What Is Salicylic Acid? What to Know About This Favorite Acne Treatment

What Is Salicylic Acid? What to Know About This Favorite Acne Treatment

Image Source: Getty / Anna Efetova

  • Salicylic acid is a common skin-care ingredient used to fight acne.
  • It’s a beta hydroxy acid (BHA) used for various skin conditions that gently exfoliates the skin.
  • Ahead, two experts outline what it’s good for, how to use it, and more.

You’ve probably heard of the skin-care ingredient salicylic acid, but you may not have a detailed understanding of what it does, what it’s derived from, and how it compares to other acne-fighters.

one of the most common skin-care ingredients, salicylic acid is used for various conditions, from acne to warts and dandruff. It’s gentle enough for daily use, but you have to be careful about what other ingredients you mix it with. You can find salicylic-acid products in the form of toners, serums, cleansers, body washes, and even shampoos.

Keep reading for two skin-care experts’ responses to the most common questions surrounding salicylic acid.

What Is Salicylic Acid?

“Salicylic acid is an active ingredient that can be naturally derived from willowbark tree,” Anita Sun, a medical aesthetician and founder of Dermovia, tells POPSUGAR. “It is a beta hydroxy acid (BHA) and is a gentle exfoliating ingredient that is also anti-inflammatory and antibacterial.”

What Does Salicylic Acid Do?

The aforementioned characteristics make salicylic acid a favorite among those with mature, oily, or acne-prone skin. “Salicylic acid is very beneficial for turning over dull skin to reveal brighter skin. It’s effective in exfoliating away surface dead skin cells, and its sloughing benefit helps to reduce acne and prevent bacteria from spreading,” Sun says. “BHAs are oil-soluble, so they can penetrate deeper into the skin to loosen and unclog oil sebum from pores.”

Salicylic acid can effectively decrease oil production and sebum secretion, leaving you with a brighter, clearer, and more even complexion. “It works by loosening the cellular junctions of the stratum corneum, which is the outermost layer of the skin,” Snehal Amin, MD, cofounder and surgical director of MDCS Dermatology, says.

But you have to be cautious about using high concentrations and quantities. When overdone, salicylic acid can cause excessive skin dryness, so save potent products for spot treatments and use masks and treatments with care.

Salicylic Acid For Skin Conditions

Salicylic acid can treat a myriad of skin conditions besides acne, including warts, rosacea, scars, and rough-texture skin concerns like psoriasis. For acne, Dr. Amin says a low concentration of 0.5 to 10 percent is effective at dissolving sebum and reducing inflammation. “For conditions where there is excess keratin buildup such as psoriasis [and] keratosis pilaris, salicylic acid three to six percent is used,” says Dr. Amin. “At higher concentrations, salicylic acid is used to treat warts, corns, and as a peeling agent.”

Using Salicylic Acid With Other Skin-Care Ingredients

Like with many skin-care ingredients, you have to be careful what you mix salicylic acid with. Niacinamide is OK to layer on the skin after salicylic acid because it’s “a higher pH (basic) compound, which is complementary to salicylic acid,” Dr. Amin says.

Combinations to avoid include retinol, astringents, and other peeling agents. In general, “avoid combining salicylic acid with other products that may cause skin irritation or exfoliation.”

Using Salicylic Acid During Pregnancy

You should be careful about using salicylic acid while pregnant. “Salicylic acid over-the-counter topical formulations (less than 2 percent concentration) are generally considered safe to use up to one to two times a day, per the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology,” Dr. Amin says. “No studies have specifically been conducted in pregnancy on topical salicylic-acid use. However, given the very small proportion [that’s] absorbed through the skin, it is unlikely to pose any risk to the fetus.”

That said, you should avoid high doses of topical salicylic acid while pregnant. “Salicylic acid chemical peels and higher concentration formulations used in doctor’s offices should be avoided during pregnancy,” he says. “At these higher concentrations, salicylic acid can be absorbed into the bloodstream, and effects are not known on the baby during pregnancy.”

Source: Read Full Article