Here’s What Salicylic Acid Does To Your Skin
Here’s What Salicylic Acid Does To Your Skin

Here’s What Salicylic Acid Does To Your Skin

4 minutes read

Salicylic acid was the most searched skincare ingredient in 2021; according to a recent report, 74,000 monthly searches were logged for the ingredient alone, alongside 22,200 monthly searches of its related name ‘BHA’ Beta hydroxy acid.’  

Experts say the surge of interest amongst consumers is due to its effectiveness in treating acne, the biggest skincare concern of 2021, with 3.2 million searches per month. 

We spoke to skincare experts about everything you need to know about salicylic acid, who should use it, and ways to incorporate it into your skincare routine to reap its benefits.  

What does Salicylic acid do?

Before we explain what Salicylic acid does, there are two main groups of acids that you need to know about: alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs) and beta hydroxy acids (BHAs) and salicylic acid is BHA.   

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

Woman smiling

What are the benefits of Salicylic acid for the skin? 

Salicylic acid is found in many skincare products. It is a great addition to your skincare routine and definitely worth the investment if used correctly. 

Here’s a rundown of Salicylic acid benefits:


It works best for blemish-prone skin as it helps prevent pore blockages and contains anti-inflammatory properties that help red, inflamed pimples and pustules go away faster. For spot-treatment, Beauty Daily recommends CLEAR-OUT Targets Imperfections.

Clears and prevents whiteheads and blackheads: 

With its ability to penetrate deep into the pores and keep it squeaky clean, salicylic acid prevents pesky whiteheads and blackheads from developing. Wash your face twice daily with the Purifying Cleansing Gel

Controls and reduces sebum production: 

Salicylic acid is lipophilic, which means it dissolves fats and oil. As mentioned, it travels into the pore, a sebaceous follicle, removes excess oil, and then reduces its production.

Exfoliates the skin:

Salicylic acid is a natural exfoliant. 

It facilitates skin cell turnover by revealing a fresh, new layer of the skin, giving a rejuvenated and brighter complexion. It also fades acne scars due to the skin cell renewal process. 

Removes fake tan:

Salicylic acid is good for removing fake tan because of it’s ability to exfoliate the top layer of dead skin cells. Not only is it gentle on your skin – it’s also actually very effective; however, it is important to use it correctly and to follow the instructions carefully to avoid any unwanted side effects.

Who should use Salicylic acid?

Beauty Daily recommends salicylic acid for blemish-prone people or if you have an oily or combination skin type. It also works best for those looking to treat whiteheads and blackheads.

Salicylic acid side effects

If not used correctly, Salicylic acid can have adverse skin reactions such as peeling, burning, severe dryness, itchiness and redness. Also, if you don’t purchase from a reliable retailer, then there is a risk that the formulation might be sub-standard. 

 If any of these effects last or get worse, stop using the product and consult a dermatologist. 

Word of caution: You need to be extremely careful when using salicylic acid in summer, as it (and its fellow exfoliating AHAs) can make your skin sun-sensitive. Rather use it at night, and make sure you use an SPF 50 sunscreen every day, reapplying frequently when swimming or perspiring heavily.

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

Is it good to use Salicylic acid every day?

“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 as long as you’re choosing the right product for your skin type, you shouldn’t have any issue with it,” McHale says.   

Expert-approved Salicylic acid centric skincare routine 

Morning:  To keep acne at bay, treat acne or minimise shine, Beauty Daily recommends using Purifying Gentle Foaming Cleanser . This blemish-busting cleanser has pore-cleansing blue granules made with salicylic acid, which leaves skin feeling shine-free and pristine-clean.

Evening: If you are wearing make-up, double cleanse. Get the make-up out of the way by using a cleansing oil and proceed using the purifying gel. 

Pamper yourself a couple of times a week with an anti-oil mask. Apply SOS Pure Rebalancing Clay Mask on areas of concern such as T-zone to minimise shine.

If breakouts don’t seem to clear up even when using salicylic acid, ask for help. Head to a Clarins beauty counter near you for further advice or product usage. 



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