This tried-and-true ingredient has a history of being used topically on the skin for over 2,000 years. Scientists have used it since the late 1800s as a trusted topical treatment to help minimize the appearance and instances of breakouts. In fact, Salicylic Acid is one of the most dermatologist-recommended non-prescription ingredients for acne, alongside Benzoyl Peroxide and Alpha-Hydroxy Acids like Glycolic and Lactic Acids.
What is Salicylic Acid?
Salicylic Acid is a molecule derived from the bark of willow trees and the wintergreen leaf. It’s part of a class of acids called Beta-Hydroxy Acids and is known for its antibacterial, anti-fungal, keratolytic, and exfoliating benefits.
What does Salicylic Acid do to skin?
Salicylic Acid is essentially an exfoliator, although it works a little differently than other exfoliating acids. Salicylic Acid stands out because it is oil-soluble. Where an AHA will work on the dead skin cells and debris on the surface of the skin, BHAs, like Salicylic Acid, are able to work into the pore to dissolve the dead skin, oil, and bacteria that are lining it and causing the pores to be clogged. Simply put: Salicylic Acid can help dislodge what is stuck in the pore, whereas AHA’s will help remove the build-up that is covering the opening of the pore.
How do you use Salicylic Acid?
Salicylic Acid is a versatile ingredient that can be found in everything from cleanser to spot treatments. How you use it will depend on your specific skin concern. If oil and blackheads are your issue, opt for a Salicylic Acid Cleanser. All-over breakouts a constant problem? Try a Salicylic Acid acne treatment lotion. Trying to shrink the appearance of a pimple? Use a Salicylic Acid spot treatment. Looking to fade the look of post-acne dark marks? A Salicylic Acid brightening serum is a great option.
How does Salicylic acid help with acne?
Because Salicylic Acid can help loosen up the dead skin and oil built-up in the pore, it helps prevent comedones from forming. Acne forms within a blocked pore, so by helping to minimize those blackheads and whiteheads (a.k.a. pore plugs), you can help minimize the occurrence and severity of breakouts.
How long does it take Salicylic acid to work?
It depends on the strength of the formulation and what your desired outcome is. Products like spot treatments will have high percentages that are aimed at shrinking the appearance and severity of a pimple quickly, while cleansers and lotions usually have smaller amounts meant to maintain clear pores. If you are using a Salicylic Acid treatment to fade the appearance of post-acne marks, it usually takes weeks of continued use to see noticeable results.
Is it okay to use Salicylic acid every day?
While Salicylic Acid is relatively safe for most skin types, there’s also a chance that it can irritate your skin, especially if you are using more than one exfoliating treatment at a time. Start off by using a Salicylic Acid product on its own twice a week, then work your way up to every other day and see you how it goes. If your skin doesn’t react, you are most likely ok to use it every day. If your skin becomes red, dried out, or painful, immediately stop using all exfoliating products until it has healed. Then, speak to a dermatologist to help decide which one is best for you and your skin.
Should I use Salicylic acid morning or night?
Salicylic Acid can be used in the morning or evening as part of your regular routine. One important thing to note is that, like most acids, Salicylic Acid can make your skin more susceptible to sun damage, so be sure to wear SPF every day — which you should be doing anyways, regardless of the products you use or your skin type.
Can Salicylic acid remove scars?
While Salicylic Acid can’t help with traditional scars (i.e. holes or divots in the skin), it can help fade the appearance of pigmentation left behind after a breakout. These post-acne dark marks are also commonly referred to as acne scars. When used along with other brightening ingredients like Vitamin C, it can help keep skin looking and feeling smooth and even-toned.
Kiehl’s & Salicylic Acid
At Kiehl’s, we use Salicylic Acid in a range of products to offer benefits for those with skin issues that range from blackheads and enlarged pores to breakouts and post-acne hyperpigmentation. We complement this efficacious ingredient with botanical formulations to help boost its benefits and provide superior results.
In our Blue Herbal Acne Cleanser Treatment, we pair it with Frankincense and Ginger Root Extract to create a medicated face wash to help clear acne blemishes, blackheads, and whiteheads and prevent new ones from forming.
In the Blue Herbal Spot Treatment, it’s used alongside those same herbal extracts, but at a more concentrated strength for a more potent, targeted preparation that helps skin look and feel smoother and clearer.
Salicylic Acid is also in our Breakout Control Acne Treatment Facial Lotion, which is formulated with Vitamin B3 and Aloe Vera. It’s a daily treatment that diminishes acne breakouts while reducing rough texture and dull skin tone.
Finally, our Clearly Corrective Dark Spot Solution is made with Salicylic Acid, Activated C, and White Birch Extract to provide both an overall brightening effect and it’s clinically demonstrated to help correct dark spots and discolorations for visible correction and clarity.