Ingredient Spotlight: Salicylic Acid

Acne or pimples? Ever tried Salicylic Acid? If so, I’m sure you’ll be just as amazed as us at its ability to dry out your spots overnight, making them much less visible in an instant. But rather than believe in its magical healing powers, we’ve broken down the science behind it so you know exactly how it works, and which type of spots it works on (to find out which type of spots you have, click through this link to our previous blog).

What is Salicylic Acid?

Salicylic Acid is a beta hydroxy acid, which is what makes it so great at calming your spots down in a matter of hours. Without getting too much into the chemical structure of the acid (because no-one wants a full-on Chemistry class!), the hydroxy part of it is very separated from the acid, which means that Salicylic is more oil soluble, so it can really get deep into your pores and break down the sebum. 

How Does It Work?

The acid part of Salicylic dissolves the intercellular bond that holds the skin cells together, meaning that it acts like an exfoliator but manages to get much deeper into the skin.

Its exfoliating powers don’t stop there. It’s considered a 'keratolytic medication' which means it softens the top layer of your skin and removes the build-up of dead skin cells, meaning that as well as fighting your pimples, it can help brighten your complexion. It can also help to unclog your pores, and reduce them in size.

It’s believed that acne is down to the skin cells not behaving normally and sticking together, clogging pores and causing cysts and blackheads. By using Salicylic acid you can loosen the bond between the skin cells and dissolve blackheads and whiteheads.

Salicylic Acid helps prevent acne as it helps to stop the over-production of sebum, penetrating deep into the clogged pores. It also acts as an anti-inflammatory which calms the appearance of acne and cysts.

Does it work on all pimples?

Because Salicylic acid is an anti-bacterial, it breaks down dead skin cells and helps to remove sebum - this acid will therefore always help whatever kind of zit you’re suffering from. But it does have more of an effect on blackheads and whiteheads than it does on cystic acne. This is because Salicylic Acid works to directly dissolve the sebum build up in the pores and regulate the skin cells, whereas for cystic zits the problem runs a bit deeper. Salicylic Acid will help any cystic acne as it works as an anti-bacterial, so it'll help calm the cysts and reduce redness. 

When to avoid Salicylic Acid?

If you suffer from really dry skin, it’s best to stay away from Salicylic Acid as it can cause irritation. However, if you have combination skin, it’s safe to only use on the oily areas. It’s always best to use only a little so you can track what effect it’s having on your skin and whether you want to continue using it. Also, avoid using it if you’re on certain medication (like blood thinners) or if you’re pregnant. Always consult your doctor if you have any doubts.

Our Verdict

Salicylic Acid definitely does seem to have superpowers when it comes to making our blackheads and whiteheads almost disappear over night, which is especially useful if you're having a crisis with an unwanted spot and a special occasion the next day. However, bare in mind that everyone reacts differently when it comes to using Salicylic Acid as it can be quite irritating when used on sensitive skin. So if you're using it for the first time, use a little bit and see how your skin reacts before continuing to use it. 

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