The Complete Guide On How To Use Salicylic Acid
The Complete Guide On How To Use Salicylic Acid

The Complete Guide On How To Use Salicylic Acid

5 minutes read

Salicylic acid, when used right, can have a positive effect on the skin: from banishing acne and blemishes, clearing out stubborn blackheads and whiteheads, to revitalising a dull complexion. When used wrong, it can have a stinging and burning sensation leaving your skin dry, flaky, and itchy. 

Beauty Daily speaks to leading dermatologists on how to use salicylic acid correctly, its pros and cons and the best ways to incorporate it into your skincare. 

What is salicylic acid? 

There are two main groups of acids you need to know about, especially when you go skincare shopping: alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs) and beta hydroxy acids (BHAs). Both alpha and beta hydroxy acids exfoliate the skin, but the difference is:

AHAs are water-soluble – think hyaluronic acid or glycolic, lactic acids and BHAs are oil-soluble, think: salicylic acid. 

Charlotte McHale, Clarins Training Manager, says: “Salicylic acid can penetrate through oil. So, the USP is that it cuts through any sebum within the pores to deep clean and keep them unclogged to prevent acne formation. It also removes excess oil and reduces its production.” 

happy woman looking in the mirror

What are the pros of using salicylic acid?  

London-based NHS consultant dermatologist Dr Anastasia Therianou MD, PhD explains: “Salicylic acid exfoliates the superficial layers of the epidermis of the skin. In this way, if there are blackheads and whiteheads or any clogged pores, it will unclog them, improving any spots. In addition, it gives a smooth appearance to the rest of the skin.” 

What are the cons of using salicylic acid? 

“The cons are it can make the skin flaky, and it can be irritating for some people who have sensitive skin types such as dry, eczema-prone, or sensitive skin.” Dr Therianou explains. 

Adding: “The drying ingredient could be too harsh and lead to irritation. In addition, it can give a burning peeling, severe dryness, redness, and itchy sensations.” 

Experts suggest approaching some salicylic acids with caution, as it’s a common ingredient and can easily be bought online. However, not all products are created equal. 

It is important to note that if you don’t purchase from a reliable retailer, then there is a risk that the formulation might be sub-standard. If these symptoms happen to you, stop using the product and consult a dermatologist.  

Read next: The Best And Worst Beauty Products To Wear Under The Sun

What skin type is salicylic acid good for?

Beauty Daily recommends using salicylic acid for blemish-prone, oily or combination skin types. 

It also works best for those looking to treat superficial acne, whiteheads and blackheads and prevent future breakouts.

How to use salicylic acid? 

Salicylic acid is a great active ingredient and is best known for its exfoliating and blemish-fighting powers. 

The recommended concentration of a salicylic acid product varies from person to person and should be discussed with a certified dermatologist since incorporating salicylic acid in your skincare routine isn’t a ‘one size fits all’ situation. 

The same goes for how often you use a salicylic acid treatment. Start by applying it every few days and note how your skin reacts after each application. 

For those who don’t like the risk of using salicylic acid, there are alternatives. 

McHale says: “We don’t use a high percentage of salicylic acid in our products, so it will not bring discomfort even when used daily. It’s easily tolerated and, if you’re choosing the right product for your skin type, you shouldn’t have any issue with it.”

Read Next:  How To Know Your Skin Type: Test Your Skin To Find Out

How is salicylic acid used in a skincare routine?

Beauty Daily shares expert-approved ways on how to incorporate salicylic products into your daily morning and evening rituals. 

In the morning: When it comes to keeping acne at bay, treating blemishes or minimising sebum production, we love the Purifying Gentle Foaming Cleanser. This bacteria and blemishing fighting foaming cleanser is perfect for people with combination or oily skin types. Thanks to the pore-cleansing blue granules made with salicylic acid, it gently cleanses, purifies, and mattifies, leaving skin spotless and squeaky clean. 

In the evening: If you are wearing make-up, Beauty Daily recommends to double cleanse using Total Cleansing Oil and proceed using the RE-MOVE Purifying Gel. Follow with Purifying Toning Lotion, which can be used day and night for best results. 

Spot control treatment: For those inevitable days of acne breakouts and blemishes, CLEAR-OUT Targets Imperfections and is our go-to arsenal to zap spots quickly. Apply directly to imperfections morning and evening following day or night time moisturiser, or at any time of day in case of ‘emergency.’

This is perfect for all skin types and is designed to help you break up with breakouts for good. It is infused with salicylic acid to take down the swelling. In addition, Meadowsweet extract purifies the skin by reducing sebaceous gland activity and clearing clogged pores and purslane extract to soothe.

Once or twice mask sessions: To make sure skin is mattified, pamper yourself with an anti-oil mask once or twice a week. Apply SOS Pure Rebalancing Clay Mask on areas of concern such as T-zone to minimise shine.

Beauty Daily also swears by CLEAR OUT Blackhead Expert [stick + mask]. This 2-in-1 [stick + mask] product banishes pesky blackheads and leaves the skin soft, smooth and clear, even close up. Who doesn’t love that? 

Head to your nearest Clarins beauty counter for further advice or product usage. 

Read next: Here’s What Salicylic Acid Does To Your Skin

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