What is Salicylic Acid?

Salicylic acid can be applied to the skin to help heal acne and prevent acne scarring. It’s also used to treat other skin conditions, such as psoriasis, calluses, corns, and warts. Salicylic acid is a popular ingredient in mild chemical peels. Chemical peels help to speed up your skin’s natural exfoliation process. They remove the upper layers of your skin to reveal newer, smoother, younger-looking skin below.

What Salicylic Acid Is

Salicylic acid is a gentle acid derived from the bark of the willow tree. Salicylic acid is similar to, but not quite the same as, the active ingredient in aspirin, acetyl salicylic acid. Salicylic acid treats acne by removing dead skin cells that can clog pores. In stronger concentrations, it can remove the surface layers of the skin to effect a chemical peel.

Salicylic Acid for Acne and Skin Conditions

Salicylic acid may be the most widely used treatment for acne. It is an active ingredient in both prescription and over-the-counter acne treatments. Salicylic acid gently removes dead skin cells to keep pores from clogging and acne from forming. Salicylic acid can also help to improve skin conditions that occur as a result of skin cell overgrowth. Conditions such as these include psoriasis, dandruff, corns, warts, and calluses.

Salicylic acid for acne and other skin conditions is applied topically, to the surface of the skin. It comes in a range of forms, including creams, soaps, gels, pads, and wipes. Salicylic acid for acne can dry and irritate the skin. If you are using salicylic acid to treat acne or other skin conditions, you might need to apply less than the recommended dose at first, until your skin gets used to it.

Salicylic Acid in Chemical Peels

Salicylic acid is a popular ingredient in mild chemical peels. Mild chemical peels remove only the upper layers of the skin’s surface. They don’t produce many side effects, and they carry a short recovery time, usually just a few days. The procedure generally causes only a mild stinging or burning sensation, and most people find that their skin has regained its normal color by the next day.

Chemical peels use a much higher concentration of salicylic acid than do creams, soaps, and other salicylic acid skin treatments. While most acne cleansers contain only about two percent salicylic acid, chemical peels typically contain 20 to 30 percent salicylic acid. Salicylic acid is often combined with other ingredients in mild chemical peels, including glycolic acid and alphahydroxy acid (AHA). These mild acids work with salicylic acid to make a chemical peel more effective.

Salicylic acid is also sometimes used in stronger, medium-depth chemical peels. Jessner’s solution contains salicylic acid, as well as stronger acids like resorcinol. Salicylic acid may also be used to perform a preliminary peel, often done to help prepare the skin for a deeper peel such as a TCA peel.

Salicylic Acid and Your Skin

Salicylic acid isn’t just for treating acne. If you’re looking to improve the appearance of fine lines, wrinkles, and blemishes with little downtime few side effects, a salicylic acid chemical peel can gently melt the years away.

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