These days, there’s no shortage of ways to target, treat and prevent acne. Take a short trip down any drugstore skincare aisle and you’ll find a wide assortment of creams, serums, masks and cleansers. But while the options for acne control and prevention are varied, one consistent factor that these acne products have in common is the inclusion of salicylic acid in their formulations. But what is salicylic acid, and what are salicylic acid’s benefits? Getting the answers to these questions is crucial before you decide which salicylic acid product is right for you. Keep reading to learn more about the hero ingredient, including how to use salicylic acid and how to keep your complexion smooth and clear.
What is salicylic acid?
Salicylic acid is a chemical exfoliant that is originally sourced from willow-tree bark. It is a type of beta-hydroxy acid (BHA) that is used for the treatment and prevention of acne, including pimples, blackheads and whiteheads.
How does salicylic acid work?
Salicylic acid works its magic by getting deep into the skin and dissolving anything that’s clogging your pores (i.e., a buildup of debris that consists of dead skin cells, excess sebum (oil) and particulate matter, all of which lead to acne and skin congestion). More specifically, it breaks down the bond between dead skin cells, allowing them to more easily detach and release from your pores while simultaneously breaking down oils. Fun fact: When your pores are cleared of debris, oil and dead skin cells, they appear visibly smaller. And who doesn’t want smaller-looking pores?
What are salicylic acid’s benefits?
Aside from its ability to unclog pores, treat existing acne and prevent future acne from occurring, salicylic acid products are well known for being a gentler, less irritating alternative to other acne-fighting ingredients, such as retinol and alpha-hydroxy acids (AHAs) like glycolic acid, lactic acid or mandelic acid. This is due to their smaller molecular size, which makes them an excellent option for anyone with oily, acne-prone skin that is also sensitive or reactive. Even if you normally don’t experience these skin conditions, you’ve probably noticed some extra congestion or acne around your mouth and chin over the past two years, thanks to sweat and oil becoming trapped under our facial coverings and masks. This type of breakout has come to be referred to as “maskne.”
What are the different types of salicylic acid products?
Since salicylic acid is such a workhorse ingredient for fighting acne, clogged pores and oily skin, and it’s gentle on your skin, salicylic acid has been incorporated into a whole range of different products, from serums, like La Roche-Posay Effaclar Ultra Concentrated Serum, to cleansers, like La Roche-Posay Effaclar Micro-Peeling Gel or La Roche-Posay Effaclar Foaming Cream, to moisturizers, like La Roche-Posay Effaclar Duo (+) Global Acne Treatment.
How to use salicylic acid
Because there are so many different products that are formulated with salicylic acid, the choice is yours when it comes to how to use salicylic acid. Generally speaking, serums are an ideal way to incorporate the most potent concentration of an ingredient into your skincare regimen. So if you’ve got a pesky pimple that you want gone fast, apply a serum like La Roche-Posay Effaclar Ultra Concentrated Serum directly on it and follow with treatment and 24-hour hydrating lotion La Roche-Posay Effaclar Duo (+) Global Acne Treatment. If you have oily skin and it’s acne prevention or shine control you’re after, incorporate a cleanser that’s formulated with salicylic acid, like La Roche-Posay Effaclar Micro-Peeling Purifying Gel, La Roche-Posay Effaclar Foaming Cream or La Roche-Posay Effaclar Purifying Foaming Gel (depending on your preferred cleanser type and consistency) into your daily cleansing routine before finishing with a moisturizer like La Roche-Posay Effaclar Duo (+) Global Acne Treatment. This is a great way to keep excess oil and future blemishes at bay.
How often should salicylic acid be used?
The best thing about this BHA—aside from its proven benefits, of course—is that it’s so gentle that it can be used every day and by all skin types, so you can incorporate salicylic acid into your daily routine without worrying about it causing any skin irritation.