Here’s the deal: your skin has tiny holes called pores that can become blocked by oil, bacteria, dead skin cells, and dirt. When your pores (they are actually hair follicles) become congested with dead skin cells and oil, you get all types of breakouts. You will see blackheads which are open plugged pores, whiteheads which are closed plugged pores, or pimples.
Salicylic acid is a beta hydroxy acid and has been used for the treatment of acne for many years. The ingredient will penetrate your skin and dissolve the dead skin cells clogging your pores. It exfoliates the skin and in doing so clears pores, which helps to reduce acne breakouts. There are many serums and cleansers with Salicylic Acid concentrations from 0.5 and 2%. It’s also found in spot treatments to fight breakouts.
Salicylic acid is actually related to aspirin (acetylsalicylic acid), which gives it anti-inflammatory properties. Dermatologists also use it in higher concentrations to treat acne, acne scars and sun damage. Salicylic acid is found in a wide range of over-the-counter products, as well as in prescription-strength formulas.
Salicylic acid works best for the treatment of existing mild acne, including blackheads and whiteheads. It can also help prevent future breakouts.
Salicylic acid is considered to be safe overall, but it may cause skin irritation when first starting. It can also remove too much oil, which will then result in over drying of the skin as well as irritation. If you are incorporating salicylic acid into your skincare routine, you may want to begin slowly and ramp up. Start using every other day of 2-3 times weekly. Using salicylic acid as a spot treatment is also an effective approach as it will treat blemishes but will not dry out skin all over unnecessarily.
If you want to try salicylic acid, here are some products to test out:
- Murad Time Release Acne Cleanser. This cleanser has a 0.5 percent concentration of salicylic acid, and can help reduce the appearance of fine lines in addition to cleansing.
- Stryke Club Stryke Stick. This portable salicylic acid driven spot treatment is perfect for the occasional breakout. Zits disappear overnight. This is a great pick for teen boys!
- Clean and Clear Deep Cleansing Toner for Sensitive Skin. This nondrying formula is suitable for sensitive skin and easy to apply with a cotton ball.
- Philosophy Clear Days Ahead Moisturizer. While salicylic acid helps fight acne, additional ingredients like oligopeptide-10 help prevent your skin from drying out.
- Dermalogica Sebum Clearing Masque. This mask can help remove excess oil without over-drying your skin.