5 Questions You Should Ask Before a Salicylic Acid Peel

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Salicylic acid is a popular ingredient in many prescription and over-the-counter acne treatments. Dermatologists have recently discovered that salicylic acid is an effective chemical peeling agent that can have the same effects as other peeling agents like glycolic acid. But, like any surgical procedure, salicylic acid can carry some risks. Here are the questions you should ask before having a salicylic acid skin peel.

1) What are the Benefits of a Salicylic Acid Peel?

Dermatologists have recently discovered that salicylic acid is one of the most gentle, yet effective, chemical peeling agents available today. Salicylic acid has natural anti-inflammatory properties, so it can soothe your skin while exfoliating it at the same time. And since salicylic acid is powerful but gentle, your dermatologist won’t have to use as much of it to give you the same chemical peel results—reduced appearance of fine lines, wrinkles, and blemishes, as well as clear, acne-free skin.

2) What are the Risks of a Salicylic Acid Peel?

Salicylic acid is a gentle acid derived from chemical compounds that occur naturally in plants, such as the willow tree. Salicylic acid can be used on its own, or in combination with other gentle acids such as AHA or glycolic acid, to perform a mild chemical peel. Mild chemical peels remove only the very surface layers of your skin and carry few risks.

3) What are the Side Effects of a Salicylic Acid Peel?

A mild salicylic acid peel, performed by a dermatologist, might sting or burn for a few minutes, and you might experience about 24 hours of redness and inflammation. Salicylic acid can dry the skin, and your skin might peel for two or three days, but you can relieve this with moisturizer.

If you receive a deeper peel that uses salicylic acid as a main ingredient, you will run the risks of scarring, pigmentation changes and demarcation lines that deeper peels carry. You will have a longer recovery time of up to two weeks, and you will need to keep the treatment area clean and dry to prevent infection. You’ll also need to regularly apply an ointment your dermatologist will give you. Your skin may form a dark brown crust which, after about a week, should fall off, revealing smoother skin below. The treated skin may remain bright pink for several weeks after your skin peel.

4) Should I Use Salicylic Acid If I Have an Aspirin Allergy?

If you have an aspirin allergy or sensitivity, using a salicylic acid peel could be very risky. Salicylic acid is chemically similar to the main ingredient in aspirin, acetylsalicylic acid. The two chemicals are similar enough to cause similar allergic reactions. You could even experience life-threatening anaphylaxis. If you have an aspirin allergy or sensitivity, ask your dermatologist about alternatives to salicylic acid.

5) Should I Receive a Salicylic Acid Peel If I am Pregnant?

Pregnancy is no reason to let your skin care regimen slide, but many chemical peel formulas and other skin care products contain ingredients that can seep into your bloodstream and harm your unborn baby. Salicylic acid has been proven to cause birth defects in unborn babies, and it can lead to complications when used during pregnancy. Your dermatologist can help you choose a safe chemical peel agent, such as lactic acid, AHA, or glycolic acid.

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