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What Is Salicylic Acid?

Salicylic acid is the much celebrated skincare ingredient of the 21st century - and for good reason. Find out all about salicylic acid here.

Salicylic acid is the much celebrated skincare ingredient of the 21st century - and for good reason.

Best known for being the ultimate ingredient used for the treatment of acne and blemishes, salicylic acid can be found in a range of skincare products from cleansers to face scrubs to toners. Salicylic acid is often praised for its amazing ability to bury itself right into your pores for a thorough inside-out clean, perfect for those with particularly blemish-prone skin.

But before you give skincare products containing salicylic acid a try - or check to see if it’s in your skincare routine already - let’s get to know it a little better. We’ve explored the question, ‘what is salicylic acid, and how can it benefit you?


What’s the science behind salicylic acid?

Salicylic acid is a naturally occurring hormone produced by plants as a defense mechanism against environmental or pathogenic stress. It’s also a derivative of Aspirin - which we’ll come to later.

It’s time for the science part: salicylic acid is a beta-hydroxy acid, or a BHA for short, meaning there are two kinds of acids present. There are the alpha hydroxy acids, which gently exfoliate the top layer of skin, helping to make your complexion appear smoother and more even. And there are the beta acids, which go deeper into the skin, unblocking pores and working their magic from the inside out. Beta acids also exfoliate and act as an antibacterial agent.

How does salicylic acid work?

Once skin care products containing salicylic acid are put to work on the skin, they work harder to penetrate pores and dissolve the bonds between surface skin cells. It’s this process of shedding dead skin cells that helps to unclog pores and fight against blemishes. It has deep cleaning and exfoliating properties that really make it stand out as a powerhouse ingredient for skin care products.

What are the key benefits of using salicylic acid in your skin care routine?

Salicylic acid is particularly great for blackhead-prone skin, as it’s able to penetrate deep into the pores for a more intense cleanse. It’s lipophilic, which means it can penetrate oily skin and clogged pores and can also help to reduce sebum secretion - the naturally occurring oils that can build up and clog your pores.

For those suffering with blackheads, salicylic acid-containing products are a great option. It works to intensely purify skin, remove dirt and visibly reduce the appearance of blackheads, all while leaving the skin feeling smooth and soothed.

Going through an intense cleaning process may sound like it could really irritate your skin, especially for those with more sensitive complexions. Never fear. Salicylic acid has antipruritic properties that prevent itchiness, analgesic properties that ease pain, and anti-inflammatory properties that keep any redness at bay. We did say it was a powerhouse ingredient! And, being a derivative of aspirin, it also helps to reduce the inflammation that can often create breakouts.

Another really great benefit of using salicylic acid in skincare products is that it wakes up other active ingredients.

How to incorporate salicylic acid into your daily routine

Now you know exactly what salicylic acid is and the benefits of using skincare products that contain this powerful ingredient, you’re ready to incorporate salicylic acid into your daily skincare routine.

Most products containing salicylic acid are suitable for all skin types, including more sensitive skin, and as such can be used daily. The trick here is to not go overboard. When combined with other nourishing antioxidants such as vitamins C and E, a little salicylic acid can go a long way. You don’t need all of your products to contain salicylic acid to benefit from it. Instead, choose a couple that most appeal to you, starting with products you use daily such as your face cleanser.

To use daily, make sure you choose a good quality product that contains other nourishing ingredients that will further activate the benefits for your skin. Our Pure Active range makes fantastic use of salicylic acid, and the face masks and cleansers contain a fusion of ingredients that together work to unblock pores, nourish your skin and decrease blackheads.


Discover more about your skin and find your personalised skincare routine with our virtual skin analysis tool.