Salicylic Acid: Benefits, Uses and Anti Aging Effects

Skin care is an important part of everyday life. If you are troubled by acne and skin problems, you must have already heard about salicylic acid, which can be a great help to your skin care. In this article, you will learn what effects does salicylic acid have on the skin and how it can help you fight acne


What Is Salicylic Acid and What Is It Used for

Salicylic acid is an organic carboxylic acid that occurs naturally in plants. It is produced synthetically or obtained directly from plants. It is mainly used in pharmaceuticals and cosmetics as an active substance against acne and skin problems such as dandruff, warts, and others.

How Is Salicylic Acid Made

In nature, salicylic acid is found in plants, especially in the bark of willow and birch. The bark is ground, treated with oxidants, and then filtered. This process results in a white crystalline powder of salicylic acid.

Salicylic acid can also be synthesized chemically from a derivative of acetylsalicylic acid, which is the most common way of obtaining it in the pharmaceutical and cosmetic industry.

Salicylic Acid in Cosmetics

Salicylic acid is commonly found in cosmetic products such as cleansing gels, serums, acne masks, lotions, exfoliating products, and acne creams. Its effects on the skin are widely recognized, and it is often recommended as part of care for problematic and acne-prone skin. You can also find it in hair cosmetics, where it also works effectively against dandruff in shampoos.


Effects of Salicylic Acid on the Skin

Salicylic acid has a number of positive health effects for the skin and is a popular ingredient in many cosmetic products. The main benefits of salicylic acid for the skin are:

Protects the Skin From Bacteria That Cause Acne

Salicylic acid has anti-inflammatory properties and effectively fights the bacteria that cause acne. Bacteria most often reproduce in clogged pores. Salicylic acid helps to remove excess oil from clogged pores, and bacteria then have no place to settle and multiply, so acne is reduced.

Exfoliates the Skin

Salicylic acid has the ability to exfoliate, meaning it removes dead skin cells in the upper layer of the skin without damaging it and thus frees pores clogged with dead cells. This leads to improved skin texture and reduction of blackheads and acne.

Relieves Inflammation

Salicylic acid contains the substance salicin, which has anti-inflammatory effects. It thus helps reduce inflammatory reactions on the skin, irritation, and inflamed and reddened skin.

Reduces Sebum Production and Secretion

Salicylic acid affects the production of sebum, which the skin naturally produces as its protection. Regular use of salicylic acid can reduce excessive sebum production and help keep skin healthy and less oily.

Reduces Signs of Skin Aging

As salicylic acid exfoliates and helps remove dead cells from the surface of the skin, skin texture is improved, fine lines and wrinkles are softened, and the skin looks younger and fresher.

Smoothes Wrinkles and Acne Scars

Due to its exfoliating nature, salicylic acid helps stimulate skin renewal. This can help even out unevenness caused by wrinkles and acne scars. With regular use, there may be a gradual improvement in the appearance of the skin.

Increases Collagen Production and Skin Firmness

Salicylic acid can stimulate the production of collagen, which is essential for the strength and elasticity of the skin.

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How Salicylic Acid Works on Acne

Salicylic acid is an effective agent in the treatment of acne. It is able to penetrate the pores and remove excess oil and impurities, which are one of the causes of acne. In this way, it helps to keep the pores clean and prevent them from clogging.

Salicylic acid also reduces inflammation and soothes irritated skin, which is especially important in the treatment of acne, which often accompanies inflammatory reactions.

How to Choose Cosmetics with Salicylic Acid

When choosing cosmetics with salicylic acid, it is important to consider several factors, such as:

Skin Type

The most important step is to know your skin type. Salicylic acid is generally suitable for oily and acne-prone skin. If you have dry or sensitive skin, you should consult a dermatologist to see if this ingredient is suitable for you.

Salicylic Acid Concentration

To begin with, it is advisable to choose products with a lower concentration (usually 0.5-2%) and gradually increase if needed. This helps minimize the risk of irritation and increases skin tolerance.

How to Use Salicylic Acid Correctly

The easiest way is to choose a cream that contains salicylic acid in a lower concentration. The application of the cream is simple and safe, as there is no risk of skin irritation, and it will not dry out your skin as much. You can apply the cream to the entire face, neck, and décolleté as an effective anti-wrinkle agent.  Another way is to apply the concentrated product to the affected areas of acne. This method requires more caution and is only suitable for local locations. 

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Before First Use

Using salicylic acid on the skin requires several important principles. Salicylic acid is available in the form of gels, masks, creams or exfoliation products. Choose the form that best suits your skin's needs. When you first use salicylic acid, you may also feel a slight tingling sensation on your skin, which is perfectly normal.

Using Salicylic Acid in 3 Steps

Cosmetic products with salicylic acid are suitable to use already when cleaning the skin itself. Don't use it every day at first, but maybe twice a week and then more often as needed.

  • Cleanse the Skin 

Many cosmetic products contain salicylic acid to cleanse the skin. Start by cleansing your skin of makeup and impurities to prepare your skin for toner and hydration. 

  • Apply salicylic acid

Apply a cosmetic product containing salicylic acid to well-cleansed skin.

  • Aftercare

After applying salicylic acid products, continue with your normal skincare routine. You can apply additional moisturizer, sun protection factor, and other products as needed. But be careful not to combine more products with salicylic acid to avoid skin irritation.

Frequently Asked Questions

Does salicylic acid have side effects?

Salicylic acid is generally considered safe. On first contact with the skin, it can cause mild irritation by removing sebum, which can dry the skin too much. Rarely, it can also cause an allergic reaction. Other possible side effects include tingling and itching of the skin or hives.

Who is salicylic acid not suitable for?

Salicylic acid is not suitable for people with allergies or sensitivities to salicylates. In that case, you should avoid using salicylic acid because it can cause allergic reactions, including skin rash, itching, redness, or swelling.

People with darker skin should also be careful. Dark skin tends to be more sensitive and prone to hyperpigmentation, which may mean it could be more sensitive to the exfoliating effects of salicylic acid. People with higher skin pigmentation should use salicylic acid in lower concentrations.

Can I use salicylic acid every day?

You can use salicylic acid as part of your daily skincare routine. But if you are starting to use salicylic acid, it is better to start using it 1-2 times a week and then increase the frequency of use.

Furthermore, it is important to follow the manufacturer's recommendations and the instructions on the package of the product that contains salicylic acid. Adherence to the correct concentration and method of use helps to minimize the risk of irritation and possible side effects.

Can salicylic acid make early acne worse before it gets better?

Salicylic acid can cause an initial worsening of acne before positive results begin to show. This is because salicylic acid "pulls" impurities and toxins out of the pores and can cause a temporary deterioration of the skin, manifested by more acne or increased inflammation. It is important to persist in the use of salicylic acid and give the skin time to adapt to the new care regime.

Can I use salicylic acid together with niacinamide?

Yes, salicylic acid can be used together with niacinamide. Both substances have their own benefits for the skin, complement each other, and can be combined in your skincare routine.


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Lucie Konečná, from nanoSPACE
Lucie Konečná has been working in the field of nanotechnology for 7 years. She is a co-author of the Czech is Nano project and has been involved in building public awareness of nanotechnology. Lucie has been managing operations of the nanoSPACE e-shop since May 2020.