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What Does Salicylic Acid Do for the Skin? | Vichy Mag

We break down the benefits of this acne-fighting skincare ingredient.

1. What is salicylic acid?

2. What are the benefits of salicylic acid for acne-prone skin?

3. Does salicylic acid remove acne scars?

4. What products have salicylic acid in them?


If you’re hounded with acne-prone skin, you already know that you need to be choosy about which products will be granted access to your daily routine. It’s a delicate balance. One misstep with a moisturizer or serum and it’s an open invitation to a full-on acne breakout.

The tricky thing about acne is that there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to fighting it. Plus, there are so many different types of acne. From blackheads to pustules, discovering how to limit breakouts—and avoid pimples altogether—is an individual journey. However, there’s a star ingredient in the battle against acne: salicylic acid. Dr. Sonya Abdulla, a Toronto based dermatologist, explains what salicylic acid is and why it’s such a popular choice for staving off breakouts.

1. What is salicylic acid?

Salicylic acid is a multifunctional ingredient that targets a number of factors that contribute to acne. Salicylic acid is a beta hydroxy acid (BHA), that addresses various types of acne but is especially effective for blackheads and whiteheads.

Simply speaking, salicylic acid is one of the top skincare ingredients to fight acne. It’s derived from willow bark, as is another well-known anti-inflammatory drug: Aspirin. The ingredient is found in a number of formulations including creams, cleansers, toners and spot treatments. In addition to treating acne, it’s also helpful to manage dandruff, psoriasis and calluses.

2. What are the benefits of salicylic acid for acne-prone skin?


Salicylic acid is oil-soluble, meaning it penetrates the oil gland to decrease sebum production and shrinks pores. It also has anti-inflammatory properties that reduce pimples by minimizing swelling and redness.

“It has an affinity for the oil gland and an antibacterial effect against cutibacterium acnes, a bacteria well known to have a role in the development of acne” says Abdulla. Salicylic acid also has keratolytic (exfoliating properties), allowing it to loosen and dissolve dead skin cells to treat and prevent clogged pores and acne.

Salicylic recap

  • Salicylic acid exfoliates the skin and removes dead skin cells.
  • It soothes skin and calms inflammation and redness.
  • It reduces pore size.

3. Does salicylic acid remove acne scars?

Some blemishes leave their mark on your skin long after the breakout has diminished. Areas of pigmentation linger for months and sometimes even years. We know that salicylic acid can get deep into your skin, which makes it a potent ingredient for targeting acne. But does it help remove discoloration?

In short, it can. Salicylic acid is a good place to start in terms of an over-the-counter attack on discoloration from acne. It renews the skin through exfoliation and helps fade marks. This can be done with at-home or in-office salicylic-acid peels or spot treatments.

4. What products have salicylic acid in them?

Discover the best acne products to clear skin, reduce acne pigmentation, fight blackheads and more.

Best salicylic acid cleanser and best salicylic acid lotion

Acne sufferers and oily skin types can benefit from incorporating a salicylic acid face wash into their daily skincare routine to regulate sebum production. Normaderm Deep Cleansing Gel is a gel-based face wash that contains salicylic acid, glycolic acid and beta lipohydroxy acid (LHA).

“LHA has similar properties to salicylic acid, but a much lower concentration is required for similar efficacy,” says Abdulla. That translates to greater tolerability in all skin types. The combo of actives gently works to eliminate bacteria and oil on the surface of the skin. For the one-two punch, follow up with a toner or lotion to soothe and balance skin. Vichy Normaderm Purifying Lotion contains LHA and salicylic and glycolic acids, all of which help fight breakouts and imperfections.


Best salicylic acid anti acne cream

If your oily skin plays host to regular breakouts, steady use of a salicylic acid product can be a game-changer. Kiss oil, acne and the appearance of large pores goodbye with Vichy Normaderm Corrective Anti-Acne Treatment. It combines 1.5% salicylic acid, LHA and Air Licium (a pore minimizer). It also has an ingredient called Phe Resorcinol; when it’s combined with LHA, it’s an extremely effective acne discoloration treatment.

Best salicylic acid spot treatment

A targeted dose of salicylic-acid gel can reduce a burgeoning blemish in just a day or two. Vichy Normaderm Hyaluspot is enriched with salicylic acid, hyaluronic acid and LHA. The formula creates a “bandage effect” to enhance the penetration into the skin, which helps speed up the healing process. Plus, the gel’s anti-inflammatory properties decrease redness and tenderness.

Best salycilic acid exfoliant

If you’re looking to regulate the natural shedding of dead skin cells while treating acne, look for a product with salicylic acid. The skincare ingredient is anti-inflammatory and mildly antibacterial. Vichy Normaderm 3-in-1 | Scrub + Cleanser + Mask does it all. It deeply cleanses, exfoliates with volcanic stone powder and mattifies the skin.


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