Is Salicylic Acid Good for the Face
Salicylic acid penetrates the skin and helps dissolve excess oil and dead skin cells in the pores

Salicylic acid, a beta hydroxy acid (BHA), can help reduce acne by exfoliating the skin and unclogging pores, which can improve overall skin tone and texture.

Salicylic acid penetrates the skin and helps dissolve excess oil and dead skin cells in the pores, which can help treat blackheads, whiteheads, and pimples.

How does salicylic acid work on acne?

Salicylic acid works in treating acne by clearing up blocked pores and breaking down the keratin connections that bind dead skin cells and reducing sebum production.

  • Exfoliates the skin: Removes dead skin cells, which improves skin dullness and roughness
  • Reduces oil: Penetrates beneath the surface of the skin to clear out excess sebum from the pores and reduce oiliness
  • Opens blocked pores: Enters the pores and clears out dead skin cells from blocked pores that cause superficial acne
  • Prevents blackheads and whiteheads: Treats breakouts that have already occurred and can prevent whiteheads and blackheads from rising to the surface of the skin

Salicylic acid is recommended by the American Academy of Dermatology to treat the following types of acne:

  • Blackheads: Open clogged pores 
  • Whiteheads: Closed clogged pores
  • Pustules: Pus-filled pimples
  • Papules: Tiny, firm bumps make the skin appear rough or bumpy

Does salicylic acid cause side effects?

Depending on your skin type and the type and concentration of salicylic acid you use, it can cause some side effects especially at first:

  • Slight burning or stinging
  • Peeling skin
  • Mild irritation
  • Dryness
  • Sun sensitivity

What precautions to take when using salicylic acid on the face

According to the FDA, the following safety measures are recommended when using salicylic acid:

  • Patch test the product on a small area of skin. If a reaction occurs, stop using the product.
  • Read instructions carefully before use.
  • Do not use more than what is advised.
  • Do not use the product more frequently or in higher doses than recommended on the label.
  • Never use salicylic acid products on infants or young children.
  • Before use, talk to your doctor if you have allergic reactions, are currently taking medications, or have kidney or liver disease.
  • Wear sun protection, since your skin will be more sensitive to the sun when using salicylic acid.

When using a salicylic acid product, other precautionary measures you can take include:

  • Avoid the product coming into contact with your lips, eyes, or any other mucus membranes, such as inside your nose.
  • If you experience severe side effects, stop using the product.
  • Avoid using dressings that are airtight, watertight, or made of petroleum on top of salicylic acid because they may result in an excessive amount of salicylic acid exposure.
  • Avoid using retinol and salicylic acid preparations on the same day as doing so can cause increased skin irritation and dryness.

Most over-the-counter salicylic acid skin products are formulated with a 2% concentration, although your dermatologist may prescribe higher concentrations. Talk to your doctor to see if salicylic acid is right for you and your skin condition.


Acne is the result of an allergy. See Answer

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Medically Reviewed on 9/28/2022
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