Salicylic Acid is a topical Keratolytic medication that is found in many Over-The-Counter (OTC) acne treatments. Salicylic Acid is the active ingredient in many acne products, including cleansers, moisturizers, acne pads and pimple creams.
Salicylic Acid and Acne
Salicylic Acid can be a helpful treatment for individuals with mild to moderate acne symptoms (Acne Types: 1-2).
Clincal research has demonstrated that Salicylic Acid is moderately effective for the treatment of mild acne symptoms. It tends to be about as effective as Benzoyl Peroxide, which is another common OTC acne treatment.
Because topical Salicylic Acid treatments do not penetrate deeply into the skin, they tend to be ineffective treatments for individuals with moderate to severe inflammatory acne (Acne Types: 3-4).
Patient reports indicate that Salicylic Acid can help improve acne symptoms for some individuals. But many people do not see any significant improvement in their acne symptoms after using Salicyclic Acid products. The use of Salicyclic Acid by itself is unlikely to completely resolve acne symptoms.
Products that contain Salicyclic Acid are often used in combination with complementary acne treatments (eg. Antibiotics, Retinoids, Naturopathic Treatments) as part of a holistic acne treatment regimen.
How Does Salicylic Acid Work?
Salicylic Acid is a Keratolytic. Keratolytics work by causing the outermost layers of the skin (epidermis) to shed, which helps prevent the formation of clogged pores and encourages new skin growth.
Salicylic Acid Side Effects
The most common side effects of Salicylic Acid use are dry skin, sensitivity and redness. Most acne cleansers contain the antibacterial agent triclosan and/or salycilic acid. Most cleanser pads contain alcohol and Salicylic Acid.
In general, washing your face with a gentle cleaner once or twice a day is a good idea. Washing more than this is not helpful and can often cause irritation and dryness.
Salicylic Acid is closely related to aspirin. People that are sensitive to aspirin are often allergic to Salicylic Acid. High concentration solutions of Salicyclic Acid are used in some facial chemical peels, and for the removal of warts.