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Does Your Skin Need Salicylic Acid? What Studies and Experts Say

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Whether you’re seeking to get rid of excess sebum, acne, or blackheads, salicylic acid is one power-packed substance that can be the solution you didn’t know you needed. Well known for its exfoliating, pore unclogging, and bacteria-fighting properties, salicylic acid is an excellent addition to your skincare regimen if you’ve got an oily or acne-prone skin type.

Without further ado, here’s everything you need to know about salicylic acid and why you need to slot this multi-purpose ingredient into your skincare routine. That’s if you haven’t already.

What is salicylic acid?

Salicylic acid is a type of beta-hydroxy acid (BHA) that belongs to the salicylate class of ingredients and can be produced synthetically or naturally derived from the bark of white willow and wintergreen leaves.


Its small molecular weight gives salicylic acid the property of being oil-soluble, meaning it can penetrate the skins’ pores and unclog them.

Once it enters the skin, salicylic acid “dissolves skin debris that clogs pores, acts as an anti-inflammatory, and also helps red, inflamed pimples and pustules go away faster,” explains Naissan O. Wesley, a board-certified dermatologist in Los Angeles.

Salicylic acid skin benefits

It has sebum control and acne-fighting properties

Salicylic acid works wonder for whoever has acne since it regulates sebum production and reduces the growth of acne-causing bacteria.

Studies have shown that salicylic acid can effectively prevent acne from forming by limiting the proliferation of the P. acnes bacteria. Using salicylic acids is often the first dermatologists’ recommended course of action for those suffering from acne. Its efficacity mainly lies in its ability to unplug clogged pores. The salicylic acid will then proceed to dry up pimples as well as eliminate all bacteria-free dirt and oil trapped in the skin pores. Because salicylic acid can penetrate deep down into the skin, it removes toxins contributing to unwanted sebum build-up.

It clears blemishes

Salicylic acid is one of the most effective ingredients to help eliminate acne while also preventing scarring. Research shows that salicylic acid can effectively treat blemishes, dark spots, and blotches on the face and body, acting like a peeling agent. With its exfoliating power, salicylic acid takes away the dead cells, clearing black spots and blemishes.

Additionally, by working as an antibacterial, salicylic acid helps kill the bacteria that lead to pimples and acne. 


It works as an exfoliator

Salicylic acid works as an exfoliant helping to slough off dead skin cells, revealing smoother skin. This exfoliating property unclogs the pores and removes dead cells, leading to new, healthy skin cells. When new cells are generated, skin appears healthier and smoother. 

It helps clear blackheads and whiteheads

Blackheads and whiteheads are often stubborn and difficult to get rid of. Thankfully, salicylic acid is useful for removing them. It does that by helping dissolve skin debris and oil that clog pores and cause pimples.

It brightens and evens the skin

Need your skin tone brightened and even? Salicylic acid can do that as it’s a BHA that helps remove dead skin cells, clear blemishes, and highlight the skin. It can also clear up any skin discolorations that may be caused by sun exposure. Plus, the exfoliating ability of salicylic acid helps brighten the skin, giving you a more even complexion.

Salicylic acid side effects

Some people may experience dryness, peeling, and cracking not long after applying salicylic acid or products that contain it. This is typical among people with easily reactive skin. Dry and mature skin types, better avoid salicylic acid since you don’t need to minimize your sebum production (AHAs work better for you).


Salicylic acid is extraordinary and can help reduce your skin concerns while promoting its overall health. It’s a power-packed ingredient, and its benefits go from clearing acne and blackheads to promoting new cell growth down to exfoliating. Oily and acne-prone skin types should always have a salicylic acid product in their skincare routine. Like these:

Products with salicylic acid

Vichy Normaderm Phytosolution

Vichy Normaderm Phytosolution

Vichy created an excellent product — a hydrating moisturizer that targets blemishes-prone skin. It is lightweight, easily absorbed, enriched with salicylic acid to exfoliate, hyaluronic acid to enhance hydration, probiotics, and Vichy Mineralizing Thermal Water, rich in 15 minerals to boost antioxidant defense. Its goal is to leave skin smoother and radiant by protecting its barrier and control excess oil.

The Ordinary Salicylic Acid Mask

The Ordinary Salicylic Acid 2% Masque

Once weekly, remove facial impurities and unclog your pores with The Ordinary’s mask, formulated with 2% salicylic acid, vegetable charcoal, Amazonian clays, and squalane. This product targets lackluster tone, textural irregularities, and aging signs aiming to smoothen and clarify the skin. 

Paulas Choice Exfoliant with Salicylic Acid

Paulas Choice Facial Exfoliant

Salicylic acid as an exfoliator and green tea as an antioxidant do a great job in this leave-in facial exfoliant. It unclogs pores, smooths wrinkles, brightens, and evens out skin tone. The fluid, lightweight texture absorbs quickly and is gentle enough to be applied twice daily on all skin types and the eye area too!


  1. How To Pair Salicylic Acid and Niacinamide in Your Skincare Routine
  2. 10 Best Salicylic Acid Toners for Smoother Skin
  3. Benzoyl Peroxide vs Salicylic Acid: Can You Use Them Together?
  4. 10 Best Drugstore Salicylic Acid Cleansers for Soft and Clear Skin
  5. Do You Know The Difference Between Willow Bark Extract and Salicylic Acid?
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