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Salicylic Acid For Acne: Benefits, Side Effects, Uses and Everything You Need to Know

Salicylic Acid For Acne Benefits, Side Effects, Uses and Everything You Need to Know

Salicylic acid, unlike some questionable acne treatments available online, has a plethora of clinical trials to support its efficacy. For this reason, it is not your first time hearing about it.

It has probably been found in many skin care products you’ve seen at the supermarket or drugstore. Over-the-counter acne products and acne treatments commonly use this ingredient.

It is frequently touted as the go-to solution for breakouts. In a nutshell, it is an acne-fighting agent. Its exfoliating properties help the skin shed dead skin cells more efficiently.

However, using it and making it effective can be tricky. To determine if it will work for you before using it on your zits, you must research its effectiveness.

Here’s a look at salicylic acid and how it can be used to treat acne.

What Is Salicylic Acid?

There are several aspects to the structure of salicylic acid, and understanding how it works is important.

Beta hydroxy acids (BHAs) and alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs) are the most common acids that you’ll see in skincare products. It is a type of beta-hydroxy acid (BHA) and is commonly applied topically. 

AHAs can exfoliate to smooth the skin and make it more even in tone. Similar to AHAs, BHAs also penetrate deep into your skin to unclog pores and serve as an antibacterial agent.

It is therefore used for soothing irritated skin. However, AHAs are water-soluble whereas BHAs are oil-soluble.

Salicylic acid benefits for skin

It has many beneficial effects on the skin, These includes:

  • Fights acne by clearing out pores
  • Dissolves excess oil
  • Removes dead skin cells and accumulated oils that contribute to acne blemishes.
  • Reduces inflammation and redness
  • As it helps remove old, dead skin cells, This BHA is effective in brightening and rejuvenating your skin. 
  • If your pores aren’t clogged with dead cells, they can appear smaller, and your skin will start to glow and radiate.
  • Applied at low concentrations, salicylic acid relieves inflammation in the skin which contributes to treating acne.
  • Minimizes fine lines, wrinkles and dark spots
  • Hyperpigmentation can be reduced
  • This powerful ingredient provides relief from breakouts, while also targeting blackheads and whiteheads directly, preventing them from returning to the surface of your skin.
  • Dermatologists use it to treat skin issues like melasma, freckles, acne and sunspots because of its effectiveness.

Does Salicylic Acid Have Any Side Effects?

If used correctly and according to the dosage instructions, it does not cause any side effects. Negligence can have adverse effects like:

  • Skin Irritation
  • Redness
  • Burning Sensations
  • Dryness of skin
  • Tingling Sensations

How to Use It

Cleansers, gels, serums, moisturizers and lotions contain salicylic acid. OTC (over-the-counter) products typically include a 2% solution. 

It is best to apply this every few days and keep track of the reaction on your skin. You will need to take a few days off and perhaps take more precautions with moisturizing your skin if it becomes irritated.

“Always take doctor’s advice regarding the amount of salicylic acid to be used.” Check the following tips for application:

  • Salicylic acid should be applied directly to the affected area, rubbing gently into the skin.
  • Make sure that salicylic acid does not get near your eyes or nose and mouth. You should rinse it immediately with water if it does.
  • Never exceed the recommended dose, and never use it for longer than recommended.
  • To use Salicylic acid skin pads, without rinsing off the acid, you can simply wipe the pads over the skin.
  • To use Salicylic acid in gels, apply the gel after applying wet packs for 5 minutes.
  • Avoid scrubbing.

Can salicylic acid help treat acne?

Numerous skincare acids can treat acne, many of which are available easily in the market. 

In general, it is the most popular beta-hydroxy acid for exfoliating the skin, treating acne, and keeping pores free of debris.

How Does Salicylic Acid Work For Acne?

In addition to being naturally occurring—found in white willow bark and wintergreen—salicylic acid can also be synthesized in a lab.

The ability to penetrate the follicle makes it especially effective for treating acne. The follicles are stimulated to shed dead skin cells, keep pores clean,  provide deep cleaning, rejuvenate the skin and promote cell regeneration.

Blackheads and non-inflamed breakouts are the best candidates for it. In addition, it reduces inflammation and oil production.

Despite its effectiveness, salicylic acid by itself is not the best acne treatment.  But its reputation relies on its ability to aid other acne-fighting ingredients in penetrating the skin.

Who is salicylic acid best for?

People with oily or acne-prone skin benefit greatly from salicylic acid, and in particular, it can treat and prevent blackheads, whiteheads and Non-inflamed breakouts.

The ingredients can cause bothersome rashes and further dry out the skin on those with dry or sensitive skin, so use with caution and always consult your dermatologist.

Who should avoid using salicylic acid?

There is a risk of using too much salicylic acid, which can become problematic.

It’s main side effect is the irritation and drying out of the skin in those who are extremely sensitive to it or overuse it. Dryness, redness, peeling and some irritation are possible with frequent applications. 

Therefore, it may not be suitable for people whose skin is already quite dry or sensitive. Pregnant women should avoid it completely.

How long does it take for salicylic acid to work?

It is impossible to achieve flawless skin overnight, it takes time. The results will likely be evident in four to six weeks, after which you need to continue using it.

Give it a fair run at least for one month, before starting to think about the next step.

(But as always, consult your dermatologist before making any such long term commitments.)

How Frequently To Use Salicylic Acid?

If you are new to it, you should gradually incorporate it into your routine (like once every three days until you are sure your skin can tolerate it).

The frequency may also vary based on the formulation of the product. Dermatologists recommend caution and supervision in the case of people with sensitive skin or those with naturally dry skin.

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