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Salicylic Acid : How it works

Salicylic Acid : How it works

Posted: 09 June 2021
Salicylic Acid – How it works.
There are three classes of hydroxy acids you will often see in skincare, these are Alpha Hydroxy Acids (AHA), Beta Hydroxy Acids (BHA) and the less used Polyhydroxy Acids (PHA).
AHA’s, BHA’s and PHA’s all exfoliate the skin but while AHAs are only water soluble, BHA’s are oil soluble, meaning they can get below the oil that is clogging up your skin. Generally oil-soluble ingredients penetrate through the lipid layers between the skin cells more readily.
The star of the Beta hydroxy family is Salicylic Acid.
Salicylic Acid is derived from willow bark and it belongs to a class of ingredients called salicylates (the same class of the drug aspirin). It is this structure that makes salicylic acid more oil-soluble so it can penetrate into the pores of the skin, making it especially effective against Acne and other forms of breakouts.
 What is Salicylic Acid
For us to understand how Salicylic Acid works, we have to understand how Acne forms.
Acne forms when excess oil and dead skin cells block pores within the skin. Bacteria can also become trapped inside the pore, causing inflammation and pus-filled pimples.
There are three factors that contribute to acne: an abnormal sloughing off of skin cells, excessive oiliness and the action of P.acnes bacteria. Salicylic Acid helps with all three of these contributing factors to reduce whiteheads and blackheads.
Which brings us to how Salicylic Acid works
Salicylic acid works to treat acne by unclogging blocked pores. It does this by breaking down the bonds between dead skin cells so that they can release from the pore more easily, and breaking down oils, such as sebum. Once it penetrates the skin, salicylic acid dissolves skin debris that clogs pores.
Salicylic acid also decreases the skin’s sebum production, leading to fewer breakouts.
Its antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties means that it effectively reduces breakouts and redness.
It can penetrate so deeply into skin that it breaks down the connections between cells and dissolve some of the intracellular ‘glue’ that holds skin cells together. This breaking down of skin cells promotes exfoliation of the skin removing dead skin cells from the skin. If these dead skin cells are not removed from the skin they clog the pores, creating cysts and blackheads. Salicylic acid in its exfoliation action aids in removing and loosening these skin cells and helps to dissolve the blackheads.
Breakdown of the benefits of Salicylic Acid
• Exfoliates dead skin: Encourages cellular turnover and helps to slough off dead skin cells, which in turn can improve skin dullness and texture.
• Softens the contents of clogged pores: Penetrates the pores and loosen the ‘glue’ that causes the skin cells to stick together and removes the contents of clogged pores that lead to superficial acne like whiteheads, blackheads and small red pimples.
• Prevents whiteheads and blackheads: By keeping the pores clean and removing dead skin cells it keeps the pores from clogging up and therefore prevents future breakouts.
• Removes excess oil: Because it penetrates beneath the skin’s surface it can clean out excess sebum from the pores and reduce oiliness. This can also lead to an improvement in the appearance of pores.
• Reduces inflammation: Because Salicylic acid belongs to the same class as aspirin, it has anti-inflammatory properties which helps to address irritation and redness related to breakouts.
Salicylic Acid vs. Benzoyl Peroxide
One ingredient that rivals salicylic acid's popularity in the over the counter acne treatment department is benzoyl peroxide. But this ingredient takes a different approach when targeting breakouts. While salicylic acid removes pore blockage, benzoyl peroxide is an antibacterial ingredient that kills the acne-causing bacteria inside the pores.
Infamous for bleaching pillowcases and towels, benzoyl peroxide is also less suitable for sensitive skin than salicylic acid, as its drying properties can lead to flakiness and irritation.
Contraindications of Salicylic Acid
Because salicylic acid is part of the same class as aspirin, if you have an aspirin allergy you should avoid using it.
Salicylic acid can make skin more sensitive to sunlight and cause sunburn easily, so while using this ingredient you should limit your exposure to sun as much as possible and always use a broad spectrum sunscreen such as Sknlogic Protect SPF 40.
it is also important to make sure that your other skincare products compliments the product with Salicylic Acid. Because Salicylic Acid is such an active ingredient, it can cause irritation on skin that is over sensitised by harsh soaps or skin that has not become accustomed to deeper penetrating ingredients as those found in cosmeceutical skincare.
For example because Salicylic Acid works best when used in a lower pH product, if you use a cleanser that is not pH balanced or is too neutral such as soap, using Salicylic Acid can irritate your skin and will not be as effective.
The key when using active ingredients such as Salicylic Acid is to listen to your skin. Start in moderation by applying it every few days and take note of how your skin reacts after each application. If it is getting irritated, you will need to take a day or two off and perhaps be a bit more vigilant with moisturising.
If you do not struggle with oily skin and perhaps only want to treat hormonal breakouts, you might only want to use a Salicylic treatment until your breakout clears up, and perhaps only on the area affected.
While salicylic acid is a reliable option for treating superficial acne, prescription medications, like oral treatments, may be necessary for targeting cystic acne, so it's best to have a dermatologist evaluate your skin to decide which treatment would be most effective.
Try these options for Salicylic Acid
Our popular Clarify has been updated to a new formulation and now also includes Salicylic Acid and Tea Tree oil in addition to all the other active ingredients. This makes it even more effective against acne. We have included the maximum dosage allowed of Salicylic Acid to ensure it works at its optimum. Other ingredients included in Clarify is Banana Extract to treat blemishes caused by spots, Hydrolysed collagen to keep the skin hydrated (hydrated skin is much more equipped to deal with skin problems), Which Hazel extract to help relieve inflammation and tighten pores, and Alpha Hydroxy Acids to help Salicylic Acid in keeping the skin exfoliated.
Clarify comes in a cream treatment and can be used daily underneath your moisturiser.
Clarify should only be incorporated in your skin care routine after being on the basic skin care range for at least 4 weeks for your skin to become accustomed to active ingredients.

Salicylic Acid Clarify

The next step would be incorporatingMulti Active Lotion, our at-home leave on skin peel. This product contains 14% Alpha and Beta Hydroxy Acids with 2% Salicylic Acid. It exfoliates, brightens, and hydrates the skin. Not only does it do wonders for acne it also helps to reduce the look of fine lines, wrinkles, age spots and hyperpigmentation while also smoothing the skin's texture. This is a shortcut to glowier, healthier skin. In one step, this leave-on exfoliator works overnight while you sleep. It absorbs in your skin like a light-weight lotion, residue free, and does not need to be neutralised.
Other than the high concentration of Alpha and Beta Hydroxy Acids it also includes Pineapple extract to assist in exfoliating the skin and promoting cell renewal, Vitamin C & E, Vitamin B5 to counteract bacteria and assist in healing damaged skin and our Phyto compound blend of 7 Swiss Alpine plant extracts to soothe and reduce redness.
Use 1 – 3 times per week and only after 8 weeks of being on a basic cosmeceutical skin care routine. Wash your face with a pH neutralised cleanser in the AM as normal.
 Salicylic Acid Multi Active Lotion
Don’t fly solo
For the best results consult your Beauty therapist for a professional chemical peel. Sknlogic clinical Multipeel contains 40% alpha and beta hydroxy acids, including 2% Salicylic Acid and treats all skin conditions including Acne, Hyper pigmentation, Dehydration and the visible signs of ageing. A chemical peel is done in a course of 6 – 10 treatments and can be repeated every 6 months.


Last modified on Wednesday, 09 June 2021 14:34