23 Aug 2013

AHAs, BHAs & Trish McEvoy Beta Hydroxy Pads

Thanks to a fantastic summer with great weather, my skin has been feeling the heat, producing more sebum, generally acting out and getting more congested than it has been in many many years.  My regular exfoliator (CDLM Refining Facial), despite containing diamond dust (if you're not offended), just wasn't doing the trick.  I already use an AHA foaming cleanser in the shower every second day, a toner that contains AHA and a new skin care regime that features AHA at the weekend, and I reckoned I needed to use a BHA to get rid of the congested areas that were leading to mini spot-ettes...

What are AHAs and BHAs

"Glycolic" peels, face washes, serums, treatments all contain either AHAs (Alpha Hydroxy Acids) and/or  BHAs (Beta Hydroxy Acids) - both are a type of chemical exfoliator but AHAs and BHAs are two different things which work in different ways to tackle different skin concerns.  That's a lot of differents, but here's the low-down:

Essentially, if you see ingredients like glycolic acid or lactic acid (or sometimes citric acid), you're usually talking AHAs.  These are water-soluble acids which are good for tackling skin smoothing and lightening issues by (very gently) dissolving the upper layers of skin - eg if you have mild sun damage, these can be used to help fade those portions of damaged/hyper-pigmented skin, or AHAs help to gobble up dry patches of skin really well too.   Good AHA products usually have the AHA active ingredients listed high-up in the list, will have a minimum of 8% concentration.

On the other hand, if you see salicylic acid, you're looking at a BHA product.  This is an oil-soluble acid that comes from willow tree bark, and as it's oil-soluble it can penetrate pores etc more easily - so it can be used very effectively to treat acne, blackheads, whiteheads, enlarged/blocked pores, congested skin, skin tags/milia... basically anything more oil/sebum related.  A good BHA product contains BHAs listed lower down in the active ingredient listing, and at around a 2% concentration.

Give it a chance to work...
Whereas you will notice a reasonably quick win with AHA products, it can take a while longer to notice any difference to the skin when using BHAs, but after a while, it helps decrease fine lines, flaky skin and hyper-pigmentation (eg caused by sun-damage).  It does get rid of congestion, help minimise enlarged pores and tackle acne - and in many cases - completely obliterate it.  BHAs are also slightly less sensitising to the skin than AHAs.

And here's the important thing: in general, both AHAs and BHAs work a lot better if you allow them time to absorb into the skin - so if you're using a wash-off cleanser, or a peel, maybe leave it sit on your skin for 5-10 minutes to do some work before rinsing.  And note that a reasonably effective BHA peel can be made by making a paste of some soluble aspirins (which contain salicylic acid) in a small amount of water and applying it to your skin for a while before rinsing away.

Care needed - these are acids, after all!
You need to exercise caution when using AHAs and BHAs.  In general, if your skin isn't used to them, a ramp-up period is advised.  In addition, you really can't be careful enough with respect to protecting your skin with an SPF if you use these products regularly, as they can (and usually do) cause increased sun sensitivity, leading to a higher propensity to burn a lot  more easily.

Trish McEvoy Even Skin Beta Hydroxy Pads - the BHA I tried

Now that you know what AHAs and BHAs are, let me tell you about my experience using these particular BHA pads.

I picked up a five-day sample of Trish McEvoy Even Skin BHA Pads from a very kind SA in Harvey Nichols after I commented about how amazingly beautifully clear her skin was.  She told me that she has rosacea and used to suffer very badly from cystic acne, and that she started using these pads and her skin cleared up 100%.  With that endorsement, I figured that my relatively minor concerns should literally melt away from my skin - so I was keen to try these out.

These are pads soaked in a water-based solution, containing ingredients to exfoliate (witch hazel extract), skin softening and plumping ingredients (glycerin, sodium hyaluronate, panthenol), skin soothing ingredients (various plant flower/leaf extracts) and the business-end products (willow bark extract & salicylic acid)

Unfortunately these also contain parabens, which may or may not bother you.  That aside, I have been using them for a week now and noticed a difference after just one week - my recent spate of sun-tan freckles have faded ever so slightly, the dry skin that I had around my nose is gone, the congestion on my chin has definitely improved (it's not 100% gone, but it most definitely is at least 50% of the way there) and the three enlarged pores on my nose are significantly smaller.

To achieve this, I simply used one pad a day, every day for the five days, after cleansing and before moisturiser etc (you don't tone or use any other cleanser after the pads - the idea being that you leave the BHA on your skin to do its thing, as I mentioned above).

These are not particularly cheap, I can't remember the price that I was quoted, but I believe it was in the €50-€60 range for 40 pads.  What the SA recommended was that that these could be used every day to treat your specific problem, once that's sorted, move to every second or third day, or - what she said that she does - cut one in half and using only a half a pad, only on the problem areas, only every second/third day - so with that in mind, it's really just the initial treatment phase outlay that costs you.  After that, prevention/maintenance is less pricy. 

Whereas I would recommend on the basis of my own use for just five days, I plan to go on the look out for cheaper alternatives that contain salicylic acid and no parabens (you just need to make sure that they don't contain alcohol however - a lot of cheaper BHA products contain alcohol which just dries up your skin and exacerbates the sebum-overproduction issue that causes spots etc).  I will report back if I find something useful.

Look here for more info on the Trish McEvoy Beta Hydroxy pads.

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