Alpha hydroxy, hyaluronic, mandelic - we know. The world of skincare acids is an overwhelming and confusing one. Surely they aren't be so different from one another? Well, on the contrary, according to skincare experts, they all have a distinct role to play in our regimes, and different acids tackle entirely different issues. And if acne or spots are your issue, there's no better ingredient to call upon than salicylic acid.
It's so effective, many experts are dubbing it the super ingredient for oily, acne-prone, and problematic skin. In fact, a promising published this year concluded that a modified version of the ingredient could overtake benzoyl peroxide solution as the gold standard of acne treatment. Speaking from experience, salicylic acid completely saved my skin and cleared up my acne; I used the several times a week and it made the hugest difference to my skin.
So what's all the fuss about? We've called on Dr Murad and Lucy Hilson, the founder of , to break down exactly what it is and how you can reap the beauty benefits of it.
What is it?
Derived from willow bark, salicylic acid is a Beta Hydroxy Acid (BHA) that has powerful ‘acne-fighting’ properties and is excellent at treating oily, and blemished skin. It works on many levels of the skin - the structure of this compound is what makes it so hard-working as it is more oil-soluble than most other Beta Hydroxy Acids, meaning it easily penetrates deep into the pores to effectively dissolve the glue that sticks dead skin cells together - for a real deep clean.
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If this area is not effectively ‘cleaned out’ it can often result in pimples, blackheads, whiteheads and other blemishes. Not only that but it gently exfoliates the surface of the skin to rid of dead cells and bacteria that can often cause breakouts.
How can it benefit skin?
Salicylic acid is also highly anti-inflammatory and works miracles on calming down red, inflamed and ‘angry’ skin and it’s also perfect for anyone that suffers with breakouts due to its potent acne-fighting properties that make it an ingredient in many of the best acne treatments. Basically it’s a one-stop shop for all your blemish bothers!
How can it treat blemishes?
Blemishes may be most visible on the surface of the skin, but they actually form beneath the skin inside hair follicles. "In order to treat and reduce breakouts and blemishes, you need to use blemish treatment products that will penetrate the skin," explains Dr Murad. "Clearing away the dead and dry skin on the surface allows Salicylic Acid to operate more effectively in clearing clogged pores, keeping oil at bay and preventing blemishes.”
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What to look out for in your products
"Just because a product contains salicylic acid doesn’t mean it contains the right dose of PH to be effective," says Lucy. "It needs to be in a high enough percentage and concentration and not buried in the bottom of an endless list of other ingredients. At least 0.5%-2% salicylic acid will give you a great result."
So there you have it.
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In need of professional skin help? Check out our guide to every type of facial to figure out your treatment options.