Salicylic acid: Everything you need to know

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Skincare products containing salicylic acid can cure acne, irritation and an an uneven texture. Here's what you need to know about this multi-tasking beauty ingredient...

Although it sounds scary, salicylic acid could be your new skin saviour.

What is salicylic acid?

Less commonly known as beta hydroxy acid (BHA), salicylic acid is a multi-tasking ingredient that can tackle skin’s many problems. Often prescribed by doctors, it’s a must for anyone prone to acne, due to its exfoliating nature. As an anti-irritant, it has the ability to soothe stressed skin, reduce redness and work as an anti-inflammatory to calm breakouts and angry skin. It’s also a keratolytic medication, which means that it’s an excellent exfoliator.

How does it work?

Salicylic acid breaks down the bond that keeps dead cells together. If not broken down, this bond can clog pores leading to blackheads and whiteheads. The acid part of the molecule can dissolve some of the intercellular ‘glue’ that holds skin cells together. It’s also been proven to have renewing properties, helping to firm and plump the skin by promoting new cell turnover.

The reason salicylic acid is able to give such a deep clean is because it can penetrate deep into the pore lining. This means it’s able to exfoliate inside the pore as well as the surface of the skin. On top of that, it can reduce sebum secretion – another way to reduce acne.

Salicylic acid can also help combat dandruff. In much the same way as it helps rid your skin of dead cells, so too does it rid your scalp of dry, flaky skin. You can find the perfect salicylic acid cleanser on our sister site, Powder.

What to expect

When you first apply you’ll experience some stinging and perhaps peeling, dry, and reddened skin. But, it’s actually safe to use on sensitive skin and even has anti-inflammatory properties. Over time, your skin will become accustomed to it and the side effects will lessen. You’ll also notice that your skin is smoother and clearer.

Think you could benefit from a hit of salicylic acid? Read on to shop our favourite products, all including that one important ingredient…

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