Salicylic acid: the ingredient acne sufferers need to know about
Whether you suffer from cystic acne or a rogue pimple every now and again - it is something no one has time for... this is where salicylic acid comes in. We spoke to Emma Hobson, Education Manager for the International Dermal Institute and Dermalogica to learn exactly what salicylic acid is, what it’s doing for your skin, why it’s so dang good for acne and pimples and what is the best way to incorporate it into your routine.
What is it?
“Salicylic acid is a Beta-Hydroxy Acid,” (you’ve probably heard the acronym BHA been thrown around before), that gently exfoliates keratinised cells that are being retained in the follicle, a great ingredient to help loosen impaction without causing dehydration and tightness. Salicylic acid occurs naturally in Willow Bark, Sweet Birch and Wintergreen; however some manufacturers tend to use it in synthetic form. Salicylic acid is a key ingredient in Aspirin for it’s anti-inflammatory properties, another reason it is so good to use on skin suffering from breakouts is that it’s not as irritating as some AHA’s (Alpha-Hydroxy Acid also known as Glycolic Acid) and can reduce skin redness and swelling.”
So, how does it actually work?
It is “the only exfoliating ingredient that can work on the ‘inside’ of the follicle/pore. It works by loosening the impaction (which is the blockage of the pore) - so the skin can decongest… Salicylic acid enters the congested pore with a plug of dead skin and oil and then goes about decongesting it. It is also an excellent anti-inflammatory and in the treatment of clearing and preventing future breakouts,” says Hobson.
Is it right for me?
Hobson explains that skin care products with Salicylic acid are best for people who have oily skin, congestion and breakouts. In saying that, she says, all skin types can use it “as it is a non-friction exfoliant.” However, it should be used a maximum of 1-2 times a week if being used on sensitive skin and as an exfoliant. Avoid the ingredient when pregnant.
What products should I be looking for?
There are different ways Salicylic acid can be incorporated into your routine, Hobson explains but ensure you start with products with a low percentage of the ingredient. Exfoliation is a key step in the “treatment as well as maintenance of breakouts,” Hobson suggesting Salicylic acid “not only in your exfoliation but also consider using daily leave on treatment products. Overnight clearing gels and spot clearing treatment products are fantastic as you can put them directly on a sport or area of breakouts to help heal them quickly and effectively.”
Below are a few products with salicylic acid that bh loves.