Salicylic acid to treat blackheads, acne and blemishes

Skin problems such as pimples, blackheads and local blemishes are common and can affect all skin types, including combination and oily skin . Among the effective solutions to treat these inconveniences, salicylic acid stands out for its exceptional properties.

Salicylic acid: an ally against imperfections

Salicylic acid is a beta-hydroxy acid (BHA) known for its effectiveness against acne and blemishes. Thanks to its keratolytic action , it helps stimulate cell renewal by gently exfoliating the skin's surface. The term "keratolytic" comes from the Greek words "kerato" (relating to keratin, a protein found in the skin) and "lytic" (meaning "to dissolve" or "to destroy").

This exfoliating action eliminates dead cells accumulated on the surface , thus preventing the clogging of pores, one of the main causes of pimples and blackheads .

Salicylic acid acts as a chemical exfoliant that breaks down the bonds between dead skin cells, making them easier to remove. This gentle but effective exfoliation helps keep pores clean, reducing the formation of comedones (blackheads and whiteheads) and the inflammation that causes pimples.

How does salicylic acid work on the skin?

Salicylic acid penetrates deep into pores and helps dissolve excess oil and impurities that accumulate there. By eliminating dead cells and unclogging pores, it refines skin texture and reduces the appearance of blackheads and pimples. For combination skin and oily skin , it is particularly beneficial because it regulates sebum production, thereby reducing shine and breakouts.

Salicylic acid is fat-soluble, which means it is able to penetrate clogged, sebum-filled pores. Once inside the pores, it reduces inflammation and breaks down sebum plugs, preventing new spots from forming. In addition, by controlling excess sebum , it helps prevent oily skin and maintain a more matte and even complexion.

Use of salicylic acid

Salicylic acid is often included in cleansers, toners, serums and targeted treatments. When applied to local blemishes , it helps reduce inflammation and speeds healing. Its regular use can also improve a dull complexion , making the skin more luminous and even.

To incorporate salicylic acid into your skincare routine, start with a gentle cleanser containing a low concentration of this acid to get your skin used to it. Next, you can introduce more concentrated serums or treatments to target problem areas. Always apply moisturizer after using salicylic acid products to prevent dryness.

Precautions for use

Although salicylic acid is very effective, it is important to use it with caution, especially on sensitive areas like the eye area . Too high a concentration or too frequent use may cause irritation or excessive dryness. It is recommended to start with products at a low concentration and gradually increase according to skin tolerance.

Be sure to do a patch test before incorporating new salicylic acid products into your routine. Apply a small amount of the product to an inconspicuous area of ​​your skin and wait 24 hours to check for an allergic reaction or irritation. If redness or burning sensation occurs, reduce frequency of use or try a product with a lower concentration.

Comparison with glycolic acid

Salicylic acid is often compared to glycolic acid , another popular exfoliating agent. While glycolic acid is an alpha hydroxy acid (AHA) that primarily exfoliates the surface of the skin , salicylic acid, as a BHA, penetrates deeper into pores. The two acids can complement each other: glycolic acid for an immediate surface glow and salicylic acid for deeper treatment of clogged pores and pimples and blackheads .

Glycolic acid is excellent for brightening skin tone and improving skin texture by removing dead surface cells. It is often recommended to treat fine lines, dark spots and dull complexion . By using these two acids alternately, you can benefit from complete exfoliation, both surface and deep, thus optimizing the health and appearance of your skin.

With what ingredients should salicylic acid be used?

Hyaluronic acid :

  • Why : Hyaluronic acid is a powerful moisturizer that helps maintain skin hydration, reducing the risk of dryness and irritation often associated with the use of salicylic acid.
  • How to : Apply a hyaluronic acid serum or cream after using a product containing salicylic acid to soothe and hydrate the skin.

Niacinamide :

  • Why : Niacinamide (or vitamin B3) has anti-inflammatory and soothing properties, and helps regulate sebum production. It also improves the barrier function of the skin.
  • How to : Use a niacinamide serum after applying a salicylic acid product to soothe skin and reduce inflammation.

Peptides :

  • Why : Peptides help strengthen the skin barrier and stimulate collagen production, improving the overall appearance of the skin.
  • How to : Apply products containing peptides after using salicylic acid to help repair and strengthen skin.

Ceramides :

  • Why : Ceramides help restore and maintain the skin's protective barrier, essential for preventing moisture loss and irritation.
  • How to : Use a moisturizer containing ceramides after applying salicylic acid to nourish and protect the skin.

With which ingredients should you not use salicylic acid?

Retinoids (like retinol)

  • Why : Retinoids are very effective at stimulating cell turnover, but combining them with salicylic acid can lead to excessive irritation, dryness and redness.
  • How to avoid : Use retinoids and salicylic acid at different times of the day (for example, salicylic acid in the morning and retinol in the evening) or alternating each evening to avoid irritation.

Benzoyl peroxide

  • Why : Benzoyl peroxide is another powerful acne treatment, but when used with salicylic acid, it can cause severe dryness and irritation.
  • How to avoid : Apply salicylic acid in the morning and benzoyl peroxide in the evening, or alternate days of use.

Multiple exfoliating acids (like additional AHAs and BHAs)

  • Why : Using multiple exfoliating acids (like glycolic acid, lactic acid) at the same time as salicylic acid can lead to over-exfoliation, causing redness, flaking, and irritation.
  • How to avoid : Limit yourself to one type of exfoliating acid per skincare routine. If you want to use different types of acids, do so alternately (for example, salicylic acid one day and glycolic acid another day).

Vitamin C (ascorbic acid)

  • Why : Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant, but it can be unstable and irritating when combined with exfoliating acids like salicylic acid. This can lead to rapid breakdown of vitamin C and increased skin irritation.
  • How to avoid : Use vitamin C in the morning and salicylic acid in the evening to maximize the benefits of each ingredient without the risk of negative interactions.

Products containing alcohol

  • Why : Products containing alcohol can dry out skin, and using them with salicylic acid can exacerbate that dryness, leading to increased irritation and sensitivity.
  • How to avoid : Choose alcohol-free products to avoid adding extra dryness to the skin.

General tips to avoid irritation

  • Patch Test : Before incorporating new products into your routine, always perform a patch test to check your skin's tolerance.
  • Hydration : Use hydrating products to counter potential dryness caused by salicylic acid. Ingredients like hyaluronic acid, ceramides, and peptides can help maintain a healthy skin barrier.
  • Listen to your skin : If you notice signs of irritation (redness, peeling, burning), reduce the frequency of use of salicylic acid and consult a dermatologist if necessary.

In conclusion, salicylic acid is a key ingredient for any skincare routine intended to treat skin concerns like acne, blackheads, and blemishes. Its keratolytic and exfoliating action helps eliminate dead cells, regulate excess sebum and refine skin texture , thus providing clearer and more uniform skin. For optimal results, it is essential to choose products suited to your skin type and use them appropriately.