FAQs About Salicylic Acid

Salicylic acid has long been used as a pain reliever, fever reducer and anti-inflammatory. It’s also become widely popular as an acne treatment and a chemical peeling agent. Read on to learn the answers to some of the most commonly asked questions about salicylic acid.

How Does Salicylic Acid Treat Acne?

Salicylic acid treats acne by exfoliating dead skin cells. It has the power to penetrate your pores, removing the dirt, oil, and debris that can accumulate and cause acne. It speeds up the process by which you shed dead skin cells from inside your pores, to keep pores clear and prevent acne.

Salicylic acid is a common active ingredient in prescription and over-the-counter acne cleansers and treatments. It can be applied topically in low concentrations to help exfoliate the skin and control acne breakouts. In higher concentrations, it can be used as a chemical peeling agent to help keep pores clear.

What are the Benefits of a Salicylic Acid Peel?

Salicylic acid is a gentle chemical peeling agent that can be used by itself or in combination with other peeling agents. Salicylic acid is used in both mild and medium-depth chemical peels to remove the upper layers of the skin’s surface. While that might sound scary, it’s nothing more than your skin’s natural exfoliation process, sped up. Salicylic acid can remove dull, dead skin from the surface, leaving fresh, bright, younger-looking skin behind.

Salicylic acid chemical peels can reduce the appearance of fine lines, wrinkles, blemishes, and sun damage. Deeper peels using salicylic acid can even improve the appearance of scars. Regular, mild salicylic acid peels can help keep acne under control.

What are the Risks of a Salicylic Acid Peel?

Chemical peels use acids to remove some of the surface layers of your skin. The amount of skin a peel removes depends on the depth of the peel. Mild peels remove only the very surface layers of your skin. There is a slight risk of scarring, pigmentation changes, or demarcation lines. However, since mild peels don’t penetrate very far at all into the skin, the risk is minimal. You’ll most likely experience some mild side effects, such as a burning sensation during treatment, redness of the treatment area, and mild flaking for a few days after.

Medium-depth peels sometimes use salicylic acid, usually in combination with other peeling agents. The deeper the peel, the higher the risk, since stronger acids leave you more vulnerable to side effects and complications. Deeper peels are safest when performed by a professional.

Is Salicylic Acid Safe for Use During Pregnancy?

Salicylic acid is not considered safe for use during pregnancy or breastfeeding. Fortunately, other chemical peeling agents, such as glycolic or lactic acid, may be acceptable. Talk to your doctor before having a chemical peel, or any other procedure, while you are pregnant or breastfeeding.

Can I Use Salicylic Acid if I Have an Aspirin Allergy?

No, you should not use salicylic acid if you have an aspirin allergy. Salicylic acid is similar to the active ingredient in aspirin, acetylsalicylic acid. While the two chemicals are different, they are still similar enough to cause the same allergic reaction in those with aspirin sensitivity. Play it safe and choose another option.

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