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What is Salicylic Acid? – Superdrug
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What is Salicylic Acid?

Young woman in bathroom applying salicylic acid

Beauty editors call it a ‘skin saviour.’ Dermatologists refer to is as a ‘BHA’. We say it’s a super ingredient that you should be on the look out for. Why? Here’s everything you need to know about salicylic acid…

Young woman in bathroom applying salicylic acid

What is it?

Let’s start with the science. Salicylic acid is a beta hydroxy acid (that’s where the BHA abbreviation comes from). It’s a derivative of aspirin and differs from alpha hydroxy acids (like glycolic acid) as it exfoliates, unclogs pores and has antibacterial properties.

The structure of this compound is what makes it so hard-working as it can penetrate deep into the pores and dissolve the skins ‘glue’. This deep cleaning exfoliation is the reason why this ingredient features in some of our favourite skincare products.

How does it work?

Once salicylic acid is put to work on the skin, it penetrates pores and dissolves the bonds between surface skin cells. It’s this process that unclogs pores and makes it a great fighter against blemishes. It’s deep cleaning and exfoliating properties is what makes it stand out on the skincare spectrum.   

It can also reduce sebum secretion (that’s the stuff that makes skin oily, shiny and can lead to blemishes) and reduce inflammation.   

Why use salicylic acid? 

Do you suffer from bad breakouts? Acne? Oily skin? Then you should get better acquainted with salicylic acid. It’s an expert exfoliator which is needed to unclog those pores and improve your skin's luminosity. It works best on blackheads and whiteheads and if best used in a targeted way to reduce inflammation and redness as well as clearing out the pore.

And as always, with great power comes great responsibility. Salicylic acid can potentially dry out the skin when over-used so always monitor how your skin reacts to it to avoid any flaky patches or further irritation.  

Where can I find salicylic acid products?  

You can find this hard-working ingredient in skincare products (particularly in acne treatments) and it’s also used in some anti-dandruff treatments too. When used in its purest form, it can be found in varying concentrations usually between 0.5-2%.

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