Are Beta-Hydroxy Acids Vegan? What Are They Made Of?

By Anett Rannamets. Updated: April 2023.
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Beta-Hydroxy Acid is vegan. BHA is an exfoliating agent. The collagen-stimulating and skin-clearing ingredient in skincare is mostly isolated from the bark and leaves of a willow tree.

BHA is an active substance and it should be used as directed as it is a strong compound. Otherwise, it may cause irritation. In this article, we will tell you all about it.

See also: Vegan BHA Skincare

What Is Beta-Hydroxy Acid?

Beta-hydroxy acid, also known shortened as BHA, is an organic peeling agent in skincare.

A beta-hydroxy acid (BHA) is a compound in which the hydroxy group is on the carbon atom adjacent to the carboxy group. In alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs), the two functional groups are separated by a single carbon atom.

Both of these acids are peeling aka exfoliating agents. But compared to AHAs, beta-hydroxy acid is soluble in oil. And it has antimicrobial properties. For these reasons, BHA is effective in acne, pimple, and blackhead treatment.

BHAs in skincare are always vegan. Salicylic acid, the most common BHA is isolated from the bark and leaves of a willow tree.

Types Of BHAs

There are four types of BHAs in skincare. However, brands mostly use salicylic acid. The other three are extremely rare.

  • Salicylic acid  –  made of willow bark and leaves or synthetically produced
  • Beta hydroxybutanoic acid  –  synthetically produced
  • Tropic acid –  synthetically produced
  • Trethocanic acid  –  synthetically produced

Why Is BHA Used In Skincare?

Beta-hydroxy acid has an exfoliating feature. It treats pimples and blackheads and is best for acne-prone and oily skin. You can find it in lotions, creams, cleansing products, and gels.

BHA exerts good keratolytic activity. This means opening the stratum corneum of the skin, which is necessary for skin renewal. It reduces adhesion between epidermal cells and thins the stratum corneum. This allows the skin to regenerate faster.

Therefore, BHA is common in skincare to treat impure and acne-prone skin. And it is best suited for oily skin types.

As a result of peeling, BHA also stimulates collagen and elastin synthesis. This leads to brighter and more luminous skin. And the reduced appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. Moreover, after the use of BHA, the skin has better absorption of other active ingredients.

Because of its keratolytic effects, BHA treats acne scars, dark spots, and various types of hyperpigmentation. Particularly post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation and melasma.

Dermatologists also use BHA for comedolytic action. It makes emptying cysts and microcysts easier.

However, as BHA is an acid, it should be handled with care. Excessive exfoliation treatments using high concentrations of beta-hydroxy acids could result in irritation. As well as pain, hypersensitivity, and itching.

The best concentration of beta hydroxy acid in skincare is 1-2%. So, products with a high concentration of BHA should only be used by specialists.

It is very important to apply sun protection to the skin after use. Experts actually recommend avoiding sun exposure right after BHA treatment

FAQ About Beta-Hydroxy Acids

What is beta-hydroxy acid?

Beta-Hydroxy Acid is a vegan exfoliating agent. It stimulates collagen production, clears the skin, and reduces signs of aging.

What is beta-hydroxy acid made of?

Salicylic acid, the most common BHA is isolated from the bark and leaves of a willow tree.

Are beta-hydroxy acids vegan?

Yes, BHAs are vegan. They are isolated from plants or produced synthetically.


If you are looking for vegan exfoliators and you have an oily skin type, products with beta-hydroxy acid might be a good fit. BHA helps the skin to regenerate, counteracts the signs of aging, and cures acne.

However, you must remember to use it as instructed. BHA can irritate delicate skin. Therefore, we recommend that you consult a professional before purchasing a BHA peeling product.

See also: Best Vegan BHA Skincare, Vegan Skincare Products

Anett is a passionate journalist, writer, and magazine editor with almost 7 years of experience. Through engaging articles, she brings kinder and more environmentally-friendly choices closer to everybody.