17 Best Salicylic Acid Products For Acne & Skin 2021: Serums, Toners & More

Acne, blackheads, rashes, and clogged pores rank quite high among our most despised skin care terms. On the other hand, a phrase like the best salicylic acid products is near the top. After all, salicylic acid maintains a constant presence in ingredient lists for its ability to dissolve dead and pore-clogging skin tissue, speed up cell turnover, reduce the chances of future breakouts forming, and even soothe. / treat conditions like scalp psoriasis.

To allow Yunyoung Claire Chang, MD, a New York-based certified dermatologist, to break it down for you. “Salicylic acid is an oil-soluble beta-hydroxy acid (or BHA) that penetrates deep into the pores to remove dirt, oil and other impurities,” she explains. “It exfoliates and shrinks clogged pores, leading to clearer, brighter skin.” Salicylic acid also plays an important role in the acne healing process (short and long term), acting as “an anti-inflammatory ingredient that helps red, inflamed pimples and pustules go away faster.” Naissan O. Wesley, a certified dermatologist in Los Angeles, previously said.

Now you might be wondering what the differences are between alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs) like glycolic and lactic acid and their counterparts, BHAs. “Generally, the oil soluble ingredients [like salicylic acid] penetrate more easily through the lipid layers between skin cells, ”New York-based certified dermatologist Sejal Shah explained previously at Seduce. In comparison, their water-soluble counterparts (AHAs) stick to the surface of the skin.

This is also why the Food and drug administration (FDA) approved a higher maximum percentage for over-the-counter (OTC) products for alpha hydroxy acids – 10 percent for leave-in products and 30 percent for rinse-off treatments – but, more on that in the next section.

It is important not to overdo treatments with salicylic acid, especially for dry, sensitive and generally irritable skin. “I recommend starting with a lower concentration of salicylic acid, like 0.5 or 1 percent, to see if you can tolerate it before moving on to 2 percent [the maximum amount the FDA allows in OTC products]Dr. Chang tells us. She also approves of starting with salicylic acid once a day or once every other day and monitoring your skin – before working out up to twice a day (morning and evening).

In addition, you must take into account the products that you associate with salicylic acid. While you will need to use moisturizer and especially sunscreen on a daily basis anyway, both products are essential for combating the potential irritation associated with the acid. “I recommend using [salicylic acid] alongside restorative and skin-soothing moisturizers, ”says Dr. Chang, highlighting those formulated with barrier-repairing ceramides and calming ingredients like niacinamide, allantoin, Asian centella (also known as cica) and aloe. Tracy Evans, MD, Certified Dermatologist and Medical Director of Pacific Skin Dermatology and Cosmetics in San Francisco, Calif., agrees and calls fragrance-free and oil-free moisturizers as EltaMD PM Therapy Facial Moisturizer and CeraVe PM Facial Moisturizer.

Dr Chang strongly advocates sun protection after use all exfoliant, not just salicylic acid. “Although salicylic acid does not directly increase your skin’s sensitivity to the sun, it is still important to protect your freshly exfoliated skin from the damaging effects of ultraviolet rays,” she tells us.

As previously discussed, Dr. Chang confirms that potential side effects include stinging, stinging, itching, redness, peeling, and irritation. Salicylic acid is also a no-no for pregnant or breastfeeding women. When it comes to combining salicylic acid and alpha hydroxy acids, watch out for excess dryness or irritation that may occur. As with any skin care product, dermatologists like Dr. Chang recommend doing a spot test before going for full. Better safe than sorry (and red everywhere), as they say.

Coming up, read about 17 of the best salicylic acid serums, toners and cleansers on the market, as recommended by dermatologists and Seduce editors.

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