How to Treat Breakouts with Salicylic Acid

How to Treat Breakouts with Salicylic Acid

Salicylic acid is a beta hydroxy acid, also known as BHA, and has established itself as a blemish-fighting powerhouse skincare ingredient. You can expect to find salicylic in a number of over the counter products and is often used in professional facials. If you regularly find yourself with unwanted breakouts, salicylic acid could be the answer which is why today we will share some knowledge we about this clever BHA and how you can treat your breakouts.

How do you use salicylic acid for spots?

The way salicylic acid works is by firstly dissolving the bonds that keep the dead skin cells on the outer layer of the skin making it appear dull and over time can build-up and develop into spots and blemishes. Secondly, salicylic acid is oil soluble meaning, unlike other AHAs, it is able to penetrate further down into the skin and work hard at unclogging the pores of bacteria, dirt, debris and excess sebum, all of which are main culprits to creating spots.

Salicylic acid is a highly potent product and is known to cause some sensitivity to those with a sensitive skin type, to avoid any irritation or reactions to the skin it is best to consult a dermatologist to find the best formula and concentration to use. You can also find out more about this BHA in our blog post about the skincare benefits of salicylic acid.

You will find there are a number of skincare products containing salicylic acid, from cleansers to serums, this is hugely beneficial as it gives you the opportunity to find a product that can fit into your daily routine easily. I must point out that if you are wanting salicylic acid to get to work as quickly as possible your best bet is to use a serum due to the fact it remains on the skin for a longer amount of time compared to a cleanser which is washed off.

How long does it take for salicylic acid to clear breakouts?

For salicylic acid to deliver the best results, it should be used in your daily routine regularly. You will find any active spots and blemishes on the surface of the skin have reduced in size and redness after a couple applications. It can take up to several weeks to see the full effects and be left with a clear and even complexion.

If you find several weeks have passed and you haven’t seen the results you were hoping for then it may be a case of checking with a dermatologist to see if the level of concentrate of the acid should be increased. The percentage of salicylic acid in products can vary from 0.5% to 6% with the higher amounts found in treatments and products used by skincare professionals.

Can I use salicylic acid every day?

Due to the fact salicylic acid is one of the more potent skincare ingredients, many experts recommend introducing it into your routine by using it every other day. Continue to do this if your skin shows no signs of irritation then after 2 weeks you are able to increase the times you apply salicylic acid. If salicylic acid is the only form of exfoliation you are using in your routine than it is perfectly safe to use it every day, however if you are using another chemical exfoliant, such as glycolic acid, or a physical face scrub, this will become too abrasive to the skin and will development a number of skin concerns from dryness, rashes and inflammations.

As we have mentioned in the past, you can have too much of a good thing and overusing salicylic acid can often lead to the skin becoming dry with increased sensitivity. Remember to use salicylic acid in conjunction with other skincare ingredients that are hydrating and moisturising, such as hyaluronic acid, to help counteract any dryness and give the skin a youthful and glowing clarity.

Should I moisturise after using salicylic acid?

Absolutely! It doesn’t really matter which product you use containing salicylic acid, applying a moisturiser afterwards will work wonders for the skin. Products such as serums generally work past the epidermis and treat the area of the skin that cannot be targeted by moisturisers.

Applying a moisturiser after salicylic acid will allow the skin to become more balanced with the protective skin barrier fully functioning with the correct levels of vital waters and oil. This will then protect the skin from any environmental aggressors, such as free radicals, sun exposure and pollution that results in skin damage. In other words, consider moisturiser as an umbrella that can protect the skin from the elements. 

Can you put salicylic acid on a popped pimple?

If you are planning on applying salicylic acid to a pimple that has already been popped, expect it to sting! This sensation can remain for a little while until you have followed it with a soothing lotion to help calm the skin. It is best to not squeeze or pop pimples or other breakouts as this will lead to the skin becoming damaged and scarred. If, however, you have given into the temptation of popping a blemish, than following this simple routine should (hopefully) avoid any further skin problems;

  1. Use a non-foaming face wash or cleanser with plenty of anti-bacterial benefits and other ingredients such as benzoyl peroxide. You will be able to clean the area avoiding any bacteria from infecting it and developing into a larger, inflamed, painful spot.
  2. Next, take an acid toner containing salicylic acid, soak a cotton disc and swipe it across the skin. Try your best not to be heavy handed and over work the toner onto the blemish. The salicylic acid will help clear away any remaining traces of debris.
  3. Finally, keep the skin protected from skin stresses by applying a lightweight moisturiser and sunscreen enriched in non-comedogenic ingredients to avoid the pores from becoming clogged.

There you have a simple routine that will prevent any further breakouts or blemishes after you have popped a pimple. I’ll let it go just this once… You can find out more about what the best ingredients are for clearing the skin of spots in our blog post.

I hope this has helped clarify a few questions you may have had about salicylic acid and how it can treat your breakouts, don’t forget to send over any further questions to us on our Instagram.


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