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salicylic acid - what is it and how to use it

You hear about it all the time when it comes to skincare products. Salicylic acid is one of the most popular and efficient ingredients used in anti-acne cosmetics. It is by far one of the most vicious whitehead and blackhead enemies, yet an ally for a skin. Owing to its exfoliating and clearing properties it helps you reduce enlarged pores and sebum secretion, which is exactly why you should include it in your daily face treatment. So what is salicylic acid and how you should use it for advantage of your face? Read our short guide to learn how to make fighting with acne more effective!


Salicylic acid was known already in ancient times, when it was used as pain or fever reliever. Although nowadays it is usually synthesised, the natural sources of this substance are meadowsweet, wintergreen or willow bark. From chemical point of view, salicylic acid belong to hydroxy acids group: it is a beta hydroxy acid (BHA), which structure makes this substance more capable of dissolving in oil, thanks to the fact that two carbon atoms detach the hydroxy element from the acid (unlike alpha hydroxy acid – AHA – like for example glycolic acid where there is only one carbon atom, and what is more, AHAs are only soluble in water). Owing to this feature, cosmetics containing salicylic acid are able to go through the surface of your skin, easily enter pores, clear them and exfoliate dead skin cells, but what is more, these cosmetics has antibacterial, anti-inflammatory and anti-ageing functions.


So why should salicylic acid products appear on your shopping list? As you’ve read in this article above, salicylic acid has positive effects on prone to acne skin – thanks to being oil-soluble, it goes through epidermis, untying desmosomes (bonds between dead skin cells), enabling it to slough off and preparing a new space for growth of skin cells, as well as unclogging the pores, while simultaneously averting them from reclogging. The skin is exfoliated, clean, softened, and inflammation or ageing symptoms are reduced. Salicylic acid is hence a great, effective cleanser, recommended for an oily skin, since it decreases sebum secretion, exfoliates and diminishes visible pores, thus makes your skin less shiny. It also improves skin resistance to acne and blemishes.


There are many benefits of including salicylic acid in your daily beauty routine against blackheads and whiteheads: from exfoliation to anti-inflammation function. The main reason why you should implement salicylic acid in your beauty treatment is that it is not just an ordinary ingredient of over-the-counter cosmetics. Beta hydroxy acid is often used also in medical treatment in people with severe acne issues, thus it is clinically proven for its effectiveness. This is also the best solution for clogged pores since salicylic acid goes inside your skin layers and clears deep-seated dirt in your pores (as opposed to alpha hydroxy acid which exfoliates the outer layer of your skin). Clean pores means less sebum, which consequently means healthier look. Additional benefit? Salicylic acid also helps with first symptoms of ageing.


Salicylic acid works better when used regularly – consistency is the key in fighting with acne, after all, and this is often quite a long process. Wash your face every morning, dry it gently with a soft towel (you don’t want to irritate the skin!) and moisturize it with salicylic acid products like creams, or topical serums, and exfoliate the skin with BHA peelings twice a week prior to applying face mask with BHA. Salicylic acid is one of the acids which is the most effective when really absorbed by skin, so it is advised to use it rather in form of masks or creams which stay on your skin longer, allowing this miraculous ingredient to sink in. If your skin is oily, prone to pimples, whiteheads and blackheads, which often lead to unhealthy looking breakouts (and especially when you do makeup to cover this issue), you should implement salicylic acid in your skincare routine. Search for cosmetics that contain this miraculous ingredient to boost your skin health by exfoliation and deep cleansing which help you get rid of dead skin cells, dirt and leftovers of makeup. Remember, though, not to over use it, because excessive use of this substance may increase skin sensitivity and result in dehydration and irritation. It is advised to observe the results of putting any salicylic acid cream or cleansing gel during first use to see if the skin responds positively. It is always a good idea to ask for a sample first, if possible. Simply apply a small amount of salicylic acid cosmetic on a small area and watch if any irritation or redness occurs. If not, go on and treat your skin with some BHA helper. Use it carefully also in case of sensitive or dry skin – if you seen any signs or irritation, use salicylic acid products less often or use it only in form of cleansers.

Keep in mind, though, that, like in most cases, there are certain side effects possible like: dehydration or irritation and flaking, especially if you use also benzoyl peroxide cosmetics or retinoids (better avoid using too much specialised ingredients at the same time without consulting your dermatologist). But usually these side effects can be alleviated with the help of some good moisturising cream or serum (preferably oil-free) or nourishing face masks. Also, salicylic acid may increase sensitivity to sun (interestingly enough, while battling photo-ageing symptoms), so always use a proper sun cream during a day to protect your skin.


You can find these cosmetics in regular beauty stores, but also at chemists. What dose of salicylic acid is recommended? The key to successful fight with acne is an appropriate concentration level adjusted to the needs of given skin with regard of its safety. Salicylic acid 2% concentration occurs usually in non-prescription cosmetics, especially when it comes to cosmetics like creams and topical serums which can stay on a skin, and up to 3% in cosmetics like peelings or cleansers which are meant to be washed off after a short period of time. You can buy salicylic acid in more concentrated form, yet this should be first consulted with your dermatologists since high concentration of this substance put directly on one’s face may be too harsh on skin. You can find in our online shop a wide range of over-the-counter cosmetics for skin care, from toners, peelings and masks through face and hand creams to eye patches and so on. Browse our store to find the right salicylic acid product for your skin that will make your life acne-free!