If you’re struggling with acne, allow us to introduce you to the over the counter MVP, salicylic acid. It’s one of the most commonly used ingredients in skincare, and it can be very effective in treating certain types of acne and other skin care conditions. But what is salicylic acid and why is it so powerful? We’ve got answers for you.
What is salicylic acid?
Derived from the chemical compound Salicin, Salicylic Acid is found naturally in willow tree bark. It’s a beta hydroxy acid (BHA), meaning it’s oil-soluble and able to penetrate the skin deeper, in comparison to alpha hydroxy acids, which are water-soluble. It actually contains the same anti-inflammatory ingredients that you find in Aspirin (acetylsalicylic acid), which is what gives salicylic acid its antibacterial and drying effects — two important factors when it comes to treating acne.
The ingredient is also a keratolytic, which means that it dissolves or breaks down keratin, the protein that makes up the outer layer of skin.
What makes salicylic acid such a go-to skin care ingredient?
Salicylic acid is effective on all skin types, but most notable for the way it treats acne. The acid is able to crystallize and penetrate into our pores to clear out the bacteria and dead skin cells that get trapped in our skin’s sebum and lead to blackheads and whiteheads.
In addition to treating all sorts of acne, salicylic acid can also be used to treat everything from dandruff, seborrheic dermatitis, keratosis pilaris, and psoriasis to calluses, corns, and other conditions related to the build up of excess skin cells. Because of those keratolytic properties — salicylic is able to easily exfoliate and detach dead skin cells from our live ones.
Where can I find salicylic acid?
Salicylic acid can be found in so many products — acne cleansers, body washes, treatment sprays and spot treatments, to name a few. When opting for a salicylic acid-based product, the amount of salicylic acid in that product is important to note. A common mistake people make is immediately choosing the product with the highest percentage of the ingredient. Over-the-counter salicylic acid products will contain anywhere between 0.5% and 2%.
For acne on the face, SLMD's Salicylic Acid Cleanser is great for treating and preventing breakouts, while exfoliating without leaving skin feeling dry or stripped. It also comes in a 2 oz. size - perfect if you're on the go and still want to upkeep your regimen. To take the next step, try SLMD's Resurfacing Acne Swipes, which is formulated with BHA's Glycolic Acid and Lactic Acid, making it the perfect concoction for clearing away dead skin buildup and gunk, that turns into acne.
For acne on the body, SLMD's Salicylic Acid Body Spray, formulated with 2% Salicylic Acid, is a great choice for clearing away bacteria and debris that has gathered on their skin and could be potentially clogging pores, leading to acne. Body products are made with a higher percentage of Salicylic Acid because the skin on the body is stronger than the face, and can handle a higher percentage of active ingredients. SLMD's Salicylic Acid Spot Treatment, made with 2% Salicylic Acid, is ideal for those looking to strongly target a specific pimple or lighten/improve a dark spot.
Who benefits most from using salicylic acid?
Salicylic Acid is highly recommended by our founder, Dr. Sandra Lee, among many other knowledgable dermatologists. It's a gentle exfoliant safe for all skin types. Like we said, it’s the most beneficial for tackling acne, unclogging your pores, and maintaining overall skin texture. However, as mentioned before, it can also be used to treat dandruff, seborrhea, psoriasis, etc.