The benefits of salicylic acid for the skin

Written by: Kernel



Time to read 4 min

Salicylic acid also called BHA or beta hydroxy acid is a versatile ingredient known for 6000 years for its therapeutic and cosmetic properties. It is an aromatic organic compound naturally synthesized by certain fruits (apricots, plums, grapes, etc.) and vegetables (broccoli, spinach, sweet potato, cucumber, etc.), or by certain plants such as meadowsweet. or the willow with which it remains widely associated since Antiquity. Plants synthesize it to defend themselves against pathogens .

Salicylic acid is widely used in medicine and cosmetics for its various properties, for example it is the ingredient behind acetylsalicylic acid better known by the trade name aspirin .

In cosmetics, it is a powerful active ingredient widely used for its overall anti-imperfection action . It allows us to fight against redness, inflammation, hyperpigmentation, acne and imperfections such as pimples or blackheads. It can also be used to treat psoriasis, warts, corns and dandruff conditions.

1. What exactly is salicylic acid?

The use of willow as a painkiller has been known since Greek antiquity. The bark and leaves of willow are found to have analgesic functions by being able to attenuate or eliminate pain , and antipyretic functions by being able to oppose the rise in body temperature .

Indeed, over time, different civilizations such as the Assyrians or the Babylonians regularly resorted to salicylic acid using willow bark as a therapeutic treatment to treat warts, inflammations, calluses and pain including those related to childbirth. Therapeutic applications of willow have been numerous and in different civilizations.

Hippocrates , the father of medicine, recommended that his patients suffering from fevers and pains chew willow bark or make infusions of willow leaves for treatment.

Celsus, an ancient Roman scholar to whom we owe the description of the four clinical signs which characterize inflammation (pain, redness, heat, edema) also recommended willow leaf infusions to his patients to treat their ailments .

From the 18th century, evidence of the effectiveness of willow bark accumulated and the beneficial properties of salicylic acid were gradually proven by science.

2. What are the benefits of salicylic acid for the skin?

Salicylic acid has several benefits for the skin:

  • Keratolytic action: salicylic acid has a keratolytic effect, that is to say it will eliminate the keratin present on the surface of the skin to promote cell renewal . This action allows it to soften the superficial tissues of the skin to promote the peeling and elimination of dead cells . It also allows you to perform micropeelings to gently exfoliate the skin while avoiding inflammatory reactions . Ultimately the skin will have a brighter complexion.

  • Sebum regulator: salicylic acid has sebum-regulating properties to regulate sebum production and unclog pores to fight against the formation of pimples and the proliferation of acne .

  • Anti-microbial: salicylic acid used at low doses has an anti-microbial effect thanks to its antifungal properties which will help combat the development of many fungi , viruses and bacteria and cell proliferation . For example, it will help fight against the proliferation of the Cutibacterium acnes bacteria which causes acne .
  • Anti-inflammatory: salicylic acid has an action to fight against skin inflammation by allowing the inhibition of prostaglandins E2 , the molecules causing inflammatory effects . Salicylic acid will therefore help to soothe the skin and this is why it is considered an active ingredient suitable for sensitive skin .

  • Reduces hyperpigmentation: salicylic acid by eliminating dead cells will at the same time eliminate cells filled with melanin causing brown spots .

  • Reduces wrinkles and fine lines: salicylic acid helps stimulate the synthesis of collagen and restore suppleness to the skin, collagen being one of the structuring molecules of the skin along with hyaluronic acid and elastin .

3. What do you need to know about using salicylic acid in a facial treatment?

What type of skin is salicylic acid suitable for?

Salicylic acid is suitable for all skin types, whether aged, combination, oily, sensitive, dry, angry or scaly.

It is particularly suitable for problem skin such as combination and oily skin with imperfections because it will help reduce pimples, blackheads and reduce clogged and enlarged pores.

It is also particularly suitable for sensitive skin thanks to its anti-inflammatory properties which will help to soothe the skin.

Its virtues will also benefit skin with brown spots since it will promote cell renewal .

What concentration of salicylic acid is needed for a facial treatment?

According to current European regulations regarding cosmetic products, a facial treatment cannot contain more than 2% salicylic acid, this concentration being sufficient for the skin to benefit from its properties.

Salicylic acid is particularly used in creams and serums for its anti-imperfection action, it will then be concentrated between 0.5 and 2% . It can also be used in hair products like anti-dandruff shampoos. It can also be used as a preservative in many cosmetic products with a concentration not exceeding 0.5% .

However, salicylic acid can be used for different purposes depending on its concentration. Between 40 and 50% , it will be used in treatments for warts and corns. Up to 30% , it will be used as an aesthetic treatment to carry out chemical peels .

When will we get results?

A facial treatment containing salicylic acid will allow you to obtain initial results fairly quickly on your skin problems because it will help dry out the spots . It will then be necessary to use it for 8 to 12 weeks to obtain greater results.

Is salicylic acid photosensitizing?

Salicylic acid is not photosensitizing and can be applied in the morning even if you plan to go out during the day, however it is still recommended to use sunscreen to protect yourself from UV rays .

Salicylic acid in summary

Salicylic acid is one of the best cosmetic active ingredients to integrate into your facial care routine for its overall anti-imperfection action and its properties to reduce inflammation and associated pain as well as the proliferation of bacteria such as that in origin of acne . It will also help eliminate dead cells and fight against hyperpigmentation by promoting cell renewal. It will be recommended to use a cream containing it to benefit from its benefits or a serum for a more targeted action.