What is Salicylic Acid: Uses in skin care cosmetics and how to use it correctly

by Johnny Jacks
Salicylic acid frequently appears in the ingredient lists of skincare products. However, what exactly is salicylic acid, and how does it function on the skin? Well, not everyone is aware of this. Let’s find out together!

Axit salicylic.

Axit Salicylic.

What is salicylic acid?

In essence, salicylic acid is a beta hydroxy acid, also known as BHA. It is a derivative of aspirin and possesses anti-inflammatory properties. Its primary function is exfoliation without causing pore blockage.

Research suggests that salicylic acid is derived from willow bark, which belongs to a group of substances known as salicylates. This molecular structure is crucial as it renders salicylic acid more compatible with oil. Consequently, BHAs are oil-soluble and can easily penetrate the lipid layers between cells and into the skin’s pores. In simpler terms, oil-soluble elements have the capability to permeate the skin more deeply than water-soluble components.

Benefits of Salicylic Acid for Skin

Salicylic acid proves effective in treating acne

Salicylic acid is widely recognized as a common and popular component in acne products. This active ingredient swiftly alleviates the redness and swelling caused by acne. Additionally, it serves as an efficient anti-inflammatory agent in addressing acne blemishes on the skin.

Moreover, this compound has the capacity to regulate excess oil production, cleanse pores, and maintain the skin’s surface dryness. These functions effectively aid in the prevention and treatment of acne. Not only that, salicylic acid’s ability to permeate and cleanse pores helps to loosen the core of acne, facilitating easier pimple extraction. Consequently, this process reduces skin inflammation during acne extraction.

Salicylic acid helps exfoliate to treat acne.

Salicylic acid helps exfoliate to treat acne.

Salicylic acid aids in skin exfoliation

As we are aware, the accumulation of dead cells on the skin contributes to its dryness and itchiness. Salicylic acid serves as an excellent remedy for this issue. It softens the top layer of dead skin, promoting the shedding of this layer. Consequently, new, healthier, and brighter cells have the optimal environment to thrive. As a result, your skin becomes free of impurities, bacteria, appears brighter, and feels smoother.

Aside from addressing dry and itchy skin, Salicylic Acid also impacts oily skin. Specifically, it penetrates oily skin, deeply cleansing impurities and aiding in pore refinement. Additionally, it regulates excessive oil production beneath the skin, effectively reducing acne, alleviating inflammation, and soothing skin irritations.

Regulates sebum production for the skin

Upon application to the skin, salicylic acid disrupts the bonds between fatty acids such as sebum and natural oils. Consequently, this active ingredient possesses the capability to eliminate and regulate sebum on the skin. This feature makes it an essential component for oily and acne-prone skin.

Salicylic Acid - The "panacea" that fades scars and tightens pores (Photo: Internet)

Salicylic Acid – The “panacea” that fades scars and tightens pores (Photo: Internet)

Salicylic acid aids in unclogging pores

Due to its deep-penetrating capability, salicylic acid effectively cleanses and aids in the unclogging of pores. This active ingredient also stimulates the circulation process, facilitating the removal of sebum, impurities, and residues from cosmetics within the pores. Consequently, it efficiently and swiftly cleanses the face from deep within.

Assists in diminishing scars

With salicylic acid, dark spots, acne scars, and freckles gradually fade and show significant improvement. This active ingredient is highly regarded for its capacity to lighten and even out skin tone.

Which skin types should use Salicylic Acid? (Photo: Internet)

Which skin types should use Salicylic Acid? (Photo: Internet)

When is the appropriate time to use salicylic acid?

Products containing salicylic acid can be used both in the morning and evening. However, caution must be exercised when using it during the day, as salicylic acid can increase skin sensitivity to sunlight. Therefore, when applying this ingredient during the day, it is essential to use sunscreen and take careful protective measures.

If you have sensitive skin, it is advisable to limit the use of products containing salicylic acid in the evening. Additionally, always carefully read the information and adhere to the usage instructions for each product. While the frequency of use may vary for each product, it is recommended to use it a maximum of two times per day.

What is the safe amount of BHA in cosmetics? (Photo: Internet)

What is the safe amount of BHA in cosmetics? (Photo: Internet)

Permissible concentration of salicylic acid in cosmetics

Salicylic acid is commonly utilized in various topical products, gels, and cosmetics in specific concentrations. The permissible levels of salicylic acid in these product forms are as follows:

  • Soap: 1%
  • Cream, lotion: 2%, 6%
  • Shampoo: 2%, 3%, 6%
  • Foam: 6%
  • Salicylic ointment: 3%, 5%
  • Topical gel: 1%, 2%, 3%, 6%, 17%, 17.6%
  • Topical solution: 2%, 3%, 16.7%, 17%, 17.6%
  • Patches: 0.5%, 1%

How to use salicylic acid precisely as recommended by experts

Salicylic acid is frequently present in skincare products like cleansers, toners, serums, and moisturizers. This active ingredient also plays a crucial role in chemical exfoliants known as AHA/BHA.

To maximize the efficacy of salicylic acid, it’s essential to allow it to absorb into the skin for at least 10 minutes. Therefore, cleanser products are less effective. For other salicylic acid-containing products, follow the skincare routine outlined below for the best outcomes.

You need to follow the correct skincare regimen with salicylic acid (Image: Internet)

You need to follow the correct skincare regimen with salicylic acid (Image: Internet)

  • Step 1: Cleanse your skin using a gentle, low pH cleanser suitable for your skin type.
  • Step 2: If you plan to use skincare products containing vitamin C, apply them first.  After approximately 20 minutes, use a product containing salicylic acid.
  • Step 3: If the product containing salicylic acid is in the form of a gel or cream, apply a pea-sized amount and gently massage it in an upward motion. If the product is in liquid form, use a cotton pad and gently dab it on your face.
  • Step 4: Allow approximately 15 to 30 minutes for the salicylic acid to penetrate the skin and work on exfoliating and balancing the skin’s pH. After applying salicylic acid, there is no need to rinse it off.

For optimal results, incorporate the use of salicylic acid into your daily skincare routine as follows: Serum > Lotion > Sunscreen (during the daytime).

Distinguishing Between Salicylic Acid and Benzoyl Peroxide

Do these two ingredients have the same effect? Probably not. Although both can assist in treating acne, they are not interchangeable. Therefore, before commencing any treatment, it’s important to understand the specific uses of each.

What is Benzoyl Peroxide?

In general, Benzoyl Peroxide is deemed one of the most effective treatments for inflammatory acne, as per Greenfield. However, it’s crucial to note that over-the-counter products containing Benzoyl Peroxide often lead to dry skin. Follow the guidance of your dermatologist and exercise caution when selecting products from the pharmacy.

Benzoyl Peroxide is one of the most effective treatments for inflammatory acne.

Benzoyl Peroxide is one of the most effective treatments for inflammatory acne.

As a general guideline, Manhattan dermatologist Susan Bard suggests using a concentration of 2.5-5% Benzoyl Peroxide for the face and 5-10% for the body. Many experts also propose combining Retinoids with Benzoyl Peroxide products. “Retinoids are an inhibitory ingredient, meaning they break down and clear facial skin right down to clogged pores,” explains Bard.

Differentiate the basic Benzoyl Peroxide and Salicylic Acid (Image: Internet)

Differentiate the basic Benzoyl Peroxide and Salicylic Acid (Image: Internet)

Differentiating Basic Benzoyl Peroxide and Salicylic Acid

Fundamentally, Salicylic Acid serves as a mild exfoliator and is also compatible with Retinoid products. “Salicylic acid is suitable for mild acne, so opt for products containing up to 2% Salicylic Acid,” advises Bard. However, she cautions that unforeseen reactions may occur, emphasizing the importance of consulting a dermatologist before usage. Dr. Schlessinger further suggests that individuals with excessively oily skin may consider using a higher concentration of Salicylic Acid, with some products containing concentrations as high as 5%.

Nevertheless, it’s crucial to remember that Salicylic Acid is an acid. This implies that using it in overly potent concentrations or incorrectly can result in burns. In other words, consulting a dermatologist is the best approach to address your skin concerns.

Read more: How to Whiten Skin with Tomatoes

Side effects of salicylic acid in skincare products

When utilizing Salicylic Acid, users may encounter undesirable side effects. Some less common or rare side effects include:

  • Moderate or severe skin irritation not present before using these products
  • Shortness of breath
  • Fainting
  • Dry and itchy facial skin
  • Redness
  • Swelling of the eyes, face, lips, or tongue
  • Ancient Khan
  • Unusually warm skin

There are also a couple of more common side effects:

  • Mild skin irritation not present before using these products
  • Stinging

Certain drug side effects may not necessitate immediate medical attention, as the body can gradually adjust to the medication, leading to the eventual disappearance of the side effects. However, if any of the above symptoms persist or worsen while using the medication, it is imperative to seek immediate emergency assistance, as it could be potentially hazardous.

Many individuals use salicylic acid without experiencing any of the mentioned side effects. If you have any concerns, it is advisable to consult your doctor or pharmacist to ensure your safety.

What to do for irritated skin when using Salicylic Acid? (Photo: Internet)

What to do for irritated skin when using Salicylic Acid? (Photo: Internet)

Notes for using Salicylic Acid (BHA) to treat acne

Before using any medication, it is essential to understand its origin, source, and associated warnings. For Salicylic Acid, it is crucial to be aware of the following:

What to do if your skin becomes irritated while using Salicylic Acid?

If you exhibit signs of an allergic reaction while using Salicylic Acid, such as reactions to dyes or preservatives, promptly inform your doctor or dermatologist. Before use, carefully read the ingredients to ensure safety.

Furthermore, it is advisable to conduct a patch test with a small amount of salicylic acid on your skin for a day or two to check for any potential irritation. Discontinue use and consult a specialist if you experience itching, redness, or burning.

Can salicylic acid be used on children?

Children are more susceptible to absorbing salicylic acid through the skin, making it crucial to avoid applying it to large areas of the body for prolonged durations, especially under tight clothing. Therefore, excessive use of salicylic acid in children, particularly those under 2 years of age, is not recommended.

Who should avoid using salicylic acid for acne?

Although current studies have not shown any issues with this medication in the elderly, caution is advised when administering this drug to patients with a predisposition to age-related vascular diseases.

How frequently should salicylic acid be used?

While salicylic acid offers numerous skincare benefits, it can also significantly impact skin texture and may lead to unwanted side effects. Consequently, it should be used with caution and patience, limiting usage to a maximum frequency of 2 to 3 times per week.

However, products containing salicylic acid may be used more frequently. If your skin reacts well, you can use it daily at night. Conversely, limit usage to 2 to 3 times per week if adverse reactions occur.

Through the above information, we have provided comprehensive insights into salicylic acid. It is an excellent ingredient for acne treatment and effective skin nourishment. However, it is crucial to adhere to the tips and guidelines outlined in this article. We hope you achieve healthy, radiant skin, and always exude confidence and radiance!

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