Salicylic Acid and Acne
Answers to the top 10 questions about salicylic acid for the treatment and cure of acne
Salicylic acid is used in a wide variety of products and has been known to be effective in treating several skin conditions such as acne, blemishes and pimples. But what exactly is this chemical and why would it be useful for treating acne? Read the following helpful information to learn about this multi-functional ingredient and how you can use it to help your acne problem.
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What is salicylic acid?
The chemical compound salicylic acid is classified as a BHA or Beta Hydroxy Acid and has the ability to penetrate the pores of the skin. AHAs or Alpha Hydroxy Acids, which are commonly used in skin care products, are unable to do this, which means a BHA is more effective at exfoliating skin and cleaning the inside of the pores as well.
Are there other uses for this or is it only for skin care?
Derivatives of salicylic acid are used in many products, but perhaps the most widely used form of the chemical is it's active ingredient which is used in aspirin. In cosmetics it is used because of it's anti-septic and anti-fungal qualities. Other forms are also used in dyes, perfumes and fragrances and even in products such as dandruff shampoo.
Where does salicylic acid come from?
Interestingly enough, salicylic acid is found naturally in some plant species, particularly in the bark of the willow tree, which is how the chemical got it's name. The Latin name for the willow is salix and the medicinal properties of this chemical have been known for centuries. It is said that in ancient times people would routinely chew on bits of willow bark after they discovered doing so would alleviate pain and inflammation.
Salicylic acid can also be manufactured synthetically using heat and high pressure and then chemically modified depending on what it is being made for.
Why does it work for acne?
This BHA is excellent for the treatment of acne because it is so effective at sloughing off dead cells and exfoliating skin by softening keratin, which is a protein that forms part of the skins structure. It can penetrate into pores to remove dirt and oil that build up and cause outbreaks of whiteheads, blackheads and pimples. Its excellent anti-irritant and anti-inflammatory properties help to soothe red, irritated skin as well as clean the skin to prevent further blemishes.
Salicylic acid also contains an anti-microbial quality which is another reason it is so effective at treating acne and skin break-outs. It has also been known to improve the thickness of the skin as well as increasing it's collagen production and the rapidity of cell renewal.
How should I use it to treat acne?
Preparations of salicylic acid can be found in cleansers like bar soaps and facial washes along with creams, lotions, gels, ointments and pads. All are used for conditions such as acne, pimples and blemishes. Topical solutions can either contain other medications or simply the salicylic acid in varying strengths.
The recommended strength will depend on the condition that is being treated as well as the severity. Its imperative to follow the recommended dosages and instructions and never use more than directed. Do not use it on infected areas and you should also take care to avoid contact with the eyes and mucous membranes such as in the nose and mouth. Petroleum jelly acts as an excellent barrier and can be placed around the area being treated. And unless you're treating your hands as well, remember to thoroughly wash them when you are finished applying the treatment.
What type of skin would benefit most from using salicylic acid?
This chemical is great for oily skin or skin that is prone to acne. And because of it's natural anti-inflammatory properties it is also commonly found in products geared to those with sensitive skin or with conditions such as rosacea.
What is the usual concentration that is used to treat acne?
Most over-the-counter products that contain salicylic acid will have a concentration of one to two percent, which is usually strong enough to be effective but also gentle enough to use daily. If you are being treated by a doctor for a specific problem, they may prescribe a dosage of four to 14 percent to be used on a short-term basis. Higher percentages of salicylic acid are also used by dermatologists in dermal peels.
What other benefits can be had from using salicylic acid?
In addition to being effective in the treatment of acne, salicylic acid is also known for it's anti-aging effects on the skin. Since it rapidly exfoliates the skins cells to expose a fresh layer of new skin underneath, the appearance of fine lines, wrinkles and brown spots are diminished.
Recent research to study the various effects and uses of salicylic acid has found that certain properties of the acid may actually have cancer fighting abilities in addition to it's effectiveness in treating skin conditions.
Are there any adverse side effects from using a salicylic acid treatment?
The chance of a serious side effect from using a topical salicylic acid treatment is highly unlikely. There is a rare chance of an allergic reaction such as hives, shortness of breath or swelling of the face, and it is possible for people who are allergic to fruit to have a reaction. Salicylic acid preparations or treatments are normally well tolerated.
What else should I know about salicylic acid treatments for acne?
For the best results, skin care products containing salicylic acid should be used as directed and on a regular basis. Many people make the mistake of discontinuing the use of a product or treatment if they don't see immediate results.
Another helpful bit of information to know is that certain products should not be used in conjunction with salicylic acid unless directed by a doctor. This includes products containing alcohol, benzoyl peroxide and topical retinoids. Abrasive cleansers and soaps, as well as cosmetics or products that are used to exfoliate the skin, should also not be used with salicylic acid.
It is recommended to store products containing salicylic acid at room temperature in a place away from heat or moisture.
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