Salicylic acid (SA) is a beta hydroxy acid derived from plants. Its extract is often used in cosmetics and medicines. It is known to treat several skin conditions such as acne, warts, calluses, corns etc. It is often the main ingredient in acne skin care products. Facial cleansers with SA are particularly popular for their deep cleansing and skin rejuvenation properties. This kind of cleanser is often touted as the most effective acne removal product.
How Does It Work?
Salicylic acid is basically an acid solution which gets rid of the dead cells on the outermost layer of the skin. The removal of dead skin reveals the fresh and healthy skin underneath. People with acne are often prone to over-secretion of sebum on their face. The sebum then gets mixed with dead cells and dirt which offers a conducive environment for bacterial growth. This eventually results in acne formation. Due to the cleansing properties of SA, there is no accumulation of dirt on the epidermis. Also, the dead cells are gently removed, thereby revealing the fresh skin underneath.
However, SA does little to prevent the bacterial growth. Hence, you must not stop using a facial cleanser with salicylic acid after the acne vanishes. Frequent use of this product inhibits the accumulation of dead cells and dirt. This eventually prevents bacterial growth, thereby reducing the formation of acne. Thus, salicylic acid skin care is indeed a great way of reducing the occurrence of acne.
Choosing the Appropriate Treatment
Salicylic acid treatments are available in over-the-counter (OTC) forms at drug stores. The facial cleanser can be mostly bought from drug stores without a prescription. OTC treatments have lower doses of SA, hence can be safely used without a prescription. Most of the products available in the market contain 2% SA formulation. If OTC salicylic acid treatments do not have any effect on your acne, you can go for prescription strength SA medications by procuring a prescription from a qualified dermatologist. Prescription cleansers have higher doses of SA, which effectively fight acne. Due to the higher doses, these medications may induce some undesirable skin ailments. Hence, it is a must that you get your skin examined by a dermatologist and let him/her decide which treatment will suit your skin.
Extended use of SA leads to a number of health hazards. SA is a form of aspirin which gets absorbed in the body through medicines and other treatments. The rate of absorption varies according to the body parts, but is maximum for the face. Dry skin and skin irritations are the most common side effects of SA facial cleansers. However, these side effects are of mild consequence and usually disappear if you use good quality moisturizers. It is recommended that you do not use SA products with other topical treatments for acne. This may aggravate the dryness and skin irritation.
More serious side effects include Reye's syndrome, which affects the functioning of brain and liver among other organs. If you exhibit any of the symptoms of these side effects, you may have to discontinue the use of the product and consult a doctor.
The benefits of salicylic acid outweigh its side effects. Hence, it is alright to go for this treatment with the approval of your dermatologist. He/she will able to recommend you the best product for your acne after considering your skin type.