What is salicylic acid?
If you have ever hunted for the best ingredients to treat acne, you may have come across salicylic acid. It is the only FDA approved beta-hydroxy acid (BHA) that is used in skincare products for topical treatment of mild to moderate acne. It is best known for its ability to control excess oil and keep your pores unclogged to prevent and treat acne, whiteheads and blackheads.
Salicylic acid is found in Nature in sweet birch bark, willow tree bark, wintergreen leaves and a few other sources. It can also be generated synthetically and both are used in skincare products. But, for acne-prone sensitive skin, natural sources are gentler and safer.
Can salicylic acid help in acne care?
The best-known use of salicylic acid is in acne care. Due to its anti-inflammatory and pore-clearing properties, it works as an excellent treatment for mild and moderate acne. The ingredient can be added to numerous products and depending on its concentration and the type of product it is added to, the dosage varies.
What are the benefits of salicylic acid where acne is concerned?
Salicylic acid has various benefits in acne care that make it such a wonderful ingredient for your breakout regime.
- Controls excess sebum - Salicylic acid is soluble in oil, which means it can get deep inside the pores underneath the excess layer of oil and dead skin to clean off excess sebum, unlike other ingredients which only work on the surface above the pores.
The linings of the pores are gently exfoliated for deep cleaning while also preventing the sebaceous glands from producing excess sebum (oil). When oil production is controlled, acne-causing bacteria gets to thrive less and thus breakouts are controlled.
- Clears clogged pores - Since salicylic acid is soluble in oil, it can penetrate deep into the pores, dissolving dead skin, bacteria and oil and clearing the pores inside out. Congested pores get inflamed and cause acne. When the pores remain clear, the skin can breathe better and bacteria doesn’t get to thrive in them.
- Prevents acne from forming - Comedones are blemishes or pimples that form due to oil and skin cells getting trapped inside your pores. Salicylic acid is a comedolytic, which means that it prevents the formation of whiteheads, blackheads or acne that would otherwise form due to congested pores. By keeping the pores clean, salicylic acid prevents the formation of future acne.
- Exfoliates the skin - Salicylic acid acts as a peeling agent, exfoliating and stripping away dead skin cells from the surface of the skin. It is also known to promote the regeneration of new skin cells, thus healing acne scars.
As a desmolytic agent, salicylic acid is known to loosen the bonds between the outer layer of the skin, helping in exfoliation. It is gentler than keratolytic agents, which offer deeper exfoliation, but can be irritating for sensitive skin.
- Targets acne-causing bacteria - Salicylic acid unclogs congested pores, making your skin more airy and breathable. If there is one thing that acne-causing bacteria hates, it’s oxygen. So, when the pores are exfoliated and unclogged, oxygen gushes into the open pores, thus weakening the microbes.
Salicylic acid, however, does not kill these bacteria, which is why it is good for mild to somewhat moderate acne, and not anything more severe than that.
- Soothes inflamed skin - Acne is made worse due to inflammation, which causes it to become red, puffy and irritated. Salicylic acid contains a chemical known as salicin, which has anti-inflammatory properties and works as a calming agent, reducing the size and redness of acne. This helps in reducing the angry appearance of acne.
- Minimizes the pores - Salicylic acid is a very effective astringent, meaning that helps in shrinking the size of the pores by reducing their oily and impure contents. When the pores are minimised, it leaves it less vulnerable to the attack of acne-causing bacteria, thus reducing breakouts.
How should you incorporate salicylic acid into your skincare routine?
Salicylic acid is highly beneficial for acne and can be incorporated in two different ways in your skincare regime.
- When using it a few times a week - If you are new to salicylic acid and have sensitive skin, you can start out by incorporating it a few times a week into your skincare routine so as not to irritate your skin.
For this, use it in an exfoliating agent in the form of a cream, gel, mask or use it in higher concentrations in an exfoliating serum.
- When using it twice a day - Salicylic acid in a variety of products and in proper concentration can be used twice a day, every day safely for great results. If you have tested your skin to react safely to salicylic acid, incorporate it in your entire skincare range for best results.
The Hormonal Acne Care range by Carmesi has a cleanser, toner, serum, moisturizer and spot corrector, which are infused with 100% plant-based salicylic acid, which is gentler on sensitive and acne-prone skin.