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What is Salicylic Acid, and How Can it Help with Acne?

What is Salicylic Acid, and How Can it Help with Acne?
SkinStore Editors
Writer and expert3 years ago
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If you have breakout-prone skin, chances are you've already heard of salicylic acid, and maybe even some of the benefits of using it regularly in your skincare routine. But what is salicylic acid, exactly, and where does it even come from? Here we take a closer look at the benefits of this ingredient and recommend some products for you to try.

How does this ingredient help with acne?

Salicylic acid is a beta hydroxy acid or BHA. It occurs naturally in plants and is called "one of the safest, most effective medicines" by the World Health Organization. It is also the active metabolite found in aspirin, in addition to being the answer to many skincare problems. It is used to treat acne, warts, psoriasis, and many other skin conditions because it is oil soluble. This means it can get between lipid layers, or in layman's terms, it gets down into your pores to clean them out and prevent acne. It is even found in shampoos because it is helpful in the treatment of dandruff.

Who should use salicylic acid?

Because it is a natural and gentle product, salicylic acid for acne scars is highly recommended. It's also safe for use in minor percentages for nearly everyone. If any skin dryness or irritation should occur from using it, simply dial back the frequency with which you're applying it to your skin. It is an excellent product for those with oily skin, in addition to being a must-have for those with acne-prone skin. However, it can have a drying effect on some skin, so you should introduce it to your skincare routine slowly, usually around once or twice per week.

What products contain salicylic acid?

If you have naturally dry or sensitive skin, you should look for the lowest percentage of salicylic acid that you can find in a skincare product, which will usually be around 1% to 2%. If you have acne-prone skin all over your face, you may want to look into a product like The Ordinary Salicylic Acid 2% Masque 50ml. Because it is a masque, it's applied to your entire face, and worn for an extended period to slowly clear out your pores, and dissolve the excess oil and contaminants that are causing your breakouts to occur.

Some people only have spot acne from time to time, and it isn't a problem that they experience all over their face or body. If that sounds like you, you may want to test the First Aid Beauty Pharma BHA Acne Spot Treatment Gel 2% Salicylic Acid. It combats breakouts, brightens your complexion, and minimizes the redness and irritation associated with spots. You simply apply it directly to the area of the blemish. While it is designed to treat the blemish, it can also help to calm the surrounding redness and irritation that the blemish causes.

Another spot treatment product that can help with localized acne, or can be applied directly to a single blemish, is the Revolution Skincare Targeted Blemish Serum 2% Salicylic Acid. This product uses this ingredient and witch hazel to get the blemish-causing oils and dirt out of your pores. Because it's only 2% salicylic acid, it shouldn't have too much of a drying effect on your skin, but it's still strong enough to get into your pores and eat away the oils and dirt causing acne to erupt.

Who should avoid using this acid?

Although it is uncommon, some people can have an allergic reaction to salicylic acid. An allergic reaction would likely result in you breaking out in hives. If that should happen, you should immediately stop using it, and consult your doctor for treatment. For most people, though, the best salicylic acid products can be used at over the counter percentages without developing any health issues.

SkinStore Editors
Writer and expert
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Our team of beauty experts cover everything from skincare to makeup, picking out the most effective products from the best brands and latest trends. Stay up to date on everything beauty with the SkinStore blog, and find all your essentials in one place.