Here is what you need to know about Salicylic Acid

Salicycic acid

We’ve investigated what you need to know about Salicylic Acid. Image via Adobe Stock.

In your fight against breakouts and on your quest for healthy skin, there are some key ingredients that are an important part of the process and Salicyclic Acid is one of them. However, working with ingredients such as this has it’s pros and cons, it will be good for some people and not so good for others. So, we’ve investigated what you need to know about Salicylic Acid, so you can decide for yourself whether to include this ingredient into your skincare journey or whether to switch it out for something more suited to your skin.

What is Salicylic Acid?
When it comes to skincare acids, the two main contenders are BHAs – Beta Hydroxy Acids and AHAs – Alpha Hydroxy Acids. Salicyclic Acid is Beta Hydroxy Acid (BHA). To be super technical, a Beta Hydroxy Acid means the Hydroxy part of the molecule is separated from the acid part by two atoms, as opposed to the Alpha Hydroxy Acid where they are separated by one carbon atom. The structure of the acid is the important part as Salicylic Acid (BHA) is more oil soluble, so it can penetrate the layers of the skin – still with us? Whereas AHAs are water-soluable. Oil-soluble ingredients, such as Salicylic Acid will penetrate the deeper layers of the skin better than a water-soluable ingredient. AHAs are great at loosening the dead skincells on the surface of the skin, to reveal fresh, newer skin. Whereas BHAs work deeper into the layers of the skin, being able to penetrate deep into the pores to unclog them. 

How does Salicylic Acid work for your skin?
So now we know what Salicylic Acid is, we need to know how it works for your skin. If you are wanting to target acne, whiteheads and blackheads, Salicylic Acid is your go to ingredient. Once the BHA penetrates the skin, it gets deep into the pores and helps to break down the dirt and debris that is clogging up the pores. It is essentially a type of exfoliator. Salicylic Acid works best for whiteheads and blackheads specifically for this reason, rather than working for cystic acne – which is different to hormonal acne that tends to cause dirty and blocked pores. (To find out more about the difference between cystic and hormonal acne, check out our article here).

 Who shouldn’t use Salicyclic Acid?
Salicyclic Acid can be over used, if you’re not careful. If you over use this ingredient is will irritate and dry the skin out, causing peeling, redness and irritation if you have sensitive skin or if you use it too much. You should also be aware that you only need to apply Salicyclic Acid to acne outbreak areas of your body – if you apply it to large areas, you may end up with Salicylic poisoning (in extreme situations). It is also best to err on the side of caution if you are preganant or breastfeeding as it could cause harm when absorbed into the mother’s body.

Ultimately, it is best to do your research about the skincare ingredients you choose to put on your skin before you use them and always do a test patch first to test for adverse reactions. If you’re not sure how your skin will tolerate Salicylic Acid or any other ingredient for that matter, check with a skin care specialist for a professional opinion.

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