Salicylic Acid for Skin: Benefits and How to use it?

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Some acids can greatly benefit our skin if used in the right amount. It’s important to remember that not all acids are harmful. The face acids are low concentrations of gentle organic acids that fights off your acne and gets rid of scars, wrinkles, age spots, dark spots, and hyperpigmentation marks. 

Salicylic acid is one of the essential facial acids. It has long been recognised as a potent exfoliator and treatment for acne and has long been used in the skincare industry. Numerous positive effects of salicylic acid on skin health have been found.

What is Salicylic acid? 

Salicylic acid is made from the powdered bark of the willow tree, which is then treated with oxidants and filtered to make it into an acid. It works best for people with oily skin, ideally. When used by people with dry skin, it could exacerbate the condition and make the skin red.

A medicinal topical gel, cream, lotion, or solution contains salicylic acid. It treats and prevents acne and other skin disorders like warts, psoriasis, calluses, and corns. Salicylic acid works by dissolving thick skin layers.

Mechanism of action on acne 

A beta-hydroxy acid is a salicylic acid. By cutting off dead skin cells and maintaining clear pores, it is known for eliminating acne. Salicylic acid is present in several over-the-counter (OTC) products. Additionally, prescription-strength formulations are offered.

For moderate acne, salicylic acid (blackheads and whiteheads) works best. It may aid in avoiding recurrent outbreaks.

Blackheads, whiteheads, or pustules (pimples) frequently develop when your hair follicles (pores) become clogged with oil and dead skin cells.

Salicylic acid removes the dead skin cells obstructing your pores by penetrating your skin. Use it for a few weeks before you notice its full impact. If you aren’t seeing improvements after six weeks, consult your dermatologist.

Benefits of salicylic acid

Salicylic acid is a blessing at a time when we’re addicted to fatty foods and frequently neglect a regimented skincare routine. It may be found in various skin care products that help us manage acne.

An efficient zit-buster 

Clogged skin pores cause acne. When salicylic acid is topically applied to the skin, it penetrates the follicle and effectively eradicates bacteria that may be trapped within. The utilization of salicylic acid in the treatment of acne is attributed to its notable anti-inflammatory characteristics.

Fights dead skin cells

Salicylic acid eliminates dead skin cells in addition to unclogging pores, which is crucial because dead skin cells can lead to skin issues like acne. Dead skin cells are removed by salicylic acid, which enhances the look and health of your skin.

Reduces secretion of sebum

Salicylic acid can also reduce sebum production in the skin. Acne can be brought on by sebum, an oily material. Also contributing to acne are blocked pores. Salicylic acid can treat acne by lowering sebum production.

Fights wrinkles

Premature ageing is typically brought on by dead cells and plugged pores. Salicylic acid improves the texture of your skin and minimizes the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles by causing cell turnover when applied to the skin. It also promotes the synthesis of collagen, a protein that keeps your skin smooth.

A powerful exfoliator 

Salicylic acid penetrates the skin deeply, makes the top layer expand and soften, and helps remove skin debris like dead skin cells that can, over time, dull your complexion. This results in the creation of new skin, which means fewer blackheads and acne scars.

Uses of Salicylic acid 

This medication is used to treat mild and moderate acne. It could be combined with other acne remedies. Before combining acne treatments, see your doctor or pharmacist first. Salicylic acid comes under the salicylate drug class. When applied to the skin, salicylic acid might help shed its outer layer of dead cells and lessen inflammation and redness (inflammation). It decreases the number of breakouts and expedites recovery.

Salicylic acid usage in the daily skincare routine

The most popular form of salicylic acid for everyday skincare is serum. Salicylic acid should only be used once daily despite being mild. While you can use salicylic acid in your morning and evening skincare routines, it works best at night. 

This is so that fresher, younger skin cells may be seen underneath the dead, superficial skin cells peeled off by salicylic acid. These skin cells are more prone to fading from the sun. After thoroughly cleaning your skin, apply 2-3 drops of a salicylic acid serum to your face and gently spread it over your face and neck.

Before applying cosmetics, give the component a minute to absorb into your skin. Your skin will become more absorbent thanks to salicylic acid, and the freshly unclogged pores will need appropriate moisture to keep your skin looking healthy and young. 

As a result, it is advised to add hydrating substances to your skin, such as hyaluronic acid, after using the salicylic serum. It will give your skin the necessary hydration and make it feel supple and luminous. Chemical peels remove the older, dried-up superficial skin cells more vulnerable to photodamage, revealing the younger skin cells beneath them.

Therefore, it is advised that you cover your skin with a broad-spectrum sunscreen layer with at least SPF 30. It will produce positive results after using the salicylic acid serum consistently for at least two weeks. You must continuously use salicylic acid for 8–10 weeks to receive the full benefits.

Recommended Form and Dosage for Skincare

Varied skin types necessitate distinct doses of salicylic acid. Prior to commencing a topical salicylic acid regimen, it is imperative to seek the advice of a dermatologist. They can recommend the most suitable dosage and concentration for your skin type.

In order to effectively treat acne, it is imperative that different topical salicylic acid medications be administered at varying doses. When utilized as a gel or soap, a minimum concentration of 0.5%-5% is required and should be applied at least once daily.

For salicylic acid to be effective in a lotion, it must be present at a concentration of 1-2% and applied 1-3 times daily. When used as an ointment, a concentration of at least 3-6% is necessary and should be applied as required. As a serum or solution, salicylic acid should be applied once daily at a concentration of 0.5% to 2%.

Usage of salicylic acid topical 

Topical salicylic acid is offered in various formulations, including creams, lotions, liquids, gels, ointments, shampoos, wipes, pads, and patches, which can be utilized for the purpose of cleansing the skin or scalp.

Several strengths of topical salicylic acid are available, some requiring a prescription. Topical salicylic acid may be applied frequently (up to several times per day) or rarely, depending on the treated condition and the medication used up to several times per week.

Side effects of Salicylic acid 

In particular, skin responses like peeling, burning, dryness, and reddish skin can happen at the beginning of treatment. Talk to your doctor or pharmacist immediately if the side effects persist or worsen. The medicine may need to be used less frequently or in smaller doses. For more information, speak with your doctor or pharmacist.

If your physician has prescribed this medication for you, it is important to bear in mind that they have assessed that its advantages surpass the potential risks of adverse effects. Numerous individuals who have used this medication have reported no notable adverse effects.

Rarely will this medication cause a severe allergic reaction. However, suppose you experience severe allergic reaction symptoms, such as a rash, swelling or itching (particularly of the face, tongue, or throat), severe dizziness, or trouble breathing. In that case, you should seek medical attention right away.


Inform your doctor or pharmacist before using salicylic acid if you have any allergies to it, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medicines (NSAIDs) which include aspirin, ibuprofen, and naproxen. Inactive chemicals in the product can trigger allergic reactions or other issues. To learn more, speak with your pharmacist.

Before taking this product, consult your pharmacist if you have any of the health issues: diabetes, poor blood flow, and skin issues (such as infection, wounds, and atopic dermatitis).

This product should only be used during pregnancy if required. Explain the advantages and disadvantages to your doctor. Before breastfeeding, speak with your doctor.

How to store the medication 

It’s recommended to be kept out of children’s reach. Store between 15 and 30 degrees Celsius at room temperature (59 and 86 degrees F). Avoid freezing. Any unused medication after the expiration date should be thrown away.


Salicylic acid has been proven to aid many people with their breakouts, even though there is no complete treatment for acne. Consult a dermatologist or doctor to determine whether salicylic acid is good for your skin type and overall health.


1. What happens if you use too much salicylic acid? 

It is advised to use the prescribed amount of salicylic acid.

2. Can salicylic acid be applied every day? 

You can use a salicylic acid cleanser daily, but you shouldn’t use a salicylic acid-based exfoliator more than three times per week to prevent drying out your skin.

3. How many times a week is salicylic acid safe to use?

Salicylic acid can irritate the skin, even though daily use is acceptable. Therefore, many dermatologists advise applying the acid sparingly initially, starting three times a week and working up from there.


The Information including but not limited to text, graphics, images and other material contained on this blog are intended for education and awareness only. No material on this blog is intended to be a substitute for professional medical help including diagnosis or treatment. It is always advisable to consult medical professional before relying on the content. Neither the Author nor Star Health and Allied Insurance Co. Ltd accepts any responsibility for any potential risk to any visitor/reader.

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