Salicylic acid is a widely known skincare ingredient that has been a game-changer for individuals who struggle with acne-prone skin.
Today, salicylic acid is commonly found in skincare products that target oily and acne-prone skin. Here’s just about everything you know about salicylic acid:
Salicylic acid(2-hydroxybenzoic acid), is a beta hydroxy acid that was first discovered in the willow tree(Salix) bark, from which it also gets its name. At room temperature, salicylic acid appears as white needle-like crystals.
Salicylic acid(SA) also occurs as a hormone in most plant species, playing roles in plant growth and development.
Raffaele Piria, an Italian scientist, originally created salicylic acid in 1838, making it the first time the substance was ever discovered. By dislodging the “glue” that keeps skin cells together, salicylic acid aids in exfoliating the skin.
This encourages the body’s natural process of removing dead skin cells, which helps slough off rough or dull skin and reveal a youthful, glowing complexion.
Salicylic acid is the most commonly used hydroxy acid in skincare products. It is generally considered to be a gentler option when compared to other hydroxy acids, such as glycolic acid and lactic acid.
Although salicylic, lactic, and glycolic acids are all categorized as common hydroxy acids used in skincare, there are a few key distinctions between these chemical exfoliants. Salicylic acid is what’s known as a beta-hydroxy acid (“BHA”).
Alternately, glycolic acid and lactic acid fall under the category of alpha-hydroxy acids (AHAs). All three hydroxy acids help to promote skin exfoliation and eliminate the buildup of dead skin cells.
However, their main difference is in their solubility. Because salicylic acid is lipid-soluble—unlike glycolic and lactic acid—it is able to penetrate clogged pores, which is especially beneficial for those with oily skin.
Depending on the dose and strength of the preparation, salicylic acid is used to treat a variety of skin conditions, including acne, dandruff, psoriasis, seborrheic dermatitis of the skin and scalp, calluses, corns and common warts.
However, higher percentages may be utilized with a dermatologist’s advice for people with more severe cases of acne or other skin disorders.
The American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) has also recommended using a skin care product containing SA to treat types of acne like pustules(pus-filled pimples), papules(small, hard bumps which may give a rough or textured feel to the skin) and white heads.
Skincare products like cleansers, toners, spot treatments, and moisturizers frequently include salicylic acid. It’s also present in some soaps and shampoos. Most over-the-counter skincare products often have a safe salicylic acid concentration of 2%.
Because salicylic acid is a lipid soluble component, it can efficiently enter your pores. This makes it particularly helpful for oily and acne-prone skin, especially for individuals with open comedones (blackheads). This is because of it’s assistance in unclogging pores and removing the debris that can cause acne.
Its mild exfoliating effects can also aid in enhancing the appearance of rough, bumpy skin. By lowering scaling and assisting in the prevention of additional flare-ups, it can also be helpful for those dealing with psoriasis.
Excess oil and dead skin cells clog skin pores, resulting in acne. What’s more, bacteria that become stuck inside the pore can lead to irritation and pus-filled pimples. By clearing blocked pores, salicylic acid treats acne.
In order for dead skin cells to more easily exfoliate from the pore, it breaks down the connections that hold them together as well as lipids like sebum. It also reduces the skin’s production of sebum, which prevents breakouts.
Salicylic acid is typically seen as a product that may be used on a regular basis, and with proper application, in conjunction with other skincare products.
The amount of salicylic acid present in a product, your skin type and your current skin care objectives will all influence how often you can use it.
A number of skincare products containing salicylic acid are specially formulated to be gentle enough for daily use, such as the Livara Pearl Skin Cleanser.
Whether or not you use salicylic acid, daily sun protection is a crucial component of any good skincare routine and should be used every morning.
This skincare step is all the more crucial if you use salicylic acid in your regimen because it might make your skin more susceptible to UV ray damage due to it’s exfoliating properties.
Yes, which is why it’s best to start in moderation and apply a moisturizer afterwards. For facial cleansers and toners, your moisturizer can be applied after around 5 minutes after your face has dried.
Additionally, if you are using topical salicylic acid to treat acne, your skin may become dry or irritated at the beginning of your treatment. To prevent this, you may apply the product less often at first. Gradually begin to apply the product more often after your skin has adjusted to the medication.
According to Medical News Today, salicylic acid may cause some side effects. These may vary depending on a person’s skin type or the form or concentration of SA they are using. Side effects may include:
When introducing salicylic acid to their skincare regimen, people with sensitive skin or allergies should proceed with caution. It’s best to consult a dermatologist first if you have such issues.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) provide the following precautions for people using SA:
Salicylic acid is a potent ingredient in many skincare products that can effectively treat acne. By dissolving and removing oil and dead skin cells, salicylic acid can help unclog blocked pores.
Mild side effects from salicylic acid could include skin irritation or peeling. If side effects become excessive, it’s best stop usage altogether and speak with a doctor.
Results from using salicylic acid for acne may not show until 6-8 weeks of consistent use. If one doesn’t notice a change within this time, it may be be best to speak with a dermatologist for additional guidance.