Is Salicylic Acid the Answer To All Your Acne Problems?


Salicylic acid might just be the magic potion your skin routine needs to fight pimples. It’s the acid most commonly found in overnight, get-rid-of-pimples-quick products, as well as a number of exfoliators. But before you try acid, even at a very low, very safe dose, it’s best to know what exactly you’re putting in your pores. Dr. Robyn Gmyrek, a dermatologist at Union Square Laser Dermatology broke down everything there is to know about the acne fighting product. Can salicylic acid work on blackheads and whiteheads? Does it also fight dandruff? Read on and shop seven derm-approved products below.

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What is salicylic acid?

Salicylic acid is an organically derived, (from the Willow tree) beta-hydroxy acid. It is lipophilic which means that it is an oil soluble acid that can penetrate into pores.

What type of forms can salicylic acid come in?

Salicylic acid, in topical form (creams, cleansers, toners and liquids), is used to treat many skin disorders, such as acne, dandruff, psoriasis, seborrheic dermatitis of the skin and scalp, calluses, corns, common warts, and plantar warts. Preparations will vary in dosage form and strength.

What does salicylic acid do?

Salicylic acid is anti-inflammatory, keratolytic (helps exfoliate dead skin cells), anti-fungal and anti-bacterial. It penetrates pores to loosen clogged follicles by breaking apart dead skin cells, softening them, and helping them slough off the skin.

What type of pimples does it work best on?

Salicylic acid works best on individuals who suffer from clogged pores. Clogged pores cause black heads but also sometimes lead to an inflammatory response from the body, which causes redness, whiteheads, and cysts. By helping to unclog pores and keep pores from clogging in the first place, salicylic acid treats active acne and prevents new outbreaks.

Salicylic acid works best on blackheads and whiteheads but it does have some benefits is cysts as well. Cystic acne is often driven from internal sources such as hormones and genetic makeups so topical treatments are not always enough to treat this condition.

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Who shouldn’t use salicylic acid?

Salicylic acid should not be used on any skin that is damaged or has open wounds, is irritated, or infected. All new products should be tried on a small area first before applying to a large area of skin to assure that you are not allergic. Salicylic acid should also be used cautiously if you are already using products with retinol, tretinoin, adapalene, benzoyl peroxide, or other acid containing products as these ingredients also exfoliate the skin and too much exfoliation can cause redness and irritation.

Can salicylic acid help dandruff?

Yes! It’s a great ingredient to look for in dandruff shampoos. By loosening and breaking apart the dead skin cells.

Anything new users of salicylic acid should be cautious of?

It’s best to start slowly. Too much can cause dryness and irritation.

Shop Dr. Robyn Gmyrek’s salicylic acid product recommendations below.


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