Salicylic Acid’s Advantages in Achieving Clear Skin

March 4, 2023
Salicylic Acid's Advantages in Achieving Clear Skin

Salicylic acid is a widely recognized acne treatment with extensive research supporting its effectiveness. While questionable remedies exist on the internet, salicylic acid has likely been on your radar if you have dealt with acne before, and you may have tried it through one of our favorite face washes. 

However, given the complexity of acne, no single solution functions for everyone, and it’s crucial to understand how salicylic acid performs to decide if it’s suitable for your skin type or acne type. To shed light on its impressive qualities and its contribution to clear skin, we turned to experts for answers to our salicylic acid questions.

What Is Salicylic Acid?

What Is Salicylic Acid?

When it comes to skin exfoliants, there are different choices available to cater to various skin necessities. Salicylic acid is a type of chemical exfoliant known as beta-hydroxy acid (BHA), extracted from willow tree bark. To comprehend how salicylic acid works, let’s examine how breakouts form: the mixture of bacteria, debris, sebum, and dead skin cells leads to clogged pores. Unlike alpha-hydroxy acids (AHAs), which are water-soluble and appropriate for surface exfoliation, salicylic acid is oil-soluble, enabling it to penetrate deep into pores to remove blockages.

According to Marmur, “It works by increasing the amount of moisture in the skin and dissolving the substance that drives the skin cells to stick together. This makes it easier to shed the skin cells.” This describes why salicylic acid has been a favored choice among individuals with oily and acne-prone skin.

Although generally identified as an acne spot treatment, salicylic acid can be found in diverse forms, including cleansers, toners, serums, and peels, each with special benefits for clear skin issues. However, Marmur warns that some products, such as certain cleansers, peels, and toners, may be too harsh and should be bypassed.

Benefits of Salicylic Acid

Salicylic acid is not just a go-to solution for acne-prone skin, but it is also useful in treating several skin conditions like dandruff and warts, thanks to its exceptional properties. Here is a detailed explanation of how salicylic acid benefits the skin:

  1. Exfoliates dead skin: Salicylic acid is keratolytic, which increases cellular turnover and removes dead skin cells. This results in an improvement in skin texture and dullness.
  2. Softens the contents of clogged pores: Salicylic acid’s oil-soluble nature enables it to penetrate pores, loosen the “glue” that sticks skin cells together, and remove the contents of clogged pores like blackheads, whiteheads, and small red pimples.
  3. Removes excess oil: Since salicylic acid is oil-soluble, it can deep-cleanse excess sebum from pores, leading to a reduction in oiliness and an improvement in pore appearance.
  4. Prevents whiteheads and blackheads: Salicylic acid targets whiteheads and blackheads directly, preventing them from returning to the surface of the skin.
  5. Combats acne: Salicylic acid’s lipophilic nature allows it to penetrate deep into pores, preventing acne from forming in the future.
  6. Minimizes pores: As an astringent, salicylic acid tightens the skin, resulting in the reduction of the appearance of pores.
  7. Available over-the-counter: Salicylic acid products are readily available in most beauty and drugstores, unlike some other skincare ingredients.
  8. Reduces inflammation: Salicylic acid, belonging to the same class of drugs as aspirin (salicylates), is anti-inflammatory, which helps to soothe irritation and redness caused by breakouts.

Salicylic Acid vs. Benzoyl Peroxide

Benzoyl peroxide is another prevalent ingredient in over-the-counter acne treatments that competes with salicylic acid. However, it distinctly attacks breakouts. Rather than clearing pore blockages, benzoyl peroxide is an antibacterial agent that targets and eliminates the acne-causing bacteria inside the pores. While benzoyl peroxide is notorious for bleaching pillowcases and towels, it may not be as appropriate for people with sensitive skin as salicylic acid due to its drying outcomes, which can lead to flakiness and irritation.

Side Effects of Salicylic Acid

As per Mudgil, salicylic acid is ideal for individuals who have oily skin and experience surface-level acne. However, those with sensitive skin, eczema-prone, or dry skin may find this drying ingredient too intense, and may lead to skin irritation.

Marmur indicates that some of the most familiar side effects of salicylic acid are dryness, burning, and overall skin irritation in the areas where it is applied. However, she demonstrates that these side effects are usually transient and should not persist. If they do, or if they worsen, it is advisable to inform a board-certified dermatologist about your skin’s reaction.

Moreover, Marmur alerts that salicylic acid can make your skin more sensitive to sunlight and increase the chance of sunburn. Therefore, it is vital to protect your skin from the sun at all times, mainly when utilizing salicylic acid. It is advised to limit sun exposure as much as possible and consistently operate and reapply sunscreen.

Also Read: La Roche-Posay’s Retinol B3 Serum Review: Gentle Glow for Sensitive Skin

How to Use It

When it comes to utilizing salicylic acid as an acne treatment, it’s necessary to approach it with notice and consider several factors. The suggested concentration and frequency of usage should be discussed with a dermatologist, specifically if you have dry, eczema-prone, or sensitive skin. It’s vital to start off with a small amount and involve it every few days until you know how your skin will respond. If your skin becomes irritated, take a break and moisturize. It’s crucial to follow your doctor’s instructions and not operate more or less than instructed or use it for longer than advised.

While salicylic acid is readily obtainable and effortlessly accessible at drugstores, the effectiveness of the acne-fighting component depends on various facets, such as skin type, the severity of acne, and the underlying cause of breakouts. Salicylic acid is best suited for treating superficial acne and oily skin, but prescription medications may be necessary for cystic acne.

It’s meaningful to work with a dermatologist to find the best treatment plan for your skin type and requirement. Overall, using salicylic acid requires a personalized approach, and it’s crucial to listen to your skin and be mindful of any adverse reactions.

The Best Products With Salicylic Acid

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Photo: Pexels/ Karolina Grabowska

All products featured on Body Care Art are independently selected by our editors. However, when you buy something through our retail links, we may earn an affiliate commission.
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Welcome to Body Care Art Blog! My name is Liza Mills, and I’m a freelance writer obsessed with makeup. Passionate about writing and beauty, I swap my lipstick for my laptop to find you the best makeup, hair and skincare trends, and pro tips…

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