In this post I will talk about what is salicylic acid and why everyone who also suffers from acne breakouts should also be using it in their skincare routine.
Who would’ve guessed that in my thirties I’d still be fighting acne, but here I am. In fact, they only seem to have shifted from my forehead to my cheek and chin area (lovely).
To make matters worse, ever since the quarantine started here in Spain two months ago, my skin decided to breakout worse than during my teenage years.
I am not sure if this is in cause of lack of vitamin D (I read it could be a contributor), stress, hormones.. But every day I would wake up with three new pimples!
Because of that, I put a forced-stop to my 10-Steps Korean skincare routine that I religiously followed every night, to go back to the anti-acne war (and you ca’t talk about acne medications without bringing up salicylic acid)
What Is Salicylic Acid?
Salicylic acid is basically the superhero name for Beta Hydroxy Acid (or BHA for short). It is an exfoliating ingredient, Regarded by many as the main player in BHAs , which penetrates deep inside the skin’s pores, helping to unclog any excess oil and impurities to prevent breakouts and blackheads.
Salicylic acid skincare products are also anti-inflammatory, helping to calm and minimise redness, while reducing bacterial growth.
What Does Salicylic Acid Do For Oily Skin?
Great question…. Where to even start?
1. BHA Exfoliates Skin & Pores
I know all of you want to use glycolic acid because it’s been claimed to be an antiaging superstar, however if your skin is oily, salicylic acid is always the better option.
Why? Because it’s oil soluble.
While glycolic acid (and all its AHAs siblings) only exfoliates the surface of the skin, salicylic acid is able to get through your skin’s lipid barrier and deep into your pores.
Once in there, the acid quickly removes the entire gunk, such as excess sebum and dead skin cells that are clogging them before they erupt into unwanted pimples.
Salicylic acid’s ability to exfoliate pores from within makes it a pro at treating blackheads (and whiteheads).
Moreover, salicylic acid dissolves the glue that holds skin cells together on the surface of your skin. P. Acnes, the bacteria that causes acne, feeds on dead skin cells. By removing these, you’ll make them weaker and easier to destroy.
WHY YOU SHOULDN’T USE PORE STRIPS FOR BLACKHEADS
Pore strips give us a false impression of skincare, since it only removes the blackheads that have made it to the surface of your skin. Salicylic acid, on the other hand, also gets rid of their bodies, which are hiding unseen inside the pores. These little pesters are just waiting or the next opportunity to come forward and create new blackheads.
2. BHA Has Anti-Inflammatory Properties
Salicylic acid has anti-inflammatory properties. This means it can:
- Calm down inflamed acne
- Reduce the redness that always tags along with pimples
- Soothe stressed and irritated skin
This makes it the ideal treatment for acne-prone and sensitive skin types.
3. BHA Has Anti-Bacterial Properties
As aforementioned, salicylic acid also has antibacterial properties that weaken P. Acnes, the bacteria that causes acne.
However, I would not rely on this acid alone to make your acne disappear. It should definitely be part of your anti-acne toolkit, but it works better when combined with other also important products.
How long does it take for salicylic acid to clear acne?
You should see improvement in your current blemishes within a week or two. However, for a reasonable final result, after about three months-time (remember, you didn’t get your skin issues overnight and you won’t get rid of them in a few days. Be patient and keep up your consistent routine).
Who Shouldn’t Use Salicylic Acid?
BHA is awesome, but it’s NOT for everyone. You shouldn’t use it if:
- You have dry skin: it may irritate it
- Are on certain medications: it can interfere with certain drugs, like blood thinners
- Are pregnant or breastfeeding: taken orally in low doses can cause birth defects. Small doses ( <2% ) applied topically to the skin are safe for mum and baby, but just to be on the safe side, avoid salicylic acid peels.
Can salicylic acid worsen acne?
Yes, same as with anything in life, when it is overused it can bring more issues than benefits. When you use Salicylic acid in excess, it can overly dry or irritate the skin, leading to more breakouts. In fact, the primary negative side effect of salicylic acid is its ability to irritate and dry skin in those that are very sensitive or those who overuse it.
I know it is tempting to put the entire bottle of anti-acne product on top of that pesky zit, but with skincare (and in life) less is more!
How Much Salicylic Acid Do You Need?
You know how I always say that if you only add a sprinkle of an ingredient in a cream or lotion, it’s not gonna do much for you?
Salicylic acid works well at 1 or 2% concentrations (in fact, here in the EU, you can’t use more than 2%)
Is Salicylic Acid Safe?
While the use of household salicylic acid products at low concentrations is generally considered safe, if used in high concentrations, salicylic acid is capable of causing moderate chemical burns.
But don’t worry too much as formulas sold in your local drugstore would have a lower dosage (It’s available over the counter in 0.5%-2% concentrations)
Can you use it every day?
While it can be used daily, I recommend introducing it into your routine every two or three days to begin with.
The Bottom Line
If you have oily, combo or acne-prone skin, you need to add salicylic acid to your skincare arsenal pronto, girl. It’ll be your best friend to vanish blackheads, fade dark spots, remove pimples and soothe your overall skin. What more could you ask for, really?
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Do you also experience acne in your adulthood? Are you using salicylic acid in your skincare routine? Share your stories below and let’s support each other.
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