA? You can use one of these toners to prep your skin after cleanser, and just a few minutes before applying your BHA

1. COSRX Natural BHA Skin Returning A-Sol

2. MIZON Aha & Bha Daily Clean Toner

Azaelic acid

Intrigued by our mention of Azaelic acid as a stronger better BHA-like acid? Azaelic acid is far more popular as a drugstore produce in Europe than in the Americas or Asia but is gaining in popularity as people find out about its amazing skin benefits. We have found that Azaelic acid does nearly everything a BHA does but with even greater results.

Unlike BHA, the higher the percentage of Azaelic acid the stronger it is. However, it is best to start with a lower percentage and build your way up, because otherwise you may experience several peeling or can end up with a damaged moisture barrier.

Here are some products you can try for azaelic acid:

1. Curology – offers a formulation tailored to your skin and issues with a focus on anti-acne and anti-aging. It’s essentially a telederm service in which you get a prescription after you upload some photos of your skin. They will start you off with a gentle low concentration formula to make sure you don’t irritate your skin, and if you feel that it is going well then you can check in with your assigned dermatology provider to up your prescription in a few weeks.

It’s also very cost friendly, averaging out to $19.99/month for a tailored formulation for your skin. If you want to try Curology, you can use this link to try it for 1 month for free.

2. Ecological Formulas Melazepam Cream – 20% azaelic acid

3. GIGI Bioplasma Azelaic Cream – 15% azaelic acid