How to Use Salicylic Acid to Get Rid of Acne Fast
Powerful Salicylic Acid Treatments for Acne
Take a trip down any skin care aisle in any store almost anywhere in the world and will you notice that a lot of the acne treatments on offer contain something called salicylic acid. If you suffer from acne you may very well already have used some of those products before, because they are so very common. But even if you have you may not quite know what salicylic acid really is, why it’s considered an acne fighter or the best ways to make use of it to help get rid of acne.
What is Salicylic Acid Anyway?
- Salicylic Acid is a plant derived acid – from the willow actually, its name comes from the Latin for willow ‘salix’. It’s a key ingredient in aspirin as well as skin treatment, as it is salicylic acid that give aspirin its anti- inflammatory and pain relieving properties.
- Salicylic acid is what is called a beta hydroxy acid. Acne sufferers may actually be more familiar with the term alpha hydroxy acid and while the two forms of acid are related they are not the same. Alpha hydroxy acids like lactic acid and glycolic acid are also used to treat skin issues but they tend to be more powerful, more abrasive and more expensive.
- As it is taken from the bark of a willow tree in its purest form (although most commercial salicylic acid is now artificially created) it should perhaps come as no surprise to learn that humans have been using it for centuries for medicinal and cosmetic purposes.
- The Ancient Egyptians were more than aware of its ability to reduce fevers and ease pain but there’s also some suggestion in ancient writings that they knew that it had appearance enhancing properties as well, as willow bark face washes are mentioned.
- As an acne treatment salicylic acid has been in use for several decades and is, for the most part, one of the milder and gentler of them, making it suitable for use by most people, including those with sensitive skin
How Does Salicylic Acid Help Get Rid of Acne?
- Salicylic acid is an exfoliate. It helps to remove dead skin cells both from the surface layer of the skin and from within the pores themselves. It has much the same effect as scrubbing might but without being so harsh.
- It also helps remove excess oils produced by the skin, something else that can contribute to the formation of acne pimples.
- In some cases the regular application of salicylic acid helps reduce inflammation of acne pimples.
- The reason that salicylic acid works very well on mild acne is that it can get into the pores so easily but does not leave behind any clogging residue of its own.
What Salicylic Acid Can’t Do to Get Rid of Acne
- Salicylic acid is not an antibacterial agent, so unlike some other acne treatments it does not get rid of acne causing bacteria.
- Although it can be effective on mild cases of acne on its own – the occasional pimple, a small number of blackheads – it’s rarely enough on its own to treat and get rid of more serious acne cases, especially cystic acne.
- Salicylic acid is not effective as a spot treatment. It calls for a regular, whole face treatment on a regular basis in order for it to be helpful to get rid of acne.
Possible Salicylic Acid Side Effects
Like many skin treatments salicylic acid can have some less than desirable side effects for those that use it. These can include:
- A burning sensation in the skin
- Slight skin redness after use
- An over-drying of the skin
- An increased sensitivity in the skin to sunlight
- Excessive skin peeling
For the most part these reactions occur when the product is overused or when a person has sensitive skin and the formulation is a little too strong. For most people though it can be used on a regular basis quite successfully.
Types of Salicylic Acid Acne Treatments Available
Acne treatments containing salicylic acid come in a number of different common forms. These include:
Most of these products can be found at drug stores, big box stores like Target and Walmart and even in some supermarkets. For the most part they are some of the least expensive OTC acne treatments available and most can be used at home safely, the reasons that such treatments are so very popular, especially with teenagers.
Using Salicylic Acid to Get Rid of Acne
- Whichever product you choose to use it must be applied as a whole face treatment. A wash is easiest for many people but treated pads tend to be more powerful.
- Products containing salicylic acid do so in differing strengths. Begin with the lowest concentration and as your skin becomes used to the medication you can increase the ‘dosage’ for better effectiveness if you are not experiencing side effects.
- Always cleanse your face thoroughly before using any salicylic acid treatments, they are not designed to be a replacement for a standard cleanser.
- Apply an oil free moisturizer after using an acne product that contains salicylic acid acid to combat its drying effect.
- Read the ingredients of any product you choose carefully. Some products contain artificial ingredients that can actually be comedogenic – aka pore clogging. Common ones include pigments & dyes (red in particular) and Isopropyl Myristate.
- Avoid products that also contain alcohol (which many salicylic acid toners actually do), It’s added because of it’s antibacterial properties but it is also very, very drying and can even lead to premature wrinkles.
- As salicylic acid does make the skin more susceptible to the skin damaging rays of the sun’s rays make sure you are wearing SPF protection when you go outside. The easiest way to do this on the face is to chose an oil free moisturizer with SPF protection of at least 15.
- Be aware of the fact that salicylic acid is rarely enough on its own to treat anything but mild cases of acne. For people suffering with more problematic acne, especially cystic acne, it will be more effective when used as a part of a larger skin care regime.
- If you do begin using salicylic acid products to get rid of acne they should be used on an ongoing, regular basis. As its primary purpose is to gently exfoliate dead skin cells and keep pores clean then it should be used whether or not you have an active breakout or are enjoying a ‘clear skin period’.
- If dry skin, peeling and redness last for more than a few uses of a salicylic acid product either try one that contains a lower concentration of the acid or opt for a different treatment altogether.
And so there it is, all of the basics you need to know about using salicylic acid to help combat acne. Now it’s your turn. We are always interested in hearing about people’s’ real life experiences when using various acne treatments. So feel free to share them with us, we’d love to hear them.