Do’s and Don’ts about Using Salicylic Acid
Derived from willow bark, salicylic acid has been used for healing ailments since ancient times. In the 5th century BC, the Greek physician Hippocrates wrote about it, citing it as a remedy to ease aches and pains and reduce fevers, an anti-inflammatory, or to use as a mild antibiotic.
In modern medicine, salicylic acid is a key ingredient in many acne-fighting products. Over-the-counter salicylic acid products are found in strengths ranging from .5% to 2%, while prescription strength salicylic acid products may contain higher percentages of the ingredient.
How It Works
Salicylic acid works by causing the cells of the skin to shed more easily. It does this by unclogging blocked pores, neutralizing bacteria and preventing pores from blocking up again. It then constricts the pore diameter which allows room for new, healthy cell growth.
Depending on your preference, you can use either salicylic acid pads or a salicylic acid lotion, cream, or gel. Do not use both. Using several salicylic acid products will excessively dry the skin, and will not clear acne any faster. Once the skin is suitable clear, a salicylic acid wash or scrub can be used to maintain clear skin.
DID YOU KNOW…
A cotton ball soaked in salicylic acid can be used to chemically exfoliate the skin.
Take care though! Salicylic acid is not necessarily good for everyone. Using concentrated solutions of salicylic acid may cause hyperpigmentation in people with darker skin types IV, V and VI – based on the Fitzpatrick Scale of skin types. To find out what your skin types is or if your skin type is safe for salicylic acid based products, read our article on skin types first.
If you are using a salicylic acid product to treat acne, your skin may become irritated or dry at the start of treatment. To prevent this, you may apply the product less often at first, and then gradually begin to apply the product more often after your skin has adjusted to the medication. If your skin becomes dry or irritated at any time during your treatment, you should apply the product less often.
Do not apply topical salicylic acid to skin that is broken, red, swollen, irritated, or infected.
Salicylic acid is not a panacea – like all good things, if you are using topical salicylic acid to treat acne, it may take several weeks or longer for you to see the full benefit of the treatment. In some cases your acne may worsen during the first few days of treatment as your skin adjusts to the medication.
Continuous use of a salicylic acid products is necessary to obtain and maintain positive results. If you stop using your treatment product, the pores will again clog with excess oil and dead cells, and acne can return.
- Adult Acne – It’s more common than you think (healthyskinsolutions.com)
- Healthy Tips for Oily Skin (healthyskinsolutions.com)
- Do You Know Your Skin Type (healthyskinsolutions.com)