Salicylic acid is most commonly known for being a wonder-worker when it comes to clearing up blackheads, whiteheads, pimples, and any other type of blemish-causing skin eruption. But not many people know the full list of salicylic acid’s amazing benefits, and why it’s one of our most often used ingredients.
Break it down.
Salicylic acid is a beta-hydroxy acid (BHA) that stimulates cell turnover and dissolves the sticky bonds between dead skin cells. This means that not only does it exfoliate dull, dead skin cells, it also makes sure they get efficiently swept away, revealing fresh, newer skin that’s naturally smoother and has greater clarity. With dead skin cells cleared away, your skin can better absorb other products, making them more effective. And, when your skin has a more even texture, your makeup applies more evenly. So really, when you use salicylic acid, you’re prompting a domino effect of better-working skincare and next-level gorgeous skin.
An anti-acne superhero.
You probably recognize salicylic acid from your acne treatments. It’s one of the few active ingredients that can be used in over the counter acne products (that means you don’t need a prescription), but is powerful enough to send zits and blemishes packing. The exfoliating benefits of salicylic acid help clear out trapped dirt, oil, and puss in active blemishes. Over time, it works to keep excess oil, grime, and dead skin cells at bay. It also has natural antibacterial properties, which help keep bacteria from becoming trapped beneath the skin's surface, ultimately preventing new breakouts from erupting.
Got an active breakout? Spot apply Clinical Clearing Gel with 1% salicylic acid for an extra targeted treatment that’ll help clear up acne quickly. This small but mighty treatment is great for inflamed, stubborn blemishes that won’t go away. Apply a dot over individual blemishes and gently tap it into the skin to avoid irritation.
Also look for a foundation that contains salicylic acid. “When you have a breakout, the first thing you want to do is cover it up—but a lot of my patients tell me they're worried that their makeup will make their breakouts worse. The trick is to find the right formula,” says Clinique Derm Pro Dr. Michelle Henry, a board-certified dermatologist based in New York City. To help treat and prevent acne, try Acne Solutions Liquid Makeup. This lightweight foundation is oil-free, non-acnegenic, and has salicylic acid. “It camouflages any existing pimples by neutralizing redness and instantly minimizes the look of your pores, without accentuating breakouts,” says Dr. Henry.
Kill acne with kindness.
Though it's technically an "acid," salicylic acid won't hurt when formulated at concentrations that are safe to promote healthy skin. Salicylic acid also has natural soothing properties that can calm down a blemish, which is critical for acne-prone skin. More isn't necessarily better. Twice a day is just the right amount.
Words: Alix Light Perez and Courtney Brunson