Is Salicylic Acid Good for Your Skin?
Want to get a handle on your breakouts? Cue in a powerful acne-fighting ingredient like salicylic acid. Below, we share everything you need to know about salicylic acid and how you can incorporate it into your routine at home.
Let’s be real, “acid” is a scary word. It might bring you back to your high school days of chemistry class— quizzes on the periodic table of elements, experiments, and a lot of memorization— but regardless, acids are probably not something you regularly think of to put on your face. Acids are powerful, no doubt, but believe it or not certain acids can actually be beneficial for the complexion, and it’s likely that some of the products you may be using are formulated with one. Although there is an assortment of skin care acids (we break the main ones down here), one commonly found in skin care products is salicylic acid.
Perhaps most commonly associated with fighting acne blemishes, salicylic acid is found in a wide range of acne-fighting products like cleansers and spot treatments. However salicylic acid isn’t just limited to helping kick blemishes to the curb. Curious to find out what else this ingredient is capable of doing for your skin? You’ve come to the right place! Read on to learn more about salicylic acid.
What Is Salicylic Acid?
Salicylic acid, also known as Beta Hydroxy Acid, is an over-the-counter ingredient found in a variety of skin care products including cleansers, scrubs, moisturizers, and cleansing cloths. 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.
Is Salicylic Acid an Exfoliant?
An exfoliant of sorts, 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, but without abrasive grains or mechanical exfoliants found in some scrubs. Its exfoliating properties make it a great ingredient to look for if you have acne-prone skin to help reduce the number of acne blemishes. Chemical exfoliants, like salicylic acid, are also great for those that may become irritated by mechanical exfoliation like scrubs or cleansing devices.
How to Incorporate Salicylic Acid Into Your Routine
Like we mentioned, salicylic acid can be found in a wide range of skin care products formulas. If you battle with acne, or simply want to rotate a chemical exfoliant into your routine, there are plenty of products out there that can help bring salicylic acid into your routine. Below, we share a few of our favorite products—from the L’Oreal portfolio of brands—formulated with salicylic acid.
ACNEFREE DAILY SKIN THERAPY ACNE WASH
Make breakouts a concern of the past with AcneFree’s Daily Skin Therapy Acne Wash. Its formula––with salicylic acid––removes dirt and oil and purifies the skin. The best part? It helps new acne blemishes from forming, thanks to its pore-targeting technology.
AcneFree Daily Skin Therapy Acne Wash, $20.97 MSRP
CERAVE RENEWING SA LOTION
When bumpy, rough skin becomes a major concern, reach for an exfoliating lotion to address the issue head-on. Our recommendation? CeraVe’s SA Lotion for Rough & Bumpy Skin. Powered by three essential ceramides, saliycylic acid and vitamin D, you can bet this lotion works to exfoliate and moisturize your skin, all while helping to restore the protective skin barrier.
CeraVe Renewing SA Lotion, $14.81 MSRP
SKINCEUTICALS BLEMISH + AGE DEFENSE
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 signs of aging skin like fine lines, wrinkles, and uneven skin tone. For best practices, use morning and night after cleansing and before moisturizing.
SkinCeuticals Blemish + Age Defense, $90 MSRP
SKINCEUTICALS CLARIFYING CLEANSER
Searching high and low for a cleanser that can help banish breakouts? Turn to SkinCeuticals Clarifying Cleanser–– an acne-fighting cleanser 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.
SkinCeuticals Clarifying Cleanser, $64 MSRP
VICHY NORMADERM GEL CLEANSER
Your pores are less likely to become clogged if they’re kept clean daily. That’s why we like turning to a powerful face wash morning and night, like Vichy’s Normaderm Gel Cleanser. The formula helps to deeply cleanse the skin. But beyond being formulated with salicylic acid, the foaming gel formula also boasts glycolic acid and LHA. What you won’t find inside? Soap, parabens, alcohol and oil.
Vichy Normaderm Gel Cleanser, $18 MSRP
GARNIER SKINACTIVE CLEAN + BLACKHEAD ELIMINATING SCRUB
Between summer sweat and smog, there’s no telling what’s clogging up your pores. Tohelp rid your skin of surface impurities, reach for Garnier’s SkinActive Clean + Blackhead Eliminating Scrub–– a formula powered by charcoal that unclogs pores and smooths the skin. After one week, you’ll be pleased to discover that your pores will look visibly diminished, with a complexion that appears clearer.
KIEHL’S BLUE HERBAL SPOT TREATMENT
Powered by 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 more comfortable.
Kiehl’s Blue Herbal Spot Treatment, $18 MSRP
LA ROCHE-POSAY EFFACLAR MEDICATED GEL CLEANSER
Kick excess oil to the curb with La Roche-Posay’s Effaclar Medicated Gel Cleanser, a medicated formula that targets excess oil and helps clear acne breakouts. The formula––with salicylic acid and micro-exfoliating LHA––deeply cleanses and diminishes breakouts to reveal skin 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 and follow up with a moisturizer.
La Roche-Posay Effaclar Medicated Gel Cleanser, $14.99 MSRP
LA ROCHE-POSAY EFFACLAR CLARIFYING SOLUTION
Don’t let clogged pores wreak havoc on your complexion any longer. You can address this issue in a cinch with La Roche-Posay’s Effaclar Clarifying Solution. The formula––powered by salicylic acid and glycolic acid––smooths the skin’s texture and gently exfoliates. As a result, pores are cleared and appear diminished, breakouts are reduced, and the skin feels smoother and looks healthier.
La Roche-Posay Effaclar Clarifying Solution, $14.99 MSRP
For the best instructions on how to use each product, consult the product label. Since using multiple formulas formulated with 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.