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Salicylic acid for skin: the ultimate acne fighter you need

salicylic acid benefits for skin


If you ever had acne, you would know that fighting it is no easy battle. You could try all possible remedies and still be stuck with annoying pimples on your face.

However, the good news is that you can treat acne to a great extent by understanding its causes and using science-backed ingredients that are formulated to treat them. One such dermat-approved ingredient that works perfectly for acne breakouts is salicylic acid.

Before we go into details of how salicylic acid for the skin could be the game changer for your acne, here is a short refresher on what acne is and what its causes are.

Also, find below the benefits of salicylic acid for skin and how to use it in your routine to get rid of those pesky acne.

What is acne?

  • Acne is a common skin condition that is formed when hair follicles get clogged with oil and dead skin cells.
  • There are many types of acne like comedones, papules, or pustules commonly known as pimples, whiteheads, or blackheads.
  • You get acne and pimples when your skin is producing excess oil or has a build-up of dead skin cells, clogging your pores.

What are the causes of acne?

Several factors can cause acne, including

  • acne bacteria (P. acnes)
  • clogged pores (dead skin cells and oil)
  • excess oil production
  • inflammation
  • hormonal activity (androgens)
  • Stress
  • Medications
  • Reaction caused by any topical application

If they are left untreated, they can cause scarring and hyperpigmentation. Therefore, instead of relying on home remedies that can worsen your acne, it's best to seek the doctor of acne- we mean salicylic acid.

What is salicylic acid?

Salicylic acid is an oil-soluble, beta hydroxy acid (BHA) that is extracted naturally from the willow bark tree. It is a common ingredient used in acne treatment due to its exfoliating properties and is usually used in the form of face wash, moisturizer, acne patches, and serums. Salicylic acid penetrates deep into the skin and dissolves the dead skin cells by unclogging pores, thus preventing further episodes of acne.

What is encapsulated salicylic acid and does it make any difference?

Encapsulation is a new technology that delivers active ingredients at a controlled pace. Encapsulated salicylic acid works meticulously on the skin by ensuring the product's slow discharge. It helps reduce the risk of irritation, dryness, etc. that can be caused by salicylic acid on certain skin types and conditions. Further, an encapsulated product is more stable.

Therefore, if given a choice, you must always opt for an encapsulated salicylic acid product.

What are the benefits of Salicylic acid?

Before we delve into how to use salicylic acid for acne, here are a few salicylic acid benefits that you must know.

1. Exfoliates the skin:

Salicylic acid is a chemical exfoliant that works as an effective exfoliating agent. It helps remove dead skin cells and excess oil from the surface of the skin, preventing clogged pores and thus, acne breakouts.

2. Unclogs pores:

Salicylic acid is oil-soluble BHA which helps penetrate the pores, dissolve impurities, and remove the blockages and congestions.

3. Reduces inflammation:

Salicylic acid has anti-inflammatory properties, which soothes the redness and swelling that comes with acne. It helps reduce inflammation and irritation caused by existing acne and pimples and helps prevent new breakouts.

4. Targets blackheads and whiteheads:

Salicylic acid is also effective in treating non-inflammatory acne, such as blackheads and whiteheads. It helps dissolve the keratin that holds these types of acne lesions together, making it easier for them to be sloughed off.

5. Regulates oil production:

Salicylic acid regulates oil production, thereby reducing the further occurrence of acne breakouts. By exfoliating the skin and reducing clogged pores, salicylic acid can indirectly help regulate the production of sebum (skin oil).

How to use salicylic acid for acne?

Only being aware of the salicylic acid benefits is never enough. Using salicylic acid for the skin in the right manner is crucial too. Here are the best ways you can use this active ingredient for acne.

Using a cleanser

The best remedy for acne is to keep your skin clean and oil-free. Ensure that all the excess oil and dirt are cleared off in the first step of the skincare routine, i.e. cleansing.

Using a salicylic acid cleanser will help remove all the gunk, impurities, and excess sebum while exfoliating and cleansing your pores. However, look for cleansers that are non-drying and gentle on your skin.

If you apply makeup or tend to remain outdoors for a long time, opt for double cleansing for a thorough cleanse.

Using a serum

The best way to include salicylic acid for your skin is to add a serum to your routine. A salicylic acid serum helps target your acne while preventing its further occurrence. Start with a lower concentration of salicylic acid serum, and always do a patch test before first use.

Dispense 2-3 drops of the serum on your face and neck and gently dab it in. Wait for a few minutes to allow the serum to penetrate the skin.

Using a moisturizer

Whatever skin type you have, using a moisturizer is a must. Contrary to the popular misconception, you must use a moisturizer even if you have acne-prone and oily skin. However, while buying a moisturizer for acne-prone skin, you must consider its ingredients and consistency. It's best to use a lightweight, oil-free cream that does not clog your pores.

Using an exfoliating body wash

If you are also worried about body acne, you can opt for exfoliating body washes to unclog pores and reduce breakouts.

You can use all or either of these salicylic acid-infused products. However, ensure that the total concentration does not exceed 3-3.5% (depending on the intensity of acne) to avoid irritation in your skin.

salicylic acid for skin

Skin care tips to fight acne

  • If salicylic acid products are not helping your acne, watch your diet. Avoid sugary, spicy, and oily food. Increase the intake of fresh fruits and vegetables.
  • Acne is also caused by hormonal imbalances. Consult a doctor if required.
  • Avoid picking, squeezing, or popping your pimples. Picking acne can cause scarring and pigmentation. Instead, opt for acne patches or spot treatment if you are looking for immediate removal of acne.

In conclusion, salicylic acid is a superhero for acne that unclogs pores, reduces inflammation, and prevents breakouts. You can use it as a serum or in cleansers, serums, and moisturizers for clearer skin. 

However, always do a patch test before use to avoid unwanted reactions. Embrace clear, radiant skin!


Q. Can salicylic acid be used for both inflammatory and non-inflammatory acne?

Yes, salicylic acid can be used for both inflammatory and non-inflammatory acne. However, it is always good to take medical advice in case of severe acne.

Q. How fast does salicylic acid work?

With regular use of salicylic acid, you can expect a reduction in acne in around 6-8 weeks.

Q. Should I use salicylic acid for spot treatment or apply it to the entire face?

Once you have had a patch test and you see no reaction to your skin, it is safe to use salicylic acid on your entire face. However, do not use a concentration of more than 3 to 3.5% depending on the intensity of acne.

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