Derms' obsession: Salicylic acid for clear skin. What is it and how on earth do you use it?

Everyone has heard of Salicylic acid. It's been trending lately and there is a for a reason for that. A total game-changer when it comes to treating spots, salicylic acid may just be what you need to get rid of that pimple asap. 

There's a huge amount of studies to support the fact that salicylic acid is an effective acne treatment, which is why this is probably not your first time hearing about the ingredient. Many people that dealt with acne might have already tried some salicylic acid-based products before.

Below, board-certified dermatologists Ellen Marmur, MD, of Marmur Medical and MMSkincare, and Adarsh Vijay Mudgil, MD, of Mudgil Dermatology, talk all about all salicylic acid.

What Is Salicylic Acid?

What is salicylic acid?

In a world with so many options, salicylic acid is ideal. It’s an ingredient extracted from willow tree bark. "It works by increasing the amount of moisture in the skin and dissolving the substance that causes the skin cells to stick together. This makes it easier to shed the skin cells," explains Marmur. This ingredient can be found in cleansers, toners, serums, and peels, which can all be beneficial to the skin in their own right.

Benefits of salicylic acid

Here’s how it can help to benefit the skin:

Exfoliates dead skin: Encourages cellular turnover and helps to slough off dead skin cells which improves skin dullness and texture.

Softens the contents of clogged pores: As this ingredient is able to penetrate the pore, it loosens the “glue” that makes skin cells to stick together and remove the contents of clogged pores that lead to superficial acne, like whiteheads, blackheads, and small red pimples.

Removes excess oil: As salicylic acid is oil-soluble, it can penetrate beneath the skin’s surface to clean out excess sebum from the pores and reduce oiliness. 

Prevents whiteheads and blackheads: Marmur says that because salicylic acid targets whiteheads and blackheads directly, it prevents them from returning to your superficial skin.

Reduces inflammation: Salicylic acid belongs to the same class of drugs in aspirins, that’s why it has anti-inflammatory properties and it helps to address irritation and redness related to breakouts.

Side effects

Are there any side effects?

Salicylic acid is best suited for those with oily skin and superficial acne but for those with dry skin, it can be too harsh and cause irritation.

Marmur says that some of the most common side effects of salicylic acid include dry, burning, and overall irritated skin in the areas of application but adds that these side effects are more common at the start of treatment and should not continue. It can also make the skin more sensitive to sunlight and cause sunburn easily that’s why applying sunscreen is important.

How do you use it?

Salicylic acid tends to be an ingredient in many acne-busting products including serums, cleansers, and creams. You can get a pure version in some countries, but this should be used only in the affected area and with the guidance of a professional. 

Tina Reese

Tina is an award-winning columnist and beauty editor. Passionate about all aspects of makeup and skincare, she spends her days trying out new launches and researching the ever-changing world of beauty trends. Follow Tina’s articles and you’ll always stay updated on who’s who and what’s what of the beauty industry.+ info

Related Articles

More News

More News