|Best used: AM or PM||Caution: Sensitive skin||Best for: Acne, sunspots, flaky skin|
|Comments: Can be used as a wash, gel, cream, spot treatment||Mode of action: Chemical exfoliant, anti-inflammatory||Science Score:|
What is the skin science behind salicylic acid?
This skincare acid helps in the removal of the outer layer of the skin in addition to reducing inflammation. Salicylic acid is classed as a Beta Hydroxy Acid. This is the most commonly prescribed acid for the treatment of acne, blackheads, zits & other skin conditions.
What does salicylic acid do for the skin?
On the skin, salicylic acid helps to correct the abnormal shedding of cells & reduces inflammation.
Is salicylic acid good for acne?
This is the go-to skin acid for the treatment of acne. Salicylic acid helps pimples by dissolving the type of skin debris that clogs pores (keratin plugs) that causes acne. Salicylic acid can also reduce oil production & exert an anti-inflammatory effect on the skin.
What skin conditions can be treated with salicylic acid?
The most frequent use of this acid is the treatment of comedonal acne, namely blackheads, whiteheads, zits & pimples. Salicylic acid works as a chemical exfoliant & in low concentrations exerts an anti-inflammatory effect, reducing redness.
Other uses of salicylic acid include-
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How do you use salicylic acid to treat acne?
Apply a small amount of salicylic acid to the affected area & rub in gently. If using the pads, wash the affected skin with a mild cleanser, then pat dry. Wipe the pad gently onto the skin to apply the medication. Formulations include creams, lotions, gels (spot treatment), washes, pads & applicators. Be guided by the instructions on the product.
Your dermatologist may elect to prescribe you a salicylic acid lotion. This is frequently formulated with agents such as thymol (anti-bacteria), propylene glycol (aids in delivery of this acid) in an ethanol mix. This lotion can be applied with a cotton ball to primarily treat large surface areas such as the chest & back.
Does salicylic acid cause any side effects?
The most common side effect of salicylic acid is its ability to irritate & dry out skin. This is especially common in patients who overuse it, or in those who have sensitive skin conditions such as eczema, dermatitis, rosacea & ‘picking acne.’ For this group of users, you may elect to gradually build up your tolerance, namely start every second day & gradually increase the use of salicylic acid.
How long until salicylic acid works for acne?
Salicylic acid penetrates into your skin and works to dissolve the dead skin cells clogging your pores. It can take several weeks of use for you to see its full effect. Check with your dermatologist if you aren’t seeing results after 6 weeks.
This acid is also found in ‘spot treatments’ for the odd pimple, cyst or zit. These formulations usually contain high strength acids & should work within 12 to 18 hours of application.
Is salicylic acid good for hormonal acne?
While over-the-counter products don’t treat the hormonal component of acne, salicylic acid can address the other factors involved in a breakout. These include unclogging pores & blackheads whilst at the same time reducing inflammation.
For patients with continued hormonal outbreaks, medical dermatologists (not me, I am a procedural dermatologist), can investigate & treat accordingly. Consider the use of retinol or retinoid creams if you still suffer outbreaks.
Can salicylic acid be used as a spot treatment?
We’ve all been there: You get a pimple. You immediately fight back against that huge zit with the strongest chemical you can find. Most spot treatments contain varying percentages of either salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide as active ingredients. In a nutshell, salicylic acid is a powerful chemical exfoliator. For this reason, it’s great for treating blemishes caused by clogged pores (blackheads, whiteheads).
Can you use salicylic acid face wash daily?
Salicylic acids will definitely help reduce the oily shine on your face and even dry up your inflamed pimples & zits but using it more than once a day you can strip your skin of the natural oils. The most common mistake of using salicylic acid is over application as it makes your skin super-dry and irritated. Bottom line? Use once a day (or night, whatever your preference), if you have any redness, burning, stinging or irritation, give your skin a chance to recover. By listening to what your skin is telling you, your skincare routine will go smoothly!
Do you wash off salicylic acid?
This medicine should be left on your skin as directed (product information varies with the concentration). Before using an OTC acne product for the first time, apply a small amount to one or two small, affected areas of the skin for 3 consecutive days to test for both irritation & allergic reactions.
This acid (unlike unbuffered low pH alpha hydroxy acids) does not require neutralization. Cutis Dermatology has higher strength salicylic acid peels are left on the skin until ‘pseudo frosting’ occurs. Be guided by your skin care professional as product formulations & concentrations differ.
Is this a good acid for oily skin?
Indeed, salicylic acid can be an excellent ingredient choice for those with oily skin, but you must be careful not to go overboard with it. Salicylic acid does help exfoliate the dead layer of the skin and unclog pores. It also has anti-inflammatory effects to help calm angry skin.
What skin care ingredients are not compatible with salicylic acid?
The main disadvantage of salicylic acid is skin irritation, especially if you use a high concentration wash more than once daily. This acid should be used with caution if you are applying retinol, retinoids, or ascorbic acids.
What skin care ingredients mix well with salicylic acid?
Compatible ingredients include niacinamide & hyaluronic acid. The best way to use any new ingredient is to slowly introduce it into your skin care routine. Starting every second day or night with a small amount, then increasing as tolerated will ensure your addition is safe & effective.
Is salicylic acid better than benzoyl peroxide?
Both are great ingredients to address all forms of acne, however they should not be used in combination with each other as skin irritation will commonly result. Benzoyl peroxide can be titrated by timing, whilst salicylic acid is best titrated with concentration.
Does your skin purge with this ingredient?
Unlike retinol or retinoids, skin purging is uncommon with salicylic acid. In fact, this ingredient does the opposite, namely unclog pores & reduces inflammation. If your skin is irritated with salicylic acid, it can be one of three factors. Most commonly you are using it far too often, secondly you have overly sensitive skin or thirdly, you may have an allergic reaction (very rare).
How do I incorporate salicylic acid in my daily skin care routine?
A sensible skin care routine that involves this Beta Hydroxy Acid goes something like this;
*The use of retinol, ascorbic acid, BPO, retinoids, & other potentially irritating skin care is NOT an absolute contraindication, you can ease into salicylic acid by listening to your skin, reducing application amount & frequency accordingly.
Davin’s Pro Tip on the use of Salicylic Acid
One of the best ways to treat breakouts & blackheads. Salicylic acid is super flexible, in low concentrations it can be used as a wash, in a higher solution it is a great exfoliation agent for the treatment of stubborn blackheads.
A sensible skin care routine for acne prone, congested or oily skin would be to incorporate this acid as a daily or alternate day wash. Caution in sensitive skin &/ or mixing with potentially irritating ingredients such as AHA (lactic, glycolic), ascorbic acid, or retinoic acids. As always, test spot and titrate.
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