HomeDoctors ArticlesThe Salicylic Acid: A beta Hydroxy Acid for Acne and Other Skin...

The Salicylic Acid: A beta Hydroxy Acid for Acne and Other Skin Concerns

There’s no need to panic whenever a zit pops up. Sometimes, all you need is salicylic acid.

Salicylic Acid is a beta hydroxy acid coming from the willow bark. In contrast to alpha-hydroxy acids that work on the topmost layer of the skin for the skin concerns, SA penetrates deep into the pores. 

How Does It Work? Skin Concerns

How to better manage your acne breakouts | Georgia Straight Vancouver's  News & Entertainment Weekly
How Does It Work

Because of its chemical composition, it is oil-soluble and can seep through the lipids of the skin. Unlike alpha-hydroxy acids that are water-soluble and are limited to the superficial layer. 

This ability of SA to break through oil and comedones (blackheads and whiteheads) prevents the comedones from progressing into cystic acne– calling it “comedolytic”.

Aside from this, it is also “desmolytic”. Meaning, it disrupts the glue that keeps the cells together in the skin which leads to what we know as exfoliation. Because of this effect, SA is not only used for acne but also for melasma, post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation, freckles, lentigines, rough skin, fine lines and other skin concerns.

When it comes to oily and acne-prone skin types, salicylic acid is an easy-go-to option. But before diving in, make sure that your skin can handle it by starting once a week until you’re able to increase it to thrice a week. Also, remember not to combine it with retinoids and other acids which can result into extreme dry skin cases.


Don’t try this acid without consulting you dermatologist as sometimes acne needs more than just SA. An antibacterial product from your doctor might be necessary.

Also Read: Fantastic Benefits of Glycerin for your Face

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Dr. Elli Reyes
Dr. Ellie Reyes

About the Author: Dr. Elli Reyes is a specialist of Aesthetic Medicine from the Philippines. With over four years of specialized training, her aesthetic practice has involved a variety of skin treatments involving Botox, fillers, and the like. As a licensed physician, she has been engaged by multiple clinics and is regularly interviewed by the local media as an expert in the science of the skin. Her research and writings to date have centered on nutrition, functional health, and general beauty.

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