What Is Salicylic Acid? Its Skin Benefits and the Best Products to Buy

Farida Abdel Malek
9/30/19, 12:00 AM

I have to be honest, before writing this my knowledge of salicylic acid was that it’s The Ordinary bottle I have in my bathroom, which I apply before bed and wake up with much better looking skin.

I have also heard about it being a component of other products I really like, like the La Roche-Posay Effaclar Duo. So what is salicylic acid? Why is it loved and great for acne and balancing skin? I did my research and now lets break it down...

What is salicylic acid?

It is a beta hydroxy acid or BHA, which means it's an exfoliating acid. It comes from willow bark and Randy Schueller, cosmetic chemist tells Allure that the meaning of a beta hydroxy acid is that the molecule is separated by two carbon atoms unlike AHA, alpha hydroxy acid, which is separated by one. This is why salicylic acid is an oil-soluble acid and hence known for its power to penetrate deeply into our pores. It also has antibacterial functions and falls under the same division of drugs as aspirin.

What are the benefits of salicylic acid for the skin?

First and foremost it is a great exfoliant. Its exfoliating properties is why everyone loves it. It goes deep into the walls of the pores to unclog them and helps with blackheads, whiteheads and blocked pores in general. By unclogging the pores it helps them appear smaller because they are no longer as enlarged and visible due to the clogged dead skin.

It also soothes out the skin, softens it and helps -with continued use- the reduction of breakouts. It enhances the skin's appearance, clarity and balance with minimizing blemishes and imperfections. It is also known to help with hyper-pigmentation and, with prolonged use, it could decrease aging signs like fine lines and wrinkles because it can promote the growth of collagen.

Cons of salicylic acid?

Yes, it help reduce mild acne and limit possible further breakouts however, people with sensitive skin should be wary. Its exfoliating properties can be irritants for people with sensitive skin. Skincare products are only allowed a small concentration of salicylic acid so it doesn't overly exfoliate or peel the skin.

Some products, however, put that into account and make sure it is gentle and not too drying for sensitive skin users. However, you should always patch test, try it in moderation without applying too much and try as much as possible to focus only on the areas that need it. Also, make sure you hydrate so that if the product dries out too much of the oil, you can substitute with moisture so your skin doesn't get too dry.

Of course, like with any product, you should always consult your doctor, especially if you're pregnant, or with any special conditions and make sure you're not allergic to salicylic acid, aspirin, or any similar drugs.

How to add salicylic acid it into your beauty routine?

The brilliance of salicylic acid is its multipurpose usage and benefits, it is included in many categories of skincare products, from cleansers, toners and moisturizers to serums, oils and masks. It is actually sometimes even used in anti-dandruff shampoo and to prevent hair loss.

When it comes to your skin, you can use it as treatment for concentrated areas of trouble by applying it directly on your spots or generally on the face to maintain clear balanced skin. However, be wary of applying too much like I mentioned above. Also, since it's an exfoliant, you don't really need any other exfoliating products in your routine so that you don't overdo it, but again it depends on the product and the salicylic acid concentration.

What are the best beauty products with Salicylic Acid?


Main Image Credits: Instagram @orionvanessa


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Farida Abdel Malek

The first time she watched "The Devil Wears Prada" around the age of 12, Farida felt something that she couldn’t quite explain at that time. She was inspired. The clothes, the hair, the makeup and of ...

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