Myths and Facts About Salicylic Acid

Salicylic acid is a gentle beta hydroxy acid that can help exfoliate skin and treat certain skin conditions. Salicylic acid is used in prescription and over the counter acne treatments, and as a chemical peel agent. Many people don’t know much about salicylic acid or its use in skin care. Here are some common myths about salicylic acid, debunked.

Myth: Salicylic Acid is Only for Acne

Fact: It’s true that salicylic acid is the active ingredient in many acne treatments and that it’s useful for helping keep pores clean to prevent breakouts. But salicylic acid isn’t just for acne. Salicylic acid is also used to treat a number of other skin conditions that involve the build-up of dead cells on the skin’s surface, such as warts, psoriasis, or eczema.

Salicylic acid is also used in chemical peels. A salicylic acid chemical peel can gently remove the upper layers of your skin’s surface. New skin will grow in its place, and that new skin will be firmer and smoother, with fewer fine lines, wrinkles, and blemishes.

Myth: Salicylic Acid is the Same as Other Mild Chemical Peeling Agents

Fact: Salicylic acid is a beta hydroxy acid. Other mild chemical peeling agents, such as lactic or glycolic acid, are alpha hydroxy acids. Alpha hydroxy acids are quite gentle, but beta hydroxy acids are gentler. Salicylic acid may be the gentlest peeling agent in use today. It doesn’t irritate the skin as badly as AHAs can, and it can achieve the same effects in lower concentrations.

Myth: Salicylic Acid Hurts When You Apply It

Fact: Many people are concerned about using salicylic acid, whether as a topical medication or a chemical peel, because they worry that it might hurt their skin. Salicylic acid is an acid, and you might feel some burning or stinging, even when applying it in low concentrations. However, this discomfort is generally mild. Even mild chemical peels with salicylic acid typically burn and sting only while the treatment is being administered, for no longer than ten minutes.

Myth: Salicylic Acid Isn’t Safe for Sensitive Skin

Fact: Salicylic acid is safe for sensitive skin. In fact, since it has anti-inflammatory properties, salicylic acid can actually help to soothe the skin while simultaneously exfoliating. Salicylic acid can dry and irritate skin, but that doesn’t mean you can’t use it if you have sensitive skin. Just use less of it at first, and increase your dose as your skin becomes accustomed to it.

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