The Surprising Benefits of Salicylic Acid

August 18, 2016
By: Jackie Burns Brisman | by L'Oréal
The Surprising Benefits of Salicylic Acid

Salicylic acid. We reach for products formulated with this common acne-fighting ingredient when we see the first signs of a pimple, but what is it actually and how does it work? To find out more about this beta-hydroxy acid we turned to consultant, board-certified dermatologist, Dr. Dhaval Bhanusali.

What Is Salicylic Acid?

Bhanusali tells us that there are two types of acids in skin care, alpha-hydroxy acids—like glycolic and lactic acids—and beta-hydroxy acids. These acids are used for different purposes but the one thing they have in common is that they are awesome exfoliators. “Salicylic acid is the main beta-hydroxy acid,” he says. “It is a great keratolytic which means it helps remove excess dead skin cells from skin’s surface and gently exfoliates clogged pores.” This is why salicylic acid is a go-to to reduce breakouts and blemishes…but that’s not all this BHA can do.

The Benefits of Salicylic Acid

“Salicylic acid is great for blackheads,” Bhanusali explains. “It forces out all of the debris clogging the pores.” Next time you’re dealing with a blackhead, instead of trying to squeeze it out—and potentially giving yourself a lasting scar—consider giving a product formulated with salicylic acid a try to decongest those pores. We like SkinCeuticals’ Blemish + Age Defense Salicylic Acid Acne Treatment ($90) which is ideal for aging skin that is prone to breakouts.

Speaking of salicylic acid and aging skin, Dr. Bhanusali tells us that the popular BHA is also great for softening the feel of skin and giving you that tight, firm feeling after cleansing.

The benefits of the BHA don’t stop there. Our consulting dermatologist says that because it’s such a great exfoliator, he recommends it for patients who want to soften calluses on their feet since it can help to remove excess dead skin cell buildup on the heels.

Before you go overboard, listen to a few of the doctor’s words of warning. “[Salicylic acid] can certainly be very drying,” he says, so use it as directed and keep your skin hydrated with moisturizing creams and serums. Also, remember to always use sunscreen with broad-spectrum SPF each morning, especially when using products formulated with salicylic acid!  

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