Is Salicylic Acid Good for Your Skin?
Let’s be real, “acid” is a scary word. It reminds us of our high school days of chemistry class and sounds like the last thing we’d want to put on our face. But in reality, acids can be beneficial for our complexion, which is why so many skin-care products are formulated with them. One of the most popular types of acids you’ll see is salicylic acid. If you’re unsure about what it actually does for your skin, you’ve come to the right place. Keep reading for the full lowdown on salicylic acid, including some of our favorite products to try.
What Is Salicylic Acid?
In skin care there are two classifications of acids that are used to exfoliate the skin. There are alpha-hydroxy-acids (AHAs), which are exfoliating acids typically derived from sources like milk, sugar cane and fruit, and they are generally recommended for either dry, sun damaged or aging skin types. Then, there are beta-hydroxy-acids (BHAs), which are oil-soluble and great for oily, acne-prone skin.
Salicylic acid is a beta-hydroxy-acid that can be found in a wide range of skin-care products including cleansers, scrubs, serums and moisturizers. According to board-certified dermatologist and Skincare.com consultant Dr. Dhaval Bhanusali, salicylic acid is the main beta-hydroxy-acid. “It is a great keratolytic, which means it helps remove excess dead skin cells from skin’s surface and gently exfoliates clogged pores,” he says.
So, Salicylic Acid Is an Exfoliant?
Yes, salicylic acid is a chemical exfoliant, meaning it can exfoliate the layer of dead skin cells on the surface of the skin that can clog pores without abrasive grains or physical exfoliants found in some scrubs. Its exfoliating properties make it a great ingredient to look for if you have acne-prone skin and want to reduce the number of blemishes you experience.
What Percentage of Salicylic Acid Is Good for Acne?
Salicylic acid can be included in your skin-care products at different dosages. According to the Mayo Clinic, try using products with anywhere between .5 to 2% of salicylic acid when targeting acne. If you have sensitive skin, start with a lower percentage and work your way up.
How Does Salicylic Acid Differ From Benzoyl Peroxide?
While salicylic acid and benzoyl peroxide have many similarities (they’re both great for targeting acne), there are some differences. The biggest one is that benzoyl peroxide has antibacterial properties. Benzoyl peroxide works to kill acne-causing bacteria, whereas salicylic acid chemically dissolves dead skin cells that can clog the pores and eventually cause pimples.
Our Favorite Products With Salicylic Acid
If you’re looking for a salicylic acid cleanser, try this one. It’s a blemish-fighting wash created for acne-prone skin types. Formulated with salicylic acid, glycolic acid and mandelic acids, the formula helps unclog pores, lift dirt and debris and improve the appearance of problematic skin.
When bumpy, rough skin becomes a major concern, reach for an exfoliating lotion to address the issue. Our recommendation? The CeraVe SA Lotion for Rough & Bumpy Skin. Powered by three essential ceramides, salicylic acid and vitamin D, this lotion works to exfoliate and moisturize your skin, all while helping to restore the protective skin barrier.
This salicylic acne treatment is just what you need if you’re experiencing visible signs of aging. In addition to helping target adult acne, the formula also works to diminish fine lines, wrinkles and uneven skin tone.
Formulated with salicylic acid, frankincense and ginger root, Kiehl’s Blue Herbal Spot Treatment helps clear acne blemishes, blackheads and whiteheads. The result? Skin that appears clearer and feels better.
Kick excess oil to the curb with La Roche-Posay’s Effaclar Medicated Gel Cleanser. The formula is made with salicylic acid to deeply cleanse and diminish breakouts and reveal skin that looks even and smooth. To use, cleanse twice a day and work the product into a lather, massaging all areas of the skin and avoiding the eyes. Rinse well.
After you’ve cleansed, follow up with a toner formulated with salicylic acid. This one smooths the skin’s texture and gently exfoliates. As a result, your pores will look smaller, you’ll experience fewer breakouts and your skin will feel smooth.
For the best results on how to use each product, consult the product label. Because using multiple formulas containing salicylic acid at once may cause dryness, we don’t recommend using the above formulas in the same routine. In addition, be sure to use all salicylic acid products as directed and keep your skin hydrated with moisturizing creams and serums. The ingredient can also cause skin sensitivity to sunlight, so remember to always apply broad-spectrum SPF 15 or higher every morning. Take additional sun protection measures as well, like wearing protective clothing, seeking shade and avoiding peak sun hours.
Designer: Hannah Packer