What is Salicylic Acid?

What is Salicylic Acid?

If you find yourself searching for a blemish battling formula, chances are, it will include salicylic acid. The clever BHA, also known as beta hydroxy acid, is one of the most used and effective anti-blemish ingredients. Whether it’s an over-the-counter product, or of a professional grade concentrate, the potent powerhouse will make light work of any spots, pimples, or zits that have well and truly outstayed their welcome.

If you are wanting to know more about the skincare benefits, we have a dedicated blog post about the full benefits you can expect to see when introducing the powerful acid to your routine.

What is salicylic acid?

Understanding what salicylic acid actually is can feel a little overwhelming but understanding how it works on the skin is important to help establish how to introduce it into your daily routine. So, let’s start off by getting a better understanding of why the selection of acids are called alpha hydroxy acids and beta hydroxy acids. This is basically connected to the structure of the acids and how many times the molecule separates, for example, if it splits into one carbon atom, it becomes an alpha hydroxy acid (AHA) and if it separates into two carbon atoms, it’s a beta hydroxy acid (BHA).

Both groups of acids provide exfoliation to the top layer of the skin, the main difference is that salicylic acid and other BHAs are oil-soluble meaning they are able to penetrate deeply into the pores reaching an area of the skin other AHAs, such as glycolic acid and lactic acid are unable to. The exfoliation and ability to unclog the pores of any build-up of excess sebum, dirt, and bacteria your complexion is left revived, invigorated, and glowing, you’ll also find it is able to absorb other actives rapidly giving you faster results.

If you find you are still a little confused about the main difference between AHAs and BHAs there is more information about them over on The Beauty Insiders.

What is salicylic acid mainly used for?

Salicylic acid is known for being a highly potent anti-blemish ingredient. With its ability to slough away dead skin cells and work deeply in the pores, it can combat active spots and blemishes whilst simultaneously preventing any further breakouts from developing.

With medical grade salicylic acid providing peeling properties it isn’t just acne combating skincare products that contain the BHA. You’ll also find that those with dry skin conditions such as psoriasis and dandruff can be treated with specifically designed products. With this comes a word of warning, and that is to ensure you have consulted with a doctor or dermatologist to check including salicylic acid into your routine will be a benefit and avoid unwanted irritations.

Finally, there are some concerns, such as corns, calluses and warts that can also be removed and treated using a high concentrate of salicylic acid. This should only be used by a medically trained professional and not tried at home due to the potency of the BHA can lead to a lot of irritation, skin reactions, sever dryness, and discomfort.

Does lemon juice have salicylic acid?

Not really, although it does contain similar properties as salicylic acid, such as antioxidants to help combat the skin damaging free radicals, such as UV exposure, pollution, and other environmental aggressors.

In regard to lemon juice, you’ll find that it contains citric acid and vitamin C, both of which provide exfoliation to the outer layers of the skin and can treat signs of hyperpigmentation and dark spots. The downside to using lemon juice on the face to help target acne and blemishes is the fact it can become excessively drying to the skin, especially if you decide to use pure lemon juice as this will lack hydrating ingredients, such as hyaluronic acid.

As tempting as it may be to use lemon juice on the skin, I would advise against this as the pH levels of the juice will be too acidic which will disrupt the levels that naturally occur on the skin. An imbalance will lead to a flare-up in acne, dry patches of skin, redness, itchiness, and general discomfort. 

How can I make salicylic acid peel at home?

Making a salicylic acid peel at home is an easier task than many may think, however, if you are wanting to give this a try, it is very important you consult with a doctor beforehand. Once you have the green light from your GP here is how you can use a salicylic acid peel at home.

  • Step one- Cleanse the skin and pat dry
  • Step two- Take your bottle of salicylic acid, preferably nothing higher than 15% and mix it in a bowl with your choice of carrier oil, such as sweet almond or olive oil
  • Step three- Using a fan brush, apply the salicylic acid and oil mixture over the skin avoiding the eye area
  • Step four- Ensure you keep a close eye on how your skin is feeling and leave the mixture on the face for no longer than 2 minutes
  • Step five- Rinse the mixture off the skin
  • Step six- Leave your skin slightly damp and apply a serum packed with hyaluronic acid to lock moisture into the skin
  • Step seven- Follow this in the morning with a sunscreen of SPF 50 for added protection from UV exposure

As I have already mentioned, do not try this at home without first consulting with your doctor. Salicylic acid is a highly potent ingredient which needs to be introduced into your routine slowly so only perform an at home acid peel once your skin has built some tolerance.

Can I use salicylic acid everyday?

Yes, you can, but with caution as it very much depends on your skin type and whether your established routine contains other potent skin actives. This doesn’t mean you should avoid using salicylic acid but should remain mindful of how and when you should apply it to the skin. There is a lot more detail about using salicylic acid everyday over on our dedicated blog post, so check that out.

There you have some answers to the questions we have received about what salicylic acid and the benefits you can expect to see on the skin. Don’t forget if you have any more skincare questions, come, and find us on Instagram.

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