Do you know all the benefits of salicylic acid for the skin? Read on and find out how it can help you with acne, oily skin, and much more.

Last update: September 16, 2021

The skin is exposed to countless agents: the sun, lack of hydration, fats. But just as there are enemies, there are also allies. And salicylic acid can be one of your skin’s best partners.

Salicylic acid has wide and recognized uses in the field of aesthetics. In this sense, it is considered to be beneficial in the treatment of acne, skin blemishes and as an exfoliator.

Today, salicylic acid is found as a main component in a variety of dermatological care products, ranging from creams, oils and scrubs to facial cleansers.

Properties of salicylic acid

Salicylic acid can be obtained naturally from the bark of the white willow (Salix alba) or from the leaves of other plants, such as birch and wintergreen (Wintergreen procumbens). However, since 1860 there has been synthetic salicylic acid.

One of the first uses that it was given was medicinal, as a component of aspirin, due to its antipyretic and anti-inflammatory properties. On the other hand, it is in the family of beta-hydroxy acids (BHA), used as an exfoliant for its keratolytic properties.

What’s more, has antiseptic and antibacterial properties, helping to prevent the proliferation of bacteria on the skin. For this reason it is considered in the treatment of warts, corns and other skin lesions.

Salicylic acid has an affinity for lipids and is easily soluble in oil. This allows it to better penetrate the pores, making it ideal for acne.



Salicylic acid for skin care

Salicylic acid is a key ingredient in various skin products, be they pharmaceuticals or cosmetics. In this sense, provides a host of benefits for treating conditions from acne and oily skin to fungus and psoriasis.

The peeling Chemist, for example, considers salicylic acid as one of his ingredients for technique.

1. Scrub

Once absorbed and penetrates the skin, the keratolytic effect of salicylic acid favors the detachment of the stratum corneum, which is the top or outermost layer.

2. Cell renewal

By helping to remove dead cells from the stratum corneum, working from the inside out, this acid helps in the process of renewal and regeneration of cells, providing a more youthful looking skin.

3. Spots and blemishes on the skin

As the skin is renewed, the different marks are also removed from the surface layer: spots, injuries, scars, wrinkles. In this way, the skin appears smoother and with a uniform tone.

4. Fat removal

When the sebaceous glands secrete an excessive amount of substance, the skin becomes oily. This can be due to a variety of factors, from genetic and hormonal to environmental. Not to mention food.

Now, salicylic acid can penetrate deep into the skin, so contributes to the elimination of excess sebum. Helps to care for combination skin, as well as oily skin.

5. Cleaning the pores

The sebum on the skin, as well as the excess dead cells, is what causes the clogged pores. Hence, by eliminating both, pores are freer.

6. Fight acne

As if that were not enough, when the pores are clogged, they are trapped and bacteria multiply. Particularly the of the species Propionibacterium acnes, which results in acne.

But, if there are no dead cells or clogged pores, there are no bacteria. A very simple equation. That is why salicylic acid is one of the best options in the fight against acne.

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7. Prevents pimples and blackheads

The positive exfoliating effect on the cleaning of the pores and sebaceous filaments benefits both people who suffer from acne and those prone to the condition. In other words, salicylic acid helps not only fight, but prevent acne.

8. Dry skin

When there is dryness, even in cases of keratosis pilaris, the use of salicylic acid can contribute to the improvement of symptoms, moisturizing the skin.



9. Mushrooms

Topical Keratolytic Treatments with 1% Salicylic Acid they are also used in fungal infections. Examples are trichomycosis nodosa (known as black stone) and pityriasis amantacea.

10. Psoriasis

According recent studies, in topical therapy used to treat psoriasis the combination of corticosteroids with salicylic acid provides greater benefits compared to the use of corticosteroids alone.

11. Skin lesions

Benign skin lesions, which can be treated with excision, cryotherapy or electrodesiccation, they respond to topical treatment that includes salicylic acid or similar compounds. Although this depends on the type of tumor and its location.

12. Anti-inflammatory

The results derived from various experiments suggest that a derivative of salicylic acid, such as bornyl salicylate, has anti-inflammatory effect, since it is related to the decrease of mediators and pro-inflammatory cytokines.

13. Infection prevention

On Laboratory studies, so much in vitro What in vivo, it was found that salicylic acid may affect the virulence factors of the Staphylococcus aureus. This could slow the progression of the infection by that bacteria.

Recommendations for using salicylic acid on the skin

Salicylic acid is found in a variety of cosmetic skin products: lotions, creams, gels, ointments, soaps, oils, facial cleansers, pads, toners, scrubs, and many more.

It should be noted that general sale cosmetic exfoliating products contain 0.5% to 2% salicylic acid. Also used in chemical peels. In this case, the concentrations are between 20% and up to 30%.

In general, salicylic acid peels are considered quite safe. Their greatest benefit is that they do not leave sequelae, such as hyperpigmentation.

Recommendations regarding the use of salicylic acid products are as follows:

  • Apply the recommended amount, without exceeding it.
  • Depending on the product, rub with the fingertips.
  • Avoid coming into contact with the mucous membranes, especially that of the eyes.
  • Eliminate excesses and wash hands using lukewarm water.
  • Avoid exposing yourself to the sun excessively after application.

Remember that you can use salicylic acid frequently, but not daily. On oily or combination skin it can be applied once a week, but dry or sensitive skin, every fortnight.

Sun protection after a treatment with this acid is essential, to avoid side effects.

Side effects and contraindications

Overuse of any exfoliator, whether it contains salicylic acid or not, can end up drying or irritating the skin. Although its toxicity is rare, is associated with irritation when starting use. Likewise, its prolonged use can degenerate into dry skin.

Other possible side effects of salicylic acid include the following:

  • Stinging or itching.
  • Frequent flaking.
  • Irritation and hives.

Some of these effects are more likely to be experienced if salicylic acid is used in conjunction with other products, such as topical retinoids, benzoyl peroxide, cleansers containing alcohols, or skin medications with resorcinol and tretinoin.

Its use is not recommended in children under 2 years of age or in pregnant women or are breastfeeding. While the research point out that salicylic acid is unlikely to be absorbed through breast milk, it should be avoided from coming into contact with the skin or even with the baby’s mouth.

Although salicylic acid products are available over the counter, it is preferable to consult with a dermatologist before starting to use them. In this sense, you must inform him if you suffer from allergies, what medications you are taking or if you have any previous pathology.

Comprehensive skin care, including salicylic acid

Used with caution and moderation, salicylic acid can be a great ally for skin care. However, you can also contribute to your skin in other ways.

From the outside, good habits for healthy skin include protecting it from the sun, cleaning and washing it frequently but not excessively, and keeping it moisturized. From the inside, adequate hydration and a good diet are enough.

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