Salicylic acid is a common ingredient in a range of skincare products. You’ll often find it in concentrations of up to 2% in skincare products suitable for spot-prone skin. It can also be found in other products, such as cleansers, lotions, haircare products, and even sunscreen.
If you’re looking for clearer skin, it could be a good choice – but it’s also important to understand what salicylic acid is and how to use it, before you introduce it to your skincare routine. Here, we’ll talk through the properties, uses, and benefits of salicylic acid in detail.
In this guide:
- What is salicylic acid?
- What is salicylic acid good for?
- Skincare products with salicylic acid
- How to use salicylic acid
- Salicylic acid FAQs
What is salicylic acid?
Saliyclic acid belongs to a wider class of ingredients called salicycates. These are found naturally in fruit and vegetables – including everything from avocado to aubergine, as well as coffee, cheese, and even spices.
In the world of health and beauty, you’ll find natural and synthetic salicylates in a range of common painkillers and cosmetic products. Some people are allergic to salicylates – so it’s important to use salicylate acid products cautiously at first.
Salicylic acid is also a beta-hydroxy acid, or a BHA. Beta-hydroxy acids act as gentle chemical exfoliators – an important property for skincare aimed at preventing the formation of spots.
What is salicylic acid good for?
As a chemical exfoliator, salicylic acid helps clear follicles of dead skin cells and debris. It can also help to prevent blemishes and has purifying properties. This sets it apart from mechanical exfoliation tools, like brushes and scrubs, which rely on friction to exfoliate skin and remove pore blockages.
Salicylic acid can also soften and loosen dry, scaly, and thickened skin. This can be useful for dandruff. It’s worth noting that topical salicylic acid should not be used for warts with hairs growing in them, warts on the face, moles, or birthmarks
Salicylic acid benefits
Salicylic acid is used in a range of skincare products, toiletries, and medicines to address and help a variety of issues including:
- Prevent breakouts
- Balance excess oil on skin
- Very dry, flaky skin
- Calluses and hard skin on your heels.
Skincare products with salicylic acid
You’ll find salicylic acid in a range of everyday skincare products including:
- Cleansers and facial washes – an essential part of your morning and evening cleansing routine.
- Toners – great for tightening pores and rooting out dirt, grime, and blackheads.
- Exfoliators and scrubs – exfoliate dead skin cells and clear pores at the same time.
- Moisturisers – improves hydration and helps ease dry, itchy skin.
- Spot creams and gels – for targeted exfoliating action on spots.
- Skin serums – apply a thin layer daily to help clear pores and prevent breakouts.
- Anti-dandruff shampoos – relieve flaking, itching, and dryness of the scalp.
How to use salicylic acid
If you get breakouts or blackheads salicylic acid can be a good choice for your skincare routine. But it’s worth proceeding with caution at first, as salicylates can provoke allergic reactions on some people.
It’s therefore recommended that you do an initial spot test. Apply a small amount of salicylic acid product to one or two small areas for three days. If you have any reaction, stop using the product immediately and contact a doctor or pharmacist. If there’s no reaction or irritation, you can continue using the product regularly.
To use salicylic acid creams, lotions, and gels, follow these simple steps up to twice a day:
- First, gently wash the affected area.
- Apply the product as per the instructions.
- Wash your hands after use.
To use cleansers containing salicylic acid:
- Wet the affected area.
- Follow the instructions on the product for guidance on the amount to use.
- Gently rub the cleanser into your skin
- Rinse thoroughly, avoiding the eyes and mouth.
- Lightly pat dry
Salicylic acid FAQs
Is salicylic acid good for spot-prone skin?
Most salicylic acid products are suitable for spot-prone skin – and can be used either independently or alongside other products. It works by helping the skin shed dead cells, clearing pores, and preventing pores from getting blocked.
Can you use salicylic acid every day?
Depending on your skin type, it should be fine to use salicylic acid products multiple times a day. If your skin is prone to dryness or irritation, consider applying it less frequently.
Can products with salicylic acid be used with other skincare ingredients?
Yes, salicylic acid can be used effectively alongside other skincare ingredients. NEUTROGENA® Visibly Clear® Spot Stress Control® Daily Scrub combines salicylic and glycolic acids to exfoliate dead skin cells, remove oil and dirt, and prevent further breakouts.
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