If you suffer from blackheads, whiteheads, and frequently clogged pores, you may have already heard about a powerful ingredient called Salicylic Acid. Use of salicylic acid can help clear pores and diminish the signs of acne, but if used in the wrong way it can potentially make your skin worse. We have the salicylic acid facts you need to fight acne properly, guiding you to better balanced skin and a face you can be proud of.
Oily, acne-prone skin types can benefit greatly from even the lowest concentrations of salicylic acid (0.5-1%) when used in their skincare routine properly. Since, Salicylic acid (Beta Hydroxy Acid) acts as the exfoliating agent for the skin. When used in high concentrations, it may lead to irritation, peeling, and dryness.
What is Salicylic Acid?
Salicylic acid is a naturally occurring anti-inflammatory and antibacterial compound frequently used in acne treatments. It is found in plants like wintergreen leaves and the bark of the white willow tree. Salicylic acid is considered a beta hydroxy acid (BHA), a category of chemical compounds known for promoting exfoliation in the skin.
How does salicylic acid work on acne?
Acne happens when the pores on your skin become clogged with oil, dead skin cells, and bacteria. A good way to clean out these clogged pores is with salicylic acid, thanks to its several miraculous properties. For example:
- Salicylic acid acts as a keratolytic agent that sloughs off dead skin cells from the surface of a breakout. This exfoliating effect will ultimately make your skin look and feel smoother.
- After softening the surface layer of the skin, this lipophilic acid can more easily penetrate a clogged pore, dissolving trapped sebum and removing acne-causing bacteria.
- Salicylic acid is an anti-inflammatory, which means it helps to calm surface redness and skin irritation associated with active breakouts.
- When used correctly and continuously, the comedolytic properties in skincare products containing salicylic acid can help to prevent acne in the future.
Who can use salicylic acid?
Salicylic acid is an oil-soluble ingredient, which makes it ideal for those with oily skin types and acne-prone skin. Most over-the-counter salicylic acid treatments are gentle enough to be used by people of all skin types and all ages. However, those with especially sensitive skin should test it with caution. If you have any concerns about whether it's safe to add salicylic acid to your current skincare routine, consult with your dermatologist first.
What formulas use salicylic acid to treat acne?
Salicylic acid is a versatile ingredient which can be found in many products designed for the treatment of acne. Remember that while it is important to follow a skin care regime consisting of cleanser, toner, serum, moisturization, sun protection, not every step needs to contain salicylic acid product. When selecting salicylic acid products for your routine, carefully consider its formulation, strength, and how it might interact with other products.
Here are some of the most common skin care formulas which feature salicylic acid:
1. Face Wash
Using a daily cleanser that contains salicylic acid can be your best defence against blackheads, whiteheads, and acne. Most dermatologists recommend your cleanser's salicylic acid concentration should be between 0.5%-2% to avoid over-drying your skin.
Also take note to avoid BHA cleansers with gritty scrubbing particles, as this extra exfoliation can irritate active breakouts causing more harm than good.
2. Acne Clarifying Gels
A great way to directly target problem pimples and calm irritation is with a concentrated treatment gel. In as little as two weeks after using such a treatment, most acne sufferers will notice a large improvement in their skin's appearance. A product like Re'equil Acne Clarifying Gel is ideal for active acne and flare-ups, and can be used multiple times a day to spot treat as needed.
Acne clarifying gels that contain salicylic acid are ideal for:
- Preventing acne breakouts
- Regulating sebum production
- Removing dead skin cells
- Retaining the skin's moisture balance
- Soothing itchiness
- Reducing surface redness
Serums are usually lightweight yet heavy-hitting formulas designed to target a specific skin concern. In the case of acne, a serum which contain salicylic acid is a potent way to fight future breakouts and control oiliness.
A powerful option from Re'equil is the 1% BHA and Peptide Serum which features 5% Granactive™️ ACNE, a proprietary complex containing Oligopeptide-10. By combining the anti-microbial powers of the peptide with the strength of salicylic acid, this serum can help you say "farewell" to acne for good.
How to use a BHA serum:
Squeeze out a few drops of the serum onto your clean palm or fingertips.
Apply by gently pressing it into cleansed skin, targeting your problem areas and working your way outward.
Allow the serum to become absorbed into the skin—approximately 60 seconds.
Follow up with a non-comedogenic moisturizer, and if it is day time, a sunscreen of SPF 30 or higher.
What does NOT mix well with salicylic acid?
Despite the many advantages, there are certain risks associated with using acids on your skin. Firstly, it is possible to use too much salicylic acid, so avoid layering too many products with high salicylic acid concentrations into a single skin care routine. Allow your skin to work with a single active ingredient at a time to avoid over stimulation and other adverse effects.
Here are a few active ingredients that should NOT be mixed with salicylic acid :
Derived from vitamin A, retinol is a powerful anti-ageing ingredient commonly used to fight the appearance of wrinkles, dark spots, and even acne. It's wise to avoid using retinols in the same routine with high concentrations of salicylic acid, as each can be irritating on its own. When combined, you may risk increased irritation and redness.
This vitamin B derivative supports acne-prone skin by tightening pores, regulating sebum production, and repairing damage. Like salicylic acid, niacinamide also contains anti-inflammatory properties. While it may seem these ingredients are alike and therefore compatible, niacinamides and salicylic acid should not be directly combined in the same routine at the risk of causing skin irritation. If you want to use salicylic acid and niacinamide for skin at the same time, separate them by 30 minutes.
Benefits of vitamin C for skin have always been part of every talk about skincare. Powerful antioxidants like vitamin C are popular for brightening hyperpigmentation and dark spots in the skin. Unfortunately, this ingredient is also somewhat unstable, and its pH level will change when mixed with acids, making it ineffective.
Choosing a Balanced Skincare Routine
As you can see, there are many factors to consider when you want to build a balanced skincare routine. If used improperly, the wrong products can potentially wreak havoc on your skin.
Here are our best tips for building a skin care routine that works:
Keep to a gentle routine which includes at last 4 step: a daily cleanser, a specific treatment, a hydrating moisturizer, and a protective daytime SPF.
Give your skin a bit of time to breathe in between the steps of your routine. Ideally, wait at least 60 seconds in between layering products.
Stick to your routine for at least two weeks to allow your skin to acclimate. If you see no improvement or your skin worsens, discontinue the routine immediately.
If you are interested in introducing a new ingredient into your routine—especially one on the list of ingredients that don't mix well with salicylic acid—do your research first. It's best to keep certain ingredients separated by using a daytime routine that is different from your nighttime routine.
At Re'equil, we understand how difficult and stressful life can be when you are dealing with blackheads, whiteheads, and painful acne. We believe our offering of products that fight acne using powerful ingredients like salicylic acid can help transform your skin, allowing you to feel more comfortable and confident. Do you want to know more about our dermatologist tested formulas? Shop our collection of products today, or read skin care tips from our experts, and learn how you can face your future with confidence.