Can I Sleep with Salicylic Acid on Face?

Can I Sleep with Salicylic Acid on Face?

If you’ve suffered from a blemish in the past, chances are you’ve used a product containing salicylic acid, whether you realised it or not. One of the most used beta hydroxy acids, salicylic acid has gained a reputation for effectively combating frequent breakouts and acne prone skin.

The question is, can this potent ingredient be used for on the face overnight? Will it still deliver the results you want or perhaps it’ll be too harsh for the skin leading to a flare-up in dryness, flaking patches of skin, and irritation. Let’s investigate how this ingredient works and find out if you can sleep with salicylic acid on your face.

Don’t forget, if you wanted to know more about salicylic acid and how it works on the skin you can check out our dedicated blog post over on The Beauty Insiders.

Can you leave salicylic acid on your face overnight?

Yes, you really can! You can use salicylic acid twice a day if required, those with a skin type that is oily and prone to breakouts will benefit from using the BHA most. If you find yourself having a dry skin type that suffers from the occasional spot, it may be a case of finding a product that doesn’t remain on the skin for too long and you should avoid leaving it on the face overnight all together.

If you have previously used salicylic acid and your skin has built a tolerance for it

As for serums and moisturisers, you’ll find that their formulas will often contain salicylic acid of 1% to 2% potency which is considered low enough to leave on the skin overnight and rinse off come morning. I would advise strongly against using any formulas that are medical or professional grade of 15% or higher for overnight application. These are for skin treatments, such as chemical peels, and are best used for a boost in restoring the complexion to vibrant, clear, and blemish-free clarity.

Does salicylic acid help overnight?

Yes, salicylic acid can help overnight with any concerns you have with spots and acne. Thanks to the exfoliating abilities, antibacterial and anti-inflammatory it can combat any flare-ups of blemishes that are active on the surface of the skin, as well as working in the lower layers to prevent any potential breakouts from reaching the surface.

You’ll find that with serum products containing salicylic acid that the percentage of the BHA will higher which can cause some drying effects on the skin. Therefore, it’s considered a good idea to team any salicylic acid skincare product with a hydrating ingredient, like hyaluronic acid to keep the skin surface plumped, hydrated, with a youthful bounce.

How long do I leave salicylic acid on face?

This is very much dependant on the product you use, as they all remain on the skin for different amounts of time. If you are just introducing salicylic acid into your daily routine, it may be a good idea to start with using an exfoliating toner that is applied to the skin by soaking cotton discs and sweeping the formula across the face. This, as well as a cleanser enriched in salicylic acid is another option as both products are either rinsed off the face or absorb quickly.

If it’s a serum, face oil or moisturiser you decide to use, these generally remain on the skin for a considerably longer amount of time. It is advised by some skincare experts that using a salicylic acid product overnight enables the ingredient to work without being disturbed with the exposure to free radicals, such as pollution or UV rays.

Should I use salicylic acid in the morning or night?

You can use salicylic acid twice a day, in the morning and at night. By doing this you are keeping the skin clean and dirt free whilst combating the spot causing bacteria. Using the BHA twice day is really boiling down to your skin type, oily, acne prone skins in particular benefit from salicylic acid most of all.

For those with a slightly more dry and sensitive skin type, its best to avoid using salicylic acid all together as it can be too much and can sometimes strip the skin of the essential oil it requires to remain healthy. For your skin barrier to function correctly, it needs the right amount of water and oil ensuring it is strong enough to ward off any damage caused from free radicals. By removing this oil, you will weaken your skin barrier and kick start the sebum (the natural oil found in the skin) production leading to a flare-up in spots, blackheads, and breakouts.

When does salicylic acid start working?

You can expect to see a difference in the improvement of your breakouts after consistently using a salicylic acid enriched product for 6-8 weeks. If you find you have passed that amount of time and have seen no difference in your skin, the next steps would be to consult with a doctor or dermatologist to find alternative treatments which will hopefully be more effective. 

Is it normal to breakout after using salicylic acid?

Yes, it is perfectly normal for the skin to suffer from a breakout after using salicylic acid. This breakout is also known as purging and occurs because of how the BHA works on the skin. With salicylic acid being oil-soluble it can penetrate the lower layers and unclog the pores of any excess sebum, dirt, bacteria, and other impurities. This results in all the “gunk” being pushed to the surface of skin all in one go resulting in flare-up in acne like breakouts. 

Does salicylic acid remove blackheads?

Yes, it certainly does! Salicylic acid is one of the most used ingredients for combating blemishes and acne prone skin. It can break down the impurities, remove excess sebum, and slough away the build-up of dead skin cells that can often sit on the surface resulting in a breakout in blackheads, whiteheads, and spots.  

There you have a little more detail about whether you can sleep with salicylic acid on your face. Don’t forget if you have any more questions, come and give Procoal’s Instagram a follow, you’ll find me in the direct messages.


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