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How Does Salicylic Acid Treat Acne?

Salicylic acid is well known for its effectiveness in treating skin problems such as acne. There are numerous acne treatment products that contain salicylic acid as one of the main components. It takes less than 24 hours for the salicylic acid to show signs of improvement in acne. Let us try to find out what makes salicylic acid such as great treatment option for acne.

How Does Salicylic Acid Treat Acne?

How Does Salicylic Acid Treat Acne?

Salicylic acid treats acne by attacking your skin’s “glue.” The structure of the salicylic acid makes it easier to dissolve into the oil. Thus, it is able to break through the layer of oil on the skin that clogs the pores. It helps in getting rid of excess oil from the surface by dissolving intercellular glue. It makes your skin free from glue and excess oil.

Salicylic acid treats acne by helping in exfoliation of skin. Salicylic acid is an excellent option for performing the exfoliation of skin. As we have already seen, the salicylic acids helps in loosening up the bond between the skin cells and the outer layer of skin. This ensures that the dead skin cells do not get the opportunity to clog skin pores.

Salicylic acid treats acne by cleaning off the dirt and impurities from the hair follicles. Salicylic acid is not only helpful in getting rid of the excess oil from the surface of the skin but the fact that it can easily penetrate into the skin follicles is extremely helpful getting rid of the dirt particles, bacteria and other impurities from the blocked hair follicles. The reduction of excess oil and clearing of dirt is very effective in treating acne. It also works as an anti-inflammatory substance that helps in preventing inflammation.

Salicylic acid works best on blackheads and whiteheads, not so much on cystic acne. Acne can be divided into three categories: Mild Acne, Severe Acne and Cystic Acne. Blackheads and whiteheads are the mild forms of acne and thus it is easier to treat them. Salicylic acid in particular is useful for treating only the mild form of acne. The severe and cystic acne cannot be treated with salicylic acid. It works by destroying or dissolving the keratin plug and helping the skin surface to refresh.

Salicylic acid is not suitable if you have oily skin or taking certain medications. Salicylic acid is undoubtedly a proven formula for the treatment of acne but it is not suitable for certain skin types. As it works by absorbing the excess oil from your face, it can make the already dry skin drier. Thus, you must make sure that you do not have a dry skin before starting to use acne treatment that involves the use of salicylic acid. The concentration of the salicylic acid required to get rid of acne is significantly lower as compared to alternative chemical substances. It means that you can expect the same results with an acne treatment cream or ointment that contains even a small percentage of salicylic acid.

Use salicylic acid strictly as recommended to avoid skin problems such as drying of skin or skin irritation. Also, it can interfere with certain medications and reduce their effectiveness. Refer your doctor before starting to take salicylic acid if you are taking any other medications.


  1. Mayo Clinic – “Acne: Diagnosis and Treatment”: Explore the various treatments for acne, including salicylic acid, and when it’s suitable for use. Mayo Clinic – Acne Treatment

  2. PubMed Central – “Topical Salicylic Acid in the Treatment of Acne Vulgaris”: A scientific article discussing the effectiveness of salicylic acid in treating acne. PubMed Central – Salicylic Acid for Acne Vulgaris
  3. American Academy of Dermatology Association (AAD) – “Acne: Tips for Managing”: General advice on managing acne and when to seek professional advice. AAD – Acne Tips

Also Read:

Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:August 23, 2023

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