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Salicylic Acid, the super sexy clear skin ingredient

Salicylic acid is a sexy little number that has some wonderful results on the skin.

It s found in many skincare products, from spot treatments to all-over liquid formulas.

It’s oil-soluble, so it will glide past any oil on your skin and dive straight into your pores, clearing out pimple-causing clogs, like dirt and more.

What is salicylic?

Derived from the aspirin family, the word Salix is Latin for willow tree. Yes, you guessed it, back in the day, compounds were taken from the willow tree’s bark.

Fortunately, today, we chemists no longer have to go foraging through woods; neither do we have to strip bark from willow trees to harness the powers of this extraordinary ingredient. Phew, we sure are glad about that because today, most compounds are laboratory-produced.

Salicylic Acid is considered a beta hydroxy acid or BHA for short; it is a great ingredient to treat acne, blemishes and blackheads.

It belongs to the same class of drugs as aspirin, salicylates and is great at reducing inflammation in your skin.

How salicylic acid works

An exhaustive amount of research exists to support salicylic acid as an effective acne treatment. Still, because acne is a very complicated topic, there is no one-size-fits-all solution for treating it.

To finds out if salicylic acid works for your skin type and your acne grade, we are going to have to get a little technical; so here’s a quick refresher on how those troublesome breakouts form:

When dead skin cells, bacteria, debris and oil mix together, they clog the inside of your pores; salicylic oil is oil-soluble, so it is capable of cutting through oil and exfoliating deep within the follicular wall to remove blockages.

This is because salicylic works by increasing the amount of moisture in your skin and dissolving the substance that causes your skin cells to stick together — thus making it easier to shed your skin cells. Hopefully, now you can see why this ingredient is a longtime favourite for those with oily, acne-prone skin.

Resq anti-blemish complex is formulated as a target spot treatment that will flush about the pore, keeping those bothersome breakouts at bay.

BHA versus AHA

Here’s BHAs—they penetrate deeper than AHAs, which are water-soluble and ideal for surface exfoliation.

BHA’s are oil-soluble, meaning they journey deep to the root of your pore instead of operating only at surface level, making them the perfect choice for oily/combo skin type, breakouts and acne, and they are an extremely effective heavy-duty exfoliant for everyone else.

Salicylic comes from a family of medicines for the skin, known as keratolytic, which effectively treat skin that is excessively oily, thick or flaky, which is why it’s great for treating warts psoriasis, breakouts and extreme dryness.

Best of all, it’s an anti-inflammatory derived from aspirin; it helps to reduce redness, so it’s ideal for those suffering from acne inflammation. If your skin is pretty sensitive, there’s also capryloyl salicylic acid, which is an even gentler version.

In plain English, all this means:

  • anti-inflammatory
  • they unclog pores
  • break down fatty compounds
  • exfoliate dead skin cells and gets rid of stubborn protein known as keratin
  • break down blackheads and whiteheads, preventing them from returning to the surface level of your skin
  • dissolves sebum that can block pores and feed bacteria, which in turn leads to breakouts
  • softens the contents of clogged pores, making it a great acne treatment

For more juicy gossip on the benefits of salicylic acid, follow this link.

How should I use salicylic?

Although salicylic acid is a common ingredient that’s easily accessible, a lot of variables are at play when it comes to using this ingredient, so the key is to approach it with caution; usage will depend on your skin type,  the underlying indication, and how severe your skin condition is.

The percentage can range anywhere from .05 to 2 per cent in over-the-counter products—for treating mild acne, .05 to 1 per cent is fine, but for stubborn acne, look for 2 per cent instead, in saying that the pH is just as important. The optimal pH should be around 3 to 4.

The recommended concentration of a salicylic acid product will vary from person to person and should be discussed with your dermatologist. The same applies to how often you use a salicylic acid treatment; in general, use salicylic acid in moderation or until you know your skin can tolerate it.

The key is to listen to your skin. If it’s getting irritating, you’ll need to use it intermittently. As far as the amount used, we stress the importance of following the product’s direction or your dermatologist recommendations. Please don’t do more or less, and don’t use it for longer than recommended. Apply just enough salicylic acid to cover the affected area and rub it gently into your skin.

Salicylic acid preparations

When it comes to skincare products, salicylic comes in many different forms; Gels, lotions, ointments, peels and even shampoos; these formulas also come in many different strengths, from 0.5 per cent to strong concentrations of 30 per cent.

To get the best results from your product, it should be used in low concentrations and over longer periods; whilst this may sound counter-intuitive, a concentration of around 1-2 per cent, will give your skin a pH of around 4.5 to 5.5, this pH, will help to keep your acid mantle and its delicate microflora intact.

A great tip is to purchase skincare products with salicylic acid that will stick around on your skin for longer; these include lotions, moisturisers and day creams; anything you don’t have to wash off, give the salicylic an opportunity, to really work its magic. Each topical product will use salicylic acid in its own special way and is targeted for certain use on different skin types and conditions. The caveat is that some formulas can be too harsh, so be wary of the percentage.

The naked truth

Salicylic Acid often gets a raw deal; the reason for this is two-fold:

Salicylic Acid has been known to cause sensitivity and inflammation. Some people are actually intolerant to this ingredient, which is a recognized condition known as salicylate sensitivity.

Secondly, many cheaper formulas contain too high a percentage of salicylic acid, which can cause your skin to become inflamed or dry; these side effects are more common at the start of treatment and should not continue; if they do persist, stop using the product immediately and treat the area with only cold water or a low molecular pure form of hyaluronic acid like the type found in H20 hydrating complex, to diffuse inflammation within your skin’s tissues instantly.

After all, too much of a good thing can be bad, and that is especially true of salicylic acid.


In general, those who have oily, combination skin and/or are looking to treat superficial acne, occasional breakouts, whiteheads, blackheads are great candidates for this topical treatment.

Salicylic acid should be used in moderation until you know your skin can handle it without irritation.

If your skin tolerates it, you can then increase the frequency to twice a day; however, if you know you’re going out in direct sunlight, we recommend only applying it at night.

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