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What is Salicylic Acid and How to Add It to Your Skincare Routine?


Jul 3, 2023

Salicylic acid is a widely used skincare ingredient known for its exceptional ability to treat acne and exfoliate the skin. It is a type of beta-hydroxy acid (BHA) derived from the bark of the willow tree. Salicylic acid is highly effective in targeting clogged pores, reducing inflammation, and promoting a clearer complexion. In this article, we will explore what salicylic acid is, its benefits, and how you can add it to your skincare routine.

What is Salicylic Acid?

Salicylic acid for skin is a beta hydroxy acid extracted from the willow bark. It is synthesized by isolating the hydroxyl part of the carboxylic acid molecule, and this makes the resulting element more soluble in oil. This new structure is the reason for salicylic acid’s ability to penetrate the skin pores more efficiently than any other ingredient. 

Once its topical application penetrates the skin’s pores, the acid portion of the molecule breaks down some of the intercellular connection that merges the skin cells and clears the congestion. Because it can penetrate better, salicylic acid benefits are often advised for people with oily and sensitive skin. This gentle acid has anti-inflammatory properties, thus making salicylic acid for skin a good option for an anti-acne skincare regimen.

Benefits of Salicylic Acid for the Skin:

  • Prevents acne

Salicylic acid is non-comedogenic. Thus it prevents pores from tapping the dust. In addition, this gentle face exfoliator prevents excess oil from forming and dead skin cells from accumulating underneath. For this reason, it is mostly used in anti-acne skin treatment to eliminate skin blemishes. 

  • Works as a gentle cleansing agent

Among many other uses of salicylic acid, the cleansing property of this BHA is worth consideration. It helps tighten enlarged pores and clears remnants of makeup and other products you apply to your skin. It also helps remove excess oil from the skin and promote even skin tone. 

  • Removes dead skin cells

Salicylic acid also has hemolytic properties. When used in adequate amounts, it turns out to be the most common chemical peel. It helps with desquamation by penetrating the skin’s dermal layers, dissolving dead and dried skin cells, and revealing the young cells underneath. Through its exfoliating properties, it also boosts cell turnover rate with regular usage.

  • Anti-inflammatory agent

The anti-inflammatory properties of this oil-soluble compound also help soothe inflammation and acne. In addition, it has natural soothing properties, and it works well for sensitive skin too. Many skincare experts advise using salicylic acid on the face through face washes or face creams. You can try retinol products for anti aging skin problems.

  • Brightens tone

Continuous exposure to environmental irritants can ruin the skin’s health. The skin appears dull and lifeless when dead skin cells and grime build up over time in the skin. Exfoliation is necessary to reveal younger and healthier skin cells beneath. And that is what this BHA does. 

  • Decongests pores

Do you know how blackheads appear on the skin? Over time, the skin pores get built up with immature skin cells and sebum. These clogged pores may burst as whiteheads, blackheads, and acne. While AHAs help improve skin texture, brighten tone, and reveal fresher skin, BHAs penetrate deeper and dissolve dead skin cells.

How to Add Salicylic Acid to Your Skincare Routine:

1.Choose the Right Product: Look for skincare products specifically formulated with salicylic acid. These may include cleansers, toners, serums, spot treatments, and moisturizers. Start with a lower concentration of salicylic acid (around 0.5% to 2%) if you are new to using the ingredient, and gradually increase the concentration as needed.

2.Cleanse Your Face: Begin your skincare routine by cleansing your face with a gentle cleanser. This will remove any dirt, oil, and impurities from the skin and prepare it for the application of salicylic acid.

3.Apply the Product: After cleansing, apply a small amount of the salicylic acid product to the affected areas or all over your face, depending on your needs. Gently massage it into the skin using upward motions. Be careful to avoid the delicate eye area.

4.Follow with Moisturizer: Salicylic acid can be drying to the skin, so it’s important to follow up with a moisturizer to replenish hydration and maintain the skin’s moisture barrier. Look for a non-comedogenic moisturizer that won’t clog your pores.

5.Sun Protection: Salicylic acid can increase the skin’s sensitivity to the sun, so it is crucial to apply a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher during the day. This will protect your skin from harmful UV rays and prevent any potential sun damage or hyperpigmentation.

6.Start Slowly and Monitor Your Skin: When incorporating salicylic acid into your skincare routine, start by using it once or twice a week and gradually increase the frequency as your skin tolerates it. Pay attention to how your skin responds and discontinue use if you experience any irritation or excessive dryness.

7.Consult a Dermatologist: If you have severe acne or persistent skin concerns, it’s always best to consult a dermatologist. They can provide personalized advice and recommend the most suitable products and concentration of salicylic acid for your specific needs.

Precautions and Considerations:

  • Salicylic acid is not recommended for individuals with aspirin allergies.
  • If you are pregnant or breastfeeding, consult your healthcare provider before using products containing salicylic acid.
  • Avoid using salicylic acid in conjunction with other exfoliating ingredients, such as retinoids or AHAs, unless directed by a dermatologist.

What Should You Not Mix with Salicylic Acid?

Salicylic acid is an effective skincare ingredient but has its limits. Here are some of the ingredients you should not be blend while using salicylic acid for skin care processes:-

  1. Retinol

Retinol are highly potential in skincare. However, blending them will supercharge them, thus causing severe dryness, itching, and an increased risk of photosensitivity. 

  1. Glycolic Acid

Both of these ingredients help exfoliate the dead skin cells. However, mixing glycolic acid with salicylic acid for skin may result in a lot of irritation. 

What Can You Mix with Salicylic Acid?

As a rule of thumb, we don’t mix oil and water-based products. Oil repels water, so if you layer a water-based product over an oily product, it will leave your skin with a thick layer that protects the water-based content from penetrating it. However, if you must use this combination, layer the water-based product first and then use the oily product. 

  1. Niacinamide

While niacinamide is a water-soluble ingredient and salicylic acid is an oil-soluble ingredient, both get better together. The humectant properties of niacinamide allow it to draw out water from the face and lock it into the skin’s surface. With the skin receiving its share of hydration, niacinamide can counteract the signs of dryness often associated with mixing the two ingredients. 

  1. Hyaluronic acid

Hyaluronic acid benefits deep moisturization to the skin cells. This perfectly complements the application of salicylic acid for skin, which may sometimes dry out the skin cells. By using the two together in serum, one may have a better skincare experience.

In conclusion, salicylic acid is a potent skincare ingredient that offers a range of benefits for acne-prone and oily skin. By incorporating salicylic acid into your skincare routine, you can effectively target clogged pores, reduce inflammation, and achieve a clearer complexion. Remember to start with a lower concentration, moisturize properly, and protect your skin from the sun. With consistent use and proper precautions, salicylic acid can be a valuable addition to your skincare arsenal.

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