This popular ingredient is found in a large number of products, from acne face washes to anti-aging serums. But why? Let’s find out!

What is it?

Salicylic acid is a beta hydroxy acid (BHA) that is naturally found in a variety unripened fruits, especially berries, and in some other vegetables and spices. Like AHAs (alpha hydroxyl acids), BHAs are exfoliatiors, but they are oil soluble instead of water soluble. This means that BHAs such as salicylic acid are better at penetrating oily skin and “un-gluing” dead cells held together by sebum (natural skin oil).

What does it do?

Salicylic Acid exfoliates the skin by penetrating the skin’s upper layers, dissolving the skin oil that’s holding the dead skin cells together and preventing them from being shed off. This allows the dead skin to wash off as well as clearing out the pores.

It works best for:

*Acne – because it is oil-soluble, salicylic acid is great at exfoliating oily skin and reducing the amount of excess oil on the skin.

*Psoriasis & other scaly skin conditions – salicylic acid is effective at sloughing off the dead skin overgrowths that are common to conditions such as psoriasis, dandruff, calluses, corns, and several types of warts

*Aging skin – the exfoliating power of this acid has also been shown to improve skin texture and pigmentation problem. 

Anything to watch out for?

Like glycolic acid, salicylic acid can make your skin more sensitive to sunlight, so be sure to wear sunscreen and/or reduce your skin’s exposure to the sun.


This acid is more aggressive than glycolic, so smaller concentrations are usually used, but dryness is not uncommon. Use a moisturizer depending on your skin type (i.e. if you are oily, your skin should tolerate this better but still use a light oil-free moisturizer where as if you have drier, aging skin, a thicker moisturizer may be needed).

BLOG DISCLAIMER: Information on this blog is for educational purposes only and not intended to diagnose or treat any skin ailment. Please make an appointment with your physician for personalized medical advice. 


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