Salicylic Acid

Salicylic Acid; sister of the already discussed Glycolic Acid, is a Beta Hydroxy Acid (BHA) and is obtained from the bark of the Willow tree. Some time ago I wrote a blog about the effects of Glycolic Acid on the skin. As with Glycolic Acid, numerous independent scientific investigations have been carried out proving the effectiveness of this acid.

Fresh, radiant and smooth
Salicylic Acid is used as an Exfoliant for the skin. Exfoliation is a pleasant term used for the removal of the dead skin cells which are continually accumulating on your face. The result: your skin is more fresh, smooth and radiant. If these dead skin cells aren’t removed regularly then your skin will become dull and sallow.

The removal of dead skin cells with an acid, such as Salicylic Acid, is also known as chemical exfoliation. Another way of exfoliating is by using a product containing small granules  to ‘scrape off ‘, as it were, the dead skin cells, also known as scrubbing. This is called mechanical exfoliation. The main disadvantage of mechanical exfoliation is that the healthy skin soon becomes damaged as well.

Great results, provided that..
Salicylic Acid can, in no time, give your skin an attractive and radiant appearance, with the emphasis on ‘can’. Salicylic Acid only works on your skin if the ingredient has a high enough concentration (0.5 – 2%). You can assume that the concentration of Salicylic Acid is too low if displayed in the last part of the ingredients list. As well as this, it is important that the product has the correct pH level (acidity), usually between 3 and 5. The skin will become easily irritated if the pH level is lower than 3. A product with a pH level higher than 5 will no longer work, because the acid is neutralised.
As an Exfoliant can cause some irritation at first, it is important that the product also contains soothing ingredients. This may be an ingredient such as liquorice root extract, or allantoin. You can, of course, combine the Exfoliant with a Moisturizer containing soothing ingredients. Let the Salicylic Acid absorb in fully before applying the Moisturizer onto your skin.

For who?
Salicylic Acid is fat soluble and therefore very suitable for oily and blemished skin. This is because it penetrates into the pores where it dissolves the accumulated sebum – one of the best answers for blackheads and milk spots (milia).
Salicylic Acid has the same chemical composition as the well known painkiller Aspirin and therefore also possesses an anti-inflammatory function. This means, though, that if you are allergic to aspirin, you need to take care with Salicylic Acid. Research has shown that Salicylic Acid is very suitable for skin with acne and can even reduce it.
If you suffer from sensitive skin you could also try using a salicylic based Exfoliant. Salicylic Acid is generally well tolerated by all skin types with a lower risk of irritation than, for example, with Glycolic Acid.

Adding it to your daily care routine
After cleansing the skin and applying a toner, you can use an Exfoliant. Let the Exfoliant absorb in properly before applying a Moisturizer.
Check every week/two weeks how your skin is reacting and build its use up as follows if no irritation is experienced:
– Begin by applying once every three evenings.
– If this is going well, increase to every other evening.
– Eventually: every evening.
– Optional: use both in the morning and in the evening.
– Avoid using around the eyes.

Ultimately, depending on your skin type, you can use an Exfoliant daily. Always go back a step if your skin becomes irritated (such as peeling, burning or turning red). You can also apply an Exfoliant onto your neck and chest, providing you build up its use gradually.

Fantastic for the face, and also..
Warts and calluses
Warts and calluses can be very stubborn. Salicylic Acid in concentrations of between 8 and 12% appears to help.

Keratosis pilaris
If you suffer from Keratosis Pilaris, then you have a number of small, often red bumps and the skin feels rough, almost like sandpaper. The bumps can appear on the face and also on the upper arms, back and legs. Salicylic Acid in concentrations of between 3 and 6% can be effective for Keratosis Pilaris on the body. A concentration of 1 to 2% is recommended for the face.

Salicylic Acid as a peel
You can go to a Dermatologist or Skin Therapist, working under the supervision of a Dermatologist, for the application of a Salicylic Acid peel with a concentration of up to 30%.

Protect, protect, protect
The use of Salicylic Acid will make your skin more sensitive to sunlight. This is due to the removal of dead skin cells making the stratum corneum (the uppermost skin layer) become thinner. So protecting against sunlight becomes even more important when you use this acid.

Product Advice
Uncover Skincare 1% Salicylic acid
Bare Vitamins Skin Rev-er Upper
Paula’s Choice Skin Perfecting 1% BHA Gel Exfoliant
Clinique Turnaround Concentrate Visible Skin Renewer Serum

Regards Jetske

 (Dr. Jetske Ultee- Research Physician Cosmetic Dermatology)

You can also read the blogs:
Help with Choosing an Exfoliant’,
Glycolic Acid‘,
Red Bumps on Your skin: Keratosis Pilaris’ and
Protect Yourself in the Sun; Better Application!