Whether you’re at the drugstore, skincare retailer or with your Dermatologist, searching for the right acne product is a key part of treating your skin. There are many different treatment options and even more variety when it comes to acne products and their ingredients. And, though it can be tricky, knowing which ingredients to look for will take some of the confusion out of your hunt for the perfect product. In acne products, one of the most commonly used ingredients is salicylic acid, which can be very effective in treating certain types of breakouts and pimples.

How does it work?

Salicylic acid, which is found naturally in the bark of willow trees, is an effective ingredient against acne and breakouts for the following reasons:

  • Salicylic acid is an anti-inflammatory. It contains the same anti-inflammatory ingredients that you find in aspirin (acetylsalicylic acid) which gives it its antibacterial and drying effects – two important factors when it comes to treating acne.
  • Salicylic acid is a keratolytic. It dissolves or breaks down keratin, a protein that makes up the outer layer of skin, and has exfoliating effects.

Is Salicylic Acid for me?

As salicylic acid can effectively unclog pores, it tends to be great for blackheads and whiteheads as it works to “un-stick” skin cells in pores. But, it can also be helpful for more inflammatory and bacteria-based cystic acne. 

How much is enough?

Over-the-counter salicylic acid products will vary in 0.5% to 2% salicylic acid, thus products can range from mild to maximum strength acne treatments. If you are just beginning to use products with salicylic acid, remember that it has drying effects on the skin so starting with a mild dosage is best and often just as effective. BUT, it depends on the product! Salicylic acid can be found in acne cleansers, lotions, and spot treatments. In general, an acne cleanser, such as the SLMD 0.5% Salicylic Acid Acne Cleanser, is effective at a lower percentage as it is washed off the skin immediately and still has its anti-bacterial cleansing effects while working for both dry and oily skin types. For maximum efficacy, after cleansing with a salicylic acid cleanser, you should follow with a topical treatment that contains acne fighting ingredients as well. Most acne systems/routines will include these products among others for maximum effectiveness.

What about non-acne products that contain Salicylic Acid?

In addition to treating acne, salicylic acid is a useful ingredient that can also be found in products to treat dandruff, seborrheic dermatitis, psoriasis, calluses, corns, keratosis pilaris and others. If looking for a salicylic acid product, you should always be sure to choose one that was formulated for your skin condition.


The SLMD Acne Cleanser works gently to cleanse pores, removing traces of dirt and oil to help minimize bacteria without drying the skin. A gentle but powerful .5% salicylic acid formula works to enhance the skin’s texture and cleanse thoroughly without irritation.

Click here to shop the SLMD Acne Cleanser.

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