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If you have acne, then you’ve likely heard of salicylic acid, as many skin care products that address breakouts are formulated with the ingredient. But how much do you really know about it? If you’re curious to learn more about salicylic acid for skin, including its skin care benefits and what salicylic acid products you should look out for, then you’re in the right place. Keep reading to learn the ins and outs, starting with answering what salicylic acid is.
Before we get into the skin care benefits of salicylic acid, we have to explain what salicylic acid is. According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), salicylic acid is a type of beta hydroxy acid (BHA). In case you need a refresher, BHAs act as an exfoliant, meaning they can help remove dead skin cells from the skin’s surface. Per the FDA, salicylic acid is the most popularly used BHA in skin care products.
Now that you know what salicylic acid is—a BHA that can help exfoliate skin’s surface—it’s time to get to what you’re really interested in: What does salicylic acid do and how can it benefit your skin? According to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD), salicylic acid for acne is a common treatment. The exfoliating properties of salicylic acid make it a holy grail, as the buildup of dead skin cells on the skin’s surface can clog pores—and clogged pores can lead to breakouts. The FDA states that BHAs such as salicylic acid can also help improve the overall appearance of skin with continued use over time.
You may be wondering what is salicylic acid found in? There are a number of salicylic acid products you can seek out to reap those benefits we mentioned. In fact, there are many different types of skin care products that are formulated with salicylic acid, such as salicylic acid cleanser and salicylic acid gel. According to the AAD, you can find this ingredient in facial cleansers, moisturizers, face scrubs, cleansing cloths, and cleansing pads.
As far as using skin care products formulated with salicylic acid goes, the FDA recommends testing any skin care product on a small area first to see how your skin responds. Keep in mind that the AAD says that it can take time—anywhere from four to eight weeks—for mild acne to start clearing up after adding salicylic acid to your skin care routine. Patience is key!
Make note of the fact that it’s important to take proper sun protection measures when you use skin care products formulated with BHAs like salicylic acid, as they can make your skin more sensitive to the sun. Apply a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher daily as directed, limit your amount of time in the sun (especially between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., which are the sun’s peak hours), seek shade when you’re outside, and cover up exposed areas in long sleeve shirts, pants, a broad-brimmed hat, and UV-blocking sunglasses.
In addition to adding salicylic acid to your skin care routine, there are a few other steps you can take if you have mild acne. According to the FDA, it’s a good idea to use skin care products and makeup that are non-comedogenic or non-acnegenic, which means they are formulated to not clog pores.
Ready for another skin care lesson? Now, it’s time to up your knowledge about alpha hydroxy acids. Head on over to our article, The Beauty Benefits of Glycolic Acid, to get the scoop.
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