It might be somewhat surprising to find out that the salicylic acid in some of your skin care products is a first cousin of common aspirin. The ability of this family of substances to reduce inflammation is what makes it so valuable not only in helping with reducing the pain of headaches, but when used on the skin to soothe down acne and other troubling skin conditions. Salicylic acid is only one of the other acids, such as tropic acid, betaine salicylate, and trethocanic acid, that reside under the umbrella of beta-hydroxy acids, or BHA.
What Salicylic Acid Does for Your Complexion
Because products with salicylic acid are so good at reducing inflammation, they can be used in a number of ways to help keep your skin healthier. If you are just now trying out a product that does contain salicylic acid, it is best to approach it with some caution to make sure that it is compatible with your skin. At any sign of irritation, suspend use. Never use a product that contains more than 2% salicylic acid, it could cause problems of its own.
- Acne can be one of the most difficult skin conditions to treat successfully. Part of this is because continuing hormonal fluctuations during the teen years keep ‘feeding’ the sebaceous glands so that they constantly produce too much sebum, which is at the heart of most cases of acne. Clogged hair follicles, packed with sebum that is unable to be released normally, are fertile ground for bacterial growth and inflammation. Finding products that will help with this condition means that you need a proactive acne approach to the problem. Some acne actually is painful, and salicylic acid products can help relieve this discomfort.
- The uses of salicylic acid for the skin go beyond acne treatment, however. Salicylic acid has been shown to be a great way to exfoliate your skin. This BHA will help to dissolve old, dead skin cells to open up your complexion. A mild exfoliant that contains salicylic acid can be used daily by those who might be experience skin eruptions.
- Clogged pores are at the root of many skin conditions such as pimples and acne. Fortunately, salicylic acid is very good at opening up these clogged pores to make it less likely that they will form pimples.
- If, after your acne years are over, you find that you have some discoloration and scarring, you should use a salicylic acid product to help even out your skin tone and reduce the appearance of the scars.
- Oily skin is a breeding ground for pimples and acne, more so than any other skin type. Cleansers that contain salicylic acid help to remove excess oil that can be causing acne. Salicylic acid acts something like a good soap does – it breaks down the oil so that it can be washed away easily.
- No one is particularly happy when the first signs of age begin to show up on their face, but once again, treatments that contain salicylic acid can help to diminish these effects. Salicylic acid supports the collagen in the dermis, helping to keep the skin more firm and elastic, and it also promotes the formation of new skin cells to help provide a fresher, younger appearance.
Using Salicylic Acid Products
Undoubtedly the way most will use salicylic acid will be in cleansing products. If you have dry or even normal skin, you may not want to use cleansers with BHA more than once a week, so as not to make your skin too dry.
- Always use tepid water when washing your face, even if you have oily skin. Hot water will break down and wash away too much oil, removing completely the protective layer of sebum that your face should always have. Rinse completely, pat dry, and while your face is still slightly moist, apply an appropriate moisturizer. Those with oily skin should stick to a moisturizing lotion rather than a cream or ointment.
- Exfoliators that contain salicylic acid have shown their efficacy at not only removing dead skin cells that might clog pores and cause acne, but also in helping to dislodge stubborn blackheads. Depending upon your skin type, and the mildness of the exfoliant, you can use these every day after washing. Leave the exfoliant on for about half a minute, then rise it off.
- For a way to really refresh and revitalize your skin, especially if you have an oil problem, will be the use of a mask that contains a BHA. This will not only provide the extra amount of treatment, but will also give you a chance to simply relax.