Salicylic Acid as a Skincare Active

Salicylic Acid as a Skincare Active




Salicylic Acid, known as a beta-hydroxy acid, is an organic compound derived from Willow Bark. It is partly made up of the same compounds of aspirin, making it a potent anti-inflammatory and mild analgesic. At the correct percentages and pH, Salicylic Acid has a lipophilic and keratolytic action on the skin, making it a key ingredient to treat acne and oily prone skins.


Salicylic Acid has a multitude of actions on the skin. Like alpha hydroxy acids, Salicylic Acid has a chemical exfoliating action on the skin - therefore correcting the abnormal keratinization that contributes to all stages of acne. Its lipophilic actions means that it is attracted to fat making which is ideal to the break-down of fatty-substances found on and within the skin’s follicles, such as sebum and keratin that often blocks pores causing black heads and pimples to develop.


Often the inflammation around a lesion will result in PIH, (post inflammatory hyperpigmentation) - Salicylic Acid will treat the inflammation, reducing the likelihood of PIH and the exfoliation action will effectively remove any skin blemishes.


When targeting acne and breakout prone skin, it’s essential to do it as gently as possible as too much stimulation can cause inflammation resulting in a worse break out and pigmentation. For this reason, it is important to use an acid that will chemically dissolve keratin bonds, oil and debris, something mechanical exfoliators and scrubbing cannot do. The acid itself also has antimicrobial and antibacterial properties to it, making it extremely versatile when targeting acne and breakout prone / oily skin.

Salicylic as a topical acid is beneficial in targeting acne and oily skins as it will gently remove dead skin, encourage circulation and bring much needed oxygen and nutrients to the upper epidermis. It increases the cell turnover rate whilst keeping the follicles clear of oil and debris that contribute to the acne / breakout cycle.


To get the most out of this skincare active when targeting acne prone skin, it’s important to keep the concentration low. High concentrations of Salicylic Acid can cause inflammation and become a skin irritant (usually occurs in concentrations above 30%).


Please note that it is vital to ensure your homecare product is of the correct pH. There is an array of products on the market that use Salicylic Acid, however, if the pH of the acid and the product are not lower or the same as the pKa of Salicylic Acid, the acid will not be effective. Salicylic Acid has a pKa of 2.97, therefore the products used needs to be a pH of 2.97 or lower.

The pH in both the Dermaceutic Mask 15 and Mask Peel is below 2.9 thereby ensuring that the acid will be effective on the skin. Continuous use of the product will be needed to see optimum results.


The acid needs to be neutralized after a certain amount of time; water is often sufficient and generally effective. However, if there is extreme sensitivity, one should mix bicarbonate of soda into the water and rinse thoroughly.


Although Salicylic Acid is generally well tolerated by most skin conditions and Fitzpatrick’s, one does need to be careful of very dry (lack of oil – often a more mature skin) and very dehydrated skins. In the instance of a very dehydrated skin, a shorter treatment might be required until the skin condition improves.


Patients that are allergic to aspirin (acetylsalicylic acid) must not be exposed to any products that contain Salicylic Acid.


Dermaceutic Homcare products expertly formulated with Salicylic Acid in optimum pH & concentration are:

Mask 15
Yellow Cream
Mela Cream

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