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  5. Salicylic Acid: A Wonder Ingredient For Acne!

Looking for an ingredient that solves your acne problem? Salicylic acid could be your answer.

Most anti-acne products contain salicylic acid as their key ingredient. It has the potential to treat mild to moderate acne. However, it is important to use this ingredient in the right manner. Read on to know the skin benefits of salicylic acid, its usage and side effects.


"Salicylic acid formulations are found to be well-tolerated and are effective in reducing acne lesion count throughout product usage,"

- Dr. Harish Koutam, Chief Dermatologist, SkinKraft

What Is Salicylic Acid & How Does It Work On Skin?

Salicylic acid belongs to a family of chemical exfoliants called beta hydroxy acid. It is derived from willow tree bark. Before we get into how salicylic acid works for your skin, it is essential to understand why your skin needs a chemical exfoliant.

Your skin comes in contact with germs, bacteria, debris etc. Also, the sedum oil your skin produces and the dead skin cells it sheds, stay on the skin’s surface. All these tend to clog your skin pores and lead to acne breakouts. That’s why your skin needs a chemical exfoliant to deep cleanse the skin pores to reduce acne and prevent future acne breakouts.

Senior Product Development Executive at SkinKraft, Abhishikta Hati says, “Salicylic acid being a beta hydroxy acid, works as a great exfoliator to remove all the dirt & dead skin cells build up on the skin. This gentle exfoliator works on mild to moderate acne by clearing up the pores, making the skin less prone to acne breakouts.”

Salicylic acid is found over the counter in different forms such as cleansers, serums, toners and peeling masks. All the products are mostly suggested for oily and acne-prone skin.[1]

3 steps for  how to clean up clogged pores using bha salicylic cleanser exfoliant for pure skin care routine

What Are The Benefits Of Salicylic Acid?

1. Removes Excess Oil

Unlike other chemical exfoliants, salicylic acid is oil-soluble. It can thereby exfoliate your skin pore lining and remove the oil buildup. It penetrates deep into your skin pores and loosens the clogged sebum oil. In fact, salicylic acid is considered to be the most efficient as compared to other ingredients available for oil buildup reduction.

Besides, it is keratolytic and stimulates cellular turnover to improve your skin’s texture. That way the dullness and roughness of your skin reduces and you get healthy glowing skin.

2. Reduces Blackheads & Whiteheads

Salicylic acid is a peeling agent used to exfoliate your skin. It removes the dead skin cells and boosts the rejuvenation of your skin. It works as a desmolytic that unhooks the bonds between corneocytes, which are the cells that make the outer layer of your skin. Exfoliating in nature, it removes the dead skin cells from your skin and unclogs blackheads and whiteheads. [2]

3. Prevents Acne Breakouts

Salicylic acid not only removes existing acne but also prevents future breakouts. It helps to keep your skin pores clean so that no acne can develop on your skin’s surface. Basically, it stops the dead skin cells and acne-causing bacteria to nest in your skin pores. As acne-causing bacteria are not comfortable around oxygen, they thrive in clogged skin pores away from oxygen reach. 

4. Reduces Inflammation

Salicylic acid has anti-inflammatory properties that reduce the skin inflammation caused by acne breakouts. It accelerates the healing process of your skin. It also soothes irritated skin. Additionally, topical salicylic acid is often suggested for psoriasis inflammation.[3]

How To Use Salicylic Acid On Face?

Take a pea-sized amount of the product you are using and apply it all over your face. Avoid sensitive areas like eyes and lips. Applying more than the recommended amount would not do any extra benefit rather it can irritate your skin.

Do not rub your skin after the application. Being a chemical exfoliant, salicylic acid does not require any rubbing. The ingredient works on its own to remove the extra sebum oil, dead skin cells and all the impurities from your skin. Only physical exfoliants need to be rubbed against your skin.

Let the salicylic acid soak into your skin and do its job.

Use a moisturizer and sunscreen as a follow-up routine. It will balance out the dryness caused by salicylic acid and protect you against the sun.

Form of Salicylic Acid





Once a day



Once to thrice a day



Once to thrice a day



As instructed on the package

How Salicylic Acid Interacts With Other Ingredients?

Since salicylic acid may cause mild irritation, using it with soothing ingredients like Canadian willowherb is highly recommended.

Salicylic acid does not mix well with other exfoliating ingredients. It is better to use one skin exfoliant at a time.

Are There Any Side Effects Of Salicylic Acid?

Salicylic acid has a reputation for inducing skin dryness. That’s why skin experts suggest it for people with oily and acne-prone skin. People with dry skin, sensitive skin and eczema-prone skin may face skin issues if they use salicylic acid. They may notice skin irritation, dryness and flakiness, burning sensation etc. But mild irritation after applying the product is a common side effect faced by almost everyone.

It is also mandatory to use sunscreen religiously when using salicylic acid in any form. Because exfoliation thins out the skin and the new cells become highly sensitive to the UV rays,” says Prajkta Sapre, Product Development Executive at SkinKraft Laboratories.

Safety Tips:

A patch test is a must for salicylic acid usage. Apply a little amount of salicylic acid on your forehead which is the thickest part of your facial area. After the usage, if you feel no irritation or discomfort for at least 24 hours, then the product is safe to use.

Who Should Not Use Salicylic Acid?

1. If you have wounds on your skin or skin conditions like eczema and atopic dermatitis, refrain from using salicylic acid.

2. Children are not supposed to use salicylic acid, as their skin is extremely soft and sensitive. It absorbs the ingredient at a higher rate than adult skin which leads to discomfort, irritation and skin burn.

3. Pregnant women and lactating mothers are suggested to consult with doctors about risks and side effects before applying the product.

Can You Use Salicylic Acid Every Day?

Yes, salicylic acid in the form of serums, toners etc. can be applied every day. But use it only if your skin is comfortable and not irritated due to the usage. Skincare experts recommend starting with using it only once a day. If your skin permits, increase the frequency to twice a day. In case you get too much sun exposure every day, apply salicylic acid at night for better results.

How Long Does It Take For Salicylic Acid To Work?

Salicylic acid will not give you any overnight miracle. It takes at least four to six months of usage to get some visible results on your skin. If you are looking for immediate results, then salicylic acid may not serve the purpose. Even though it takes time, salicylic acid provides a long term effect.

Wrapping Up

Salicylic acid is a chemical exfoliant that removes the excessive sebum oil, dead skin cells and acne-causing bacteria from your skin. Along with acne reduction, it improves the texture of your skin. But there are few things you need to keep in mind while using any product containing salicylic acid.

The recommended dosage of salicylic acid will help you maintain a healthy practice. Also, if the product would be beneficial for you or not depends on your skin type. Oily skinned people get plenty of benefits from salicylic acid while people with sensitive skin may experience skin irritation.

Begin By Knowing Your Skin

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