Salicylic acid is one of the best tools at your disposal when you notice a spot or pimple appearing on your face. It can be slathered on and is one of acne’s biggest enemies, but what does it actually do and what kind of acne is it best for? And most importantly, is it right for your skin?
What is Salicylic Acid?
Salicylic acid is a BHA (beta-hydroxy acid) – of which there is two types; one can be used to gently exfoliate the skin, evening and smoothing out skin tone (alpha-hydroxy acid) and another which is used to exfoliate, as an antibacterial and to unclog pores (beta). Salicylic acid is popular due to its ability to gently exfoliate the surface of your skin and unclog pores on oily or acne-prone skin. The structure of the compound is oil soluble, which means it can penetrate deep into the pores of skin and dissolve some of the intercellular ‘glue’ that holds skin cells together. This loosens the outer layers of the skin, meaning it is perfect for exfoliation and the unclogging of pores, and combats the way acne is formed; by cells not removing themselves as they would in a healthy skin cycle.
What Types of Skin is Salicylic Acid For?
As salicylic acid is an anti-inflammatory it can be used on sensitive or dry skin, however very sparingly because it can be slightly drying or irritating. It is best suited for those with acne-prone skin (oily or combination), as well as those suffering from blackheads and whiteheads by dissolving keratin plugs and regulating skin cells.
Too much salicylic acid can become a problem; skin can become dry, red and irritable for both those overusing it and those who use too large a dose on sensitive skin.
How to Use Salicylic Acid?
Be sure to choose a product with a salicylic concentration of 0.5 to 2 percent at first. Also, if you use a lot of exfoliators, lay off the scrubs for a while as the product is likely to make your skin feel thinner.
As with most skincare products, be sure to clean and dry your skin before application. We already know not to apply too much, so start off with a thin layer – after first applying the acid you will most likely feel a tingly feeling and perhaps a little stinging. This is nothing to worry about, as long as it goes away within a few minutes.
After a few applications, your skin will become used to it and you won’t have to worry about this feeling, but if you are worried just be sure to start with a small concentration.
It is worth noting that use of salicylic acid has been shown to increase the skin’s sensitivity to damage from the sun. When using such products, it is highly recommended that you use sun protection when appropriate.
The hard-working ingredient can be found in many acne treatments and some anti-dandruff treatments. Now you know how to use it, be sure to check out some of our favourites for your skin and hair: