Using Topical Salicylic Acid

Topical salicylic acid may be most commonly used to treat acne and clear skin. It’s also used for the treatment of other skin conditions, including psoriasis, calluses, warts, and corns. Salicylic acid can reduce acne inflammation and unclog pores to keep acne from recurring. It also helps remove scaly, dry, or thick skin. Use salicylic acid properly for the best results.

Forms of Topical Salicylic Acid

Topical salicylic acid is available in many forms. Creams, gels, ointments, shampoos, patches, and wipes can all deliver a dose of salicylic acid to the skin. Over-the-counter products are readily available, but more severe skin conditions may require prescription-strength salicylic acid products.

Applying Salicylic Acid to the Skin

Each salicylic acid product may come with different instructions for application and frequency of use. Some products may need to be used more frequently than others. For over-the-counter products, read package instructions carefully. Ask your pharmacist if you have any questions. For prescribed products, follow your doctor’s instructions.

Salicylic Acid Precautions

Avoid using topical salicylic acid on infected, irritated, inflamed or broken skin. Keep topical salicylic acid away from the mouth, nose and eyes. If salicylic acid gets into the mouth, nose or eyes, flush them with water for 15 minutes. If you swallow topical salicylic acid, contact emergency services.

Apply topical salicylic acid only to the parts of your skin that need treatment. Applying salicylic acid liberally to healthy skin could be dangerous. Do not use bandages or dressings over areas treated with salicylic acid.

If you are using salicylic acid to treat acne, your condition may seem to worsen at first. This is normal. It means your skin is getting used to the salicylic acid. Your acne will gradually clear over weeks or months.

Use gentle cleansers to clean the skin you’re treating with salicylic acid. Avoid cleansers that contain alcohol. Salicylic acid can irritate the skin, especially when used to treat acne. Avoid skin irritation by using less product for the first few days, until your skin has a chance to get used to it.

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