Often touted as acne arch-nemesis, salicylic acid has earned quite a reputation in the skincare department. Especially when it comes to Over-the-counter acne treatments, you will often find products like salicylic acid serum, salicylic creams and so on flooding the counters. Dermatologists also recommend prescription-strength formulas of salicylic acid serum for face to treat mild to moderate acne.
Let’s have a closer look at what it is and how can it help in reducing acne.
What is salicylic acid?
There are two common types of acids in the skincare department: beta hydroxy acids (BHAs) and alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs). Both alpha and beta hydroxy acids exfoliate the skin, but the difference between the two is that BHAs are oil-soluble and AHAs are water-soluble.
Salicylic acid belongs to the BHA category and belongs to a class of ingredients called salicylates. It is derived from willow bark and can penetrate deeper into the layers of skin and do its magic.
How does salicylic acid work for acne?
In order to understand this, you need to first understand the formation of acne.
Acne-like whiteheads, blackheads or pimples form when the hair follicles (or pores) in your skin become blocked due to a buildup of sebum (an oil that your skin produces to keep it moisturized) and dead skins cells on the surface of your skin. Bacteria can contribute and worsen the situation. They get inside a blocked pore, multiply and cause inflammation and discomfort.
Your hormones, genetics, certain lifestyle habits and stress are some of the common factors responsible for acne.
How does salicylic acid help in acne prevention?
Salicylic acid is capable of cutting through oil and exfoliating deep within your pores to remove blockages. It works in several ways to treat and prevent acne:
- First, by peeling away the dead skins. It is considered a keratolytic medication, which means that it's perfect for supreme exfoliation. It helps in stripping away the outermost layer of the skin. This is the layer of the skin where many of the acne-causing dead skin cells are located.
- Second, by unclogging the pores. As mentioned above, salicylic acid helps in stripping away the outermost layer of the skin; it results in unclogging of blocked pores, making the existing acne shrink in size and disappear.
- Third, by reducing inflammation. Application of salicylic acid-based acne controlled serum helps in lowering the swelling and redness that can make certain types of acne. You can even use the salicylic acid serum for acne scars.
- Fourth, by killing certain types of bacteria. Salicylic acid is known to have certain antibacterial properties. However, they are not as strong as a precipitation based antibiotic, it can help in treating infected, inflammatory acne.
However, salicylic acid is safe and works wonderfully for a lot of people, but, like any other ingredient in any best serum for acne-prone skin, it can cause certain side effects like:
- Skin irritation, including red or dry skin
- Soreness and stinging in the area where salicylic acid is applied.
Consult with your doctor in any case of any of the above problems and they will assist you further.