salicylic acid benefits

Salicylic Acid Benefits for Skin: Complete Guide

When it comes to Over-the-Counter (OTC) products that fight acne salicylic acid is one of the most common ingredients that you might have heard of.

It is probably and rightly so the most common name that comes to mind when talking about oily skin or acne treatment. Salicylic acid benefits range from reducing blemishes to skin exfoliation.

There are many other uses of salicylic acid and its limitations, so let’s get right to it. 

What is Salicylic Acid?

First off, let’s get our salicylic acid definition right. Technically, salicylic acid is a member of the beta-hydroxy acid (BHA) family. BHAs and AHAs are two popular classes of chemical exfoliants.

BHAs, in general, and salicylic acid is oil-soluble, which means they can easily penetrate deeper layers of your pores. This is one of the fundamental salicylic acid benefits since it unclogs the pores which then prevents acne, pimples from basically happening on the skin.

Salicylic acid was first isolated from willow bark at the end of the 19th century. It belongs to the salicylates family whose oldest member is famously known ingredient – aspirin.

What are Salicylic Acid benefits for skin?

salicylic acid benefits
Hand photo created by senivpetro –

Anyone who suffered from skin issues in their teenage years or at a later age is perhaps familiar with this ingredient. And by large, it is true – it’s all about its unique chemical properties.

What makes it different from other related acids is its super-fast reaction and higher efficiency on skin. 

Here are the salicylic acid benefits for skin:

#1. It is your superhero ally in controlling oily skin 

Salicylic acid is mostly known for its ability to treat oily and problematic skin prone to acne and blackheads. When you apply salicylic acid to your skin, it penetrates into the skin very quickly.

Then it dissolves dead skin cells that clog your pores. That is exactly why cleansers for oily skin contain salicylic acid.

However, you should be mindful of the dosage you use specifically when treating acne. It is better to consult with your dermatologist before taking action. 

#2. Salicylic Acid clears acne, blackheads, whiteheads 

Because it is oil-soluble, it is a miraculous ingredient to treat blackheads, whiteheads, and acne. It also helps shrink your pores because it breaks the bonds between keratinocytes in the ducts of the sebaceous glands. (oil-producing glands)

Simply put, it basically dries out the excess oil (which is the main culprit behind blackheads, whiteheads) on the skin and regulates skin cells.

#3. Provides quick exfoliation and contributes to skin relief 

Salicylic acid is a keratolytic (peeling) agent, it acts as a skin exfoliator. This lies at the heart of all other salicylic acid benefits. In higher concentrations (20%-30%) it is effective for treating acne, acne scars, and age spots. This is how salicylic acid works wonders, it removes the dead skin cells helping the skin refresh.

When compared to benzoyl peroxide, for example, it is a gentler exfoliant. Salicin in salicylic acid calms down irritated skin and reduces redness. This is one of the reasons why SA is used in psoriasis treatment.

#4. Fights against bacteria on the skin and prevents acne

Thanks to its outstanding antibacterial and anti-inflammatory effect, salicylic acid reduces and prevents the appearance of redness, irritation, acne spots. In fact, the antibacterial and exfoliating properties of salicylic acid come in handy when developing topical treatments.

If you apply it to a pimple and leave it on overnight, you can see the results in the morning immediately. Acne bacteria basically grow due to clogged pores where there is no room for oxygen. By unclogging the pores, salicylic acid makes sure that there is more oxygen so acne bacteria won’t have a welcoming environment to grow.

#5. Salicylic acid brightens your skin

Seems like salicylic acid benefits for skin are endless! Due to its powerful exfoliating effect, salicylic acid makes the skin visibly brighter. This quality helps combat pigmentation and some forms of acne, the marks that remain on the skin after acne (acne marks, changes in skin tone).

How long will it take for Salicylic Acid to work?

When it comes to showing results, salicylic acid is relatively faster than its counterparts. With that said, you shouldn’t expect it to work overnight.

Typically, you should see some results after 6 weeks. You can consult with your dermatologist if you can’t see any results and see what works for you.

A quick guide on skincare products with Salicylic Acid 

salicylic acid benefits
Products with Salicylic Acid

The best way to enjoy salicylic acid benefits is certainly through using skincare products. Directions for using salicylic acid products depend on their category.

We recommend Foams and gels if you have oily and combination skin.

Use chemical exfoliants or peeling creams no more than 2 times per week.

When you apply creams containing salicylic acid, don’t apply it all over the face. It is enough to spread over the areas most susceptible to the appearance of excess shine and pimples. (T-zone, for example)

Topical medication products (lotions, gels, creams) can be applied to the problematic areas pointwise. If necessary, repeat the treatment after a few hours.

You can find SA in toners, masks, and even shampoos. Due to its antibacterial properties, it helps dandruff issues on hair.

How to use salicylic acid for skin?

Before using salicylic acid for skin at all, make sure you are not allergic to it. You can do it with a simple test, just put a small amount on acne or a pimple. Leave it for two or three days. If there is no skin reaction like burning, itchiness, or redness, then it is safe for you to use it. Before applying any product with SA, make sure your face is properly cleansed.

Opt for a gentle cleanser that won’t leave your skin dry. Usually, for creams, lotions with SA, it would be enough to layer it thinly, in the morning and in the evening.

Exfoliating with SA should be done 2-3 times a week, don’t overdo your exfoliation routine. Also, don’t scrub your face or forcefully press it to your face. SA is a chemical exfoliant that will work from within, just let it soak in.

Always finish off your SA routine with a moisturizer + daily sunscreen.

Are there any side effects of Salicylic Acid?

white flowers in brown glass bottle
Photo by cottonbro on

In general, it is totally safe to use salicylic acid for skin. I would even say the salicylic acid benefits outdo its drawbacks. However, if you experience some side effects, chances are you might have used it with other acne products. You might have used products with ingredients such as benzoyl peroxide.

When this happens, it can irritate sensitive skin. If you have dry skin or conditions such as rosacea or eczema, it is important to talk to your dermatologist. Aside from these side effects, the skin can experience stinging or slight burning.

So, don’t overdo the use of salicylic acid at first, it is definitely not for daily use. Stop using it immediately if you experience discomfort, salicylic acid toxicity symptoms like headache, vomiting. Go see a doctor immediately.

The recap

Salicylic acid benefits are vast, and it is not the first time we are touting them. One thing is for sure: if you are struggling with acne, blackheads, pimples including salicylic acid in your routine is a must.

Although there is no ultimate cure for acne, salicylic acid is pretty darn close. Hurry to reap the salicylic acid benefits!

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