What Does Salicylic Acid Do To Your Skin
Excuse me while I get a little ~scientific~, but before you start slathering salicylic acid all over your acne, you gotta know what it is. First, a refresher: There are two types of chemical exfoliantsalpha hydroxy acids and beta hydroxy acids , both of which gently dissolve the glue that binds your dead skin cells, leaving you with softer, brighter, smoother skin.
Salicylic acid is the main BHA used in skincare, and thanks to its ability to dissolve in oil, its basically the gold standard for treating blackheads, whiteheads, and oily skin. Because salicylic acid is an anti-inflammatory ingredient, it also decreases the redness and irritation that comes with red, tender pimples, says Rachel Nazarian, MD, of Schweiger Dermatology Group in NYC. And since it breaks the bonds between the skin cells, it also gently exfoliates your skin to help prevent the formation of acne.
What Does Salicylic Acid Do For The Skin
Salicylic acid can get deep into your skin to do its job. This quality is precisely what makes it such a potent ingredient for targeting acne especially for blackheads and whiteheads.
Once it penetrates the skin, salicylic acid “dissolves skin debris that clogs pores, as an anti-inflammatory, and also helps red, inflamed pimples and pustules go away faster,” explains Naissan O. Wesley, M.D., a board-certified dermatologist in Los Angeles.
The ingredient can penetrate so deeply into skin that actually breaks down the connections between skin cells, according to Schueller and Dr. Wesley. “Once it has penetrated the skin, the acid part of the molecule can dissolve some of the intracellular ‘glue’ that holds skin cells together,” says Schueller.
How Long Does It Take For Salicylic Acid To Work
Heres the not-so-great thing about salicylic acid: It takes a minute to see it work. Youll likely see results in four to six weeks, says Dr. Nazarian, after which you should continue to use it for long-term effects. That means you shouldnt expect any miracles overnightgood skin requires patience, yall. If you want to give salicylic acid a fair shot, stick with it for at least a month until you start thinking next steps. And as always, dont forget to chat with your derm about whats best for you and your skin .
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The Frequency Of Using Salicylic Acid
The frequency may also differ as per the formulation. You may use an OTC product as directed by the manufacturer or a doctor. Hereâs what you can do:
- SA creams for corns and calluses: Use once every 3-5 days.
- SA gels for acne: Use once a day.
- SA gel for warts: Apply once a day.
- SA lotions for acne: Use 1-2 times a day.
- SA soaps for acne: Use as needed.
Salicylic acid is extremely potent and if used excessively, it may cause side effects. Letâs take a look.
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Things To Keep In Mind
It’s important to follow the instructions for anything you use on your skin and to listen to the advice of your dermatologist. For some people, salicylic acid can cause an allergic reaction. Keep the following in mind:
- If you are allergic to aspirin or anti-inflammatory drugs that reduce pain, salicylic acid is not recommended.
- Salicylic acid products may be too harsh for those with dry and sensitive skin.
- Don’t use salicylic acid on any areas of your face where the skin is broken or irritated, and keep it out of your eyes, nose and mouth.
- Your skin may worsen for the first few days of treatment as it adjusts. As stated above, test it first, then proceed slowly. Even after your skin has adjusted, overusing salicylic acid can cause irritation and inflammation and these signs can vary from person to person.
- To avoid irritation, use only one exfoliant at a time. While using salicylic acid products, don’t use another chemical exfoliant or physical exfoliant such as a face scrub.
If you have oily skin that’s prone to breakouts, salicylic acid can be a powerfully effective part of your skin care routine. For many people, it’s the magic ingredient for clearer, smoother, more glowing skin.
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Salicylic Acid For Your Skin
Before you cringe at the word acid, let us explain. Salicylic acid is a safe ingredient that offers skin gentle chemical exfoliation. Hence the word acid. Clogged pores lead to breakouts, so unclogging them is the first step toward clearer skin. Salicylic acid works by reaching deep into your pores to remove dead skin and extra oil.
According to the National Library of Medicine, this ingredient is commonly extracted from white willow bark and wintergreen leaves.
Its super easy to add to your skincare routine, too.
When To Seek Help
Stop using salicylic acid products and get emergency medical help if you have signs and symptoms of an allergic reaction, such as hives, itching, difficulty breathing, dizziness, or swelling of your face, lips, tongue, or throat.
Talk with your healthcare provider if you’re having side effects that are particularly bothersome. And if you’re using a prescription acne medication, always ask your dermatologist first before adding a salicylic acid product to your daily routine.
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Salicylic Acid For Acne
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Youve seen it around: When it comes to over-the-counter acne treatments, salicylic acid is one of the most popular.
You can find this acne-fighting ingredient in everything from spot treatments to face washes and beyond.
Having this kind of over-the-counter topical acne treatment at the ready can help you act fast whenever one of those dreaded zits pop up.
But what exactly is salicylic acid and how does it help heal acne? And are there any potential side effects? Read on for answers to these questions and more.
What Concentration Of Salicylic Acid Is Best For Acne
OTC products are available in concentrations ranging from 0.55%. It is best to start with a low concentration to reduce the risk of irritating your skin.
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Is Salicylic Acid Effective
According to most research, yes. Salicylic acids effectiveness as an acne treatment is backed up by numerous placebo-controlled scientific studies that show a clear benefit to using it as an acne treatment.
For example, one scientific review from 1992, which looked at four separate studies, found that treatment with salicylic acid pads reduced the total number of lesions on the skin of people with acne.
Another study from the 1990s concluded that people with acne who used a salicylic acid lotion experienced a reduction in both noninflamed and inflamed acne lesions over the course of 12 weeks of treatment.
A different study published in 2004 found that salicylic acid caused a reduction in inflammatory and noninflammatory acne lesions in people with acne over the course of 12 weeks.
An even more recent study from 2018, which included 24 adult women with mild-to-moderate acne, involved the use of a two percent salicylic acid cleaner and cream in combination with a rebalancing gel.
After eight weeks of treatment, the women experienced a significant reduction in several forms of acne, including inflamed acne such as papules and pustules, and noninflamed, comedonal acne such as blackheads and whiteheads.
The women also reported improved skin smoothness and skin tone evenness by the end of the study.
Put simply, theres a significant amount of scientific evidence indicating that salicylic acid works well as a treatment for both inflamed and noninflamed acne.
How To Use It
The recommended concentration of a salicylic acid product varies from person to person and should be discussed with your dermatologist, and the same applies to how often you use a salicylic acid treatment. In general, Marmur says to use salicylic acid in moderation until you know your skin can tolerate it. Start off applying it every few days, and take note of how your skin reacts after each application. The key is to listen to your skin, Mudgil advises. If its getting irritated, youll need to take a day or two off and perhaps be a bit more vigilant with moisturizing. As far as the amount used, Marmur stresses the importance of following the direction of your doctor. Dont do more or less, and dont use it for longer than recommended, Marmur says. Apply just enough salicylic acid to cover the affected area and rub it into the skin gently.
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How Long Should I Leave Salicylic Acid Cleanser On My Face
This can vary depending on how much time you take to cleanse your skin. For many, the 60 second rule has proven to be the most effective. If youre new to this rule, its a simple method that requires you to work the product into the skin for 60 seconds, doing it for this length of time is considered best to deliver optimal results ensuring it works its way into the pores, clearing it of sebum build up, ridding the skin of dirt and bacteria whilst beginning to dissolve the bonds hold dead skin cells onto the surface of the skin. Once these bonds are loosened you can then use an exfoliating toner to slough away any remaining traces of cells revealing a layer of glowing, radiant, fresh skin underneath.
If you ever have any worries about how your skin will react to a product you use on your skin, you can perform a patch test for 24 hours before applying all over the face. This will avoid unwanted irritation or reactions to the skin and give you a better idea of which product formula to use in your routine.
Cleanse With Salicylic Acid
Although benzoyl peroxide is more popular, look for over the counter skincare products that use salicylic acid as it is more effective in treating blackheads and whiteheads caused due to dead skin cells and excess oil. Choose a good, daily cleanser infused with salicylic acid to remove oil, makeup, and dirt. Although dermatologists recommend washing your face twice a day, try restricting the salicylic acid cleanser to just once a day to start with. You could use it at night only and wash your face with the regular cleanser the next morning. Once your skin gets used to the product, you may use it twice – both day and night. However, it is essential to note that some people can be sensitive to salicylic acid and cannot use it for more than a few days. If you notice any adverse reactions, discontinue it.
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Salicylic Acid Acne Treatment Products
All of proactivâs multi-step skincare routines harness the power of the best over-the-counter acne-fighting ingredients you can find. If youâre looking for a skincare system that combines salicylic acid and benzoyl peroxide, our Proactiv + Complete Kit is a great option. Our Blackhead Dissolving Gel is a quick 5 minute mask with .5% salicylic acid, perfect for helping to unclog your pores. Try these formulas and youâve got nothing to lose but your breakouts.
Does Salicylic Acid Really Work
The quick answer is yes, salicylic acid can be an effective way to treat acne.
A 2018 study of 24 women with mild to moderate acne incorporated the use of a 2% salicylic acid cleanser and cream along with a rebalancing gel.
The women who participated in the study experienced a significant reduction in several forms of acne, including inflamed acne such as papules and pustules, and noninflamed, comedonal acne such as blackheads and whiteheads after eight weeks.
Another benefit noted in this study was that the use of salicylic acne may also have anti-aging effects.
There was also an older, 1981 clinical trial that involved medicated pads containing 0.5% salicylic acid used twice a day for 12 weeks.
At the end of that time, study participants noted a reduction in inflammatory acne and open comedones.
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Salicylic Acid Is An Excellent Exfoliant
Salicylic acid can break down dead skin cells and is a great exfoliator. It is a keratolytic drug that produces softer outer layers of skin. Salicylic acid carries out a hemolytic action. By doing so, the cells on the skins outer layers break apart after loosening. While suffering from acne, skin cells do not behave normally. Instead, they clog pores by sticking together by having an unhealthy skin cell cycle, creating blackheads. Salicylic acid removes the dead skin cells by loosening them. This dissolves blackheads and acne.
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Cleansers And Face Washes
Cleansers and face washes are among the most common salicylic acid products chosen in acne treatment. Both are gentle enough to use daily, however they differ in terms of potency and which skin types they are best suited for.
Cleansers are typically gentle formulas containing hydrating ingredients, available in the form of gels, creams and lotions they are designed for normal, dry or sensitive skin.
Face washes contain higher concentrations of active ingredients and usually contain foaming agents as such, they are designed for oily or combination skin.
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How To Use Salicylic Acid To Open Pores
If you have fair skin, especially if you have oily skin, then you may benefit a great deal from using salicylic acid to open pores. The first thing to know about choosing a salicylic acid product to treat your skin is that it has to be sufficiently acidic to break down fats and open pores. This means that the product has to have a pH of about 4 or lower . It has to be acidic enough that it is likely to sting. And while Salicylic acid does not kill acne-causing bacteria, it helps to unclog the pores that harbor these bacteria. Higher pH products wont sting, but they wont open pores, either.
The next thing to look for in a salicylic acid product is the right concentration. Too much salicylic acid can burn the skin. Too little salicylic acid wont open pores.
Most products that work provide 1% to 3% of this ingredient, possibly as little as 0.5%, but never more than 3% .
Salicylic acid in a face wash wont help your skin, because you rinse it off almost as soon as you put it on. Salicylic acid in powder form is not at the right pH to have any effect on the skin. Only salicylic acid in the form of a gel that stays on the skin will do any good, but it is essential not to leave the product on the skin any longer than directed, to remove it as directed, and not to use the product around the eyes.
Recommended Benzoyl Peroxide Products
Salicylic acid comes in a variety of forms, including creams, lotions, washes, and gels. “My patients swear by Clean and Clean Continuous Control Acne Cleanser. It delivers the benzoyl peroxide deep into the pores where the ingredient is most needed, bypassing the sensitive parts of the skin that are prone to dryness and irritation. For spot treatment, there’s nothing better than Persa-Gel 10. As soon as you start to feel a pimple come up, dab a drop right on the lesion and don’t pick! As tempting as it is to try to squeeze or pick at the pimple, never touch it and your skin will thank you later. The gel will either prevent the pimple from coming up altogether, or the pimple that comes up will be half the size it would have been otherwise,” says Dr. Bowe.
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Other Treatments And Medications For Acne
Facial washes, creams and other products containing salicylic acid can be a good choice if you have mild acne. However, other treatments may be more effective if your acne is severe or fails to go away after using salicylic acid.
A large range of other treatments are available for acne, including over-the-counter treatments and medications that require a prescription. Weve listed these below, along with information on how each treatment can help to get rid of acne.
How To Apply Salicylic Acid
Work up to it
Always patch test before applying to your entire face! Apply a small amount of the salicylic acid product in the evening to a small area on your forehead . If there’s no irritation after 24hrs, apply a thin layer of the salicylic acid product to your entire face – use product as directed . If there is irritation within 24 hrs , consider trying another salicylic acid product with a lower concentration or try an alternative acne fighting ingredient such as azelaic acid or differin.
Apply to entire face
Salicylic acid works best when applied to your entire face because it removes dead skin cells from your pores and cleans out excess oil from pores. This helps prevent future breakouts.
Less is more
Only use a pea sized amount or less for your entire face. Too much can cause irritation.
Don’t scrub face
Salicylic acid is a chemical exfoliant. It has the ability to loosen the dead skin cells on your skins surface without you having to scrub your skin to make it work . So don’t scrub! Let the product soak in and do its thing.
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