Last updated: 16/10/2022

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A velvet skin, free of oiliness, marks, blackheads and pimples, is the desire of the great majority of people. As many factors can hinder the realization of this dream, it is always possible to count on a little help from the cosmetics industry! This is where salicylic acid comes in.

This chemical compound has properties that help to balance the health of the skin, fighting oiliness and the appearance of acne. If the nomenclature “acid” scares you, this article will show you everything you need to know to use this product safely, with presentation tips and a list of the year’s best sellers. Let’s get started?


  • Salicylic acid is a substance that is present in a large number of cosmetic products, especially those intended for cleansing the skin.
  • Products with salicylic acid can be anything from a facial serum to an exfoliating cleansing gel.
  • For each skin type and its needs, the dermatologist can indicate the most suitable presentation and form of use.

The best Salicylic Acid: Our Picks

Buying guide: all you need to know about salicylic acid

A lot is said about chemical peels and the use of acids to maintain healthy, youthful skin. But it is common that some people still have doubts about them. That is why we have prepared this question and answer section with everything you need to know about salicylic acid and its properties.

ácido salicílico

Salicylic acid is a substance that is present in a large number of cosmetic products, especially those intended for cleansing the skin. Source: fizkes /

What is salicylic acid?

Salicylic acid is a beta-hydroxy acid. The designation sounds complicated, but in other words, we can say that it is a substance composed of acid molecules and carbon. With this, salicylic becomes an acid that is easily soluble in oil, which facilitates its penetration into the pores more easily.

In addition, in the dissolution process, it is able to break the skin’s protein barrier and act more deeply in the skin.

Salicylic acid is of natural origin.

The substance is taken from salicin, which is found in willow bark.

Industrially synthesised, it promotes gentle exfoliation and the reduction of the inflammatory process, so it causes gentle peeling of the skin. In addition, it is a compound that aids in decreasing oil production, unclogs pores and smoothes imperfections, improving skin texture.

What is salicylic acid commonly used for?

Salicylic acid has various applications. With anti-bacterial, anti-fungal and anti-inflammatory action, it is usually present in exfoliating and astringent products. Thus, the compound is normally used to cleanse the skin, in treatments to combat acne and in peelings for cell renewal.

To illustrate this, we have prepared a table with the main properties and applications of this acid:

Property Effect Indication
Antibacterial and antifungal Eliminates fungi and bacteria causing blackheads and pimples Skin with acne
Anti-inflammatory Combats the inflammation caused by acne Blackheads and pimples
Astringent Salicylic acid has a comedolytic effect, which means it helps control sebum production and inhibits clogged pores Oily skin
Exfoliating this component helps eliminate dead cells and stimulate the formation of new cells Skin exposed to aggressive agents such as cigarettes or pollution

How does salicylic acid act against acne?

Salicylic acid, as we said, is present in a good part of the products destined to the care and treatment of acneic skin. This is due to its high effectiveness in combating this disorder. Thanks to its antimicrobial action, it helps reduce the contamination of the skin by bacteria and fungi and regulates the activity of the sebaceous glands.

Thus, it eliminates the excessive production of oil, which reduces the formation of blackheads and pimples. At the same time, it acts treating the inflammation caused by acne and promotes exfoliation capable of renewing the superficial layer of the skin. Free of dead cells, the skin is stimulated to produce new cells, which improves its appearance.

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Products with salicylic acid can range from a facial serum to cleansing and exfoliation gels. Source: doucefleur /

How is salicylic acid usually sold?

As we said, salicylic acid is present in various dermocosmetic products. Therefore, it is possible to find it in different presentations, according to the need for use and the preference of those who use it. In general, the most common forms of commercialization of this acid are:

  • Cleansing gels
  • Bar or liquid soaps
  • Toning lotions
  • Drying lotions or gels
  • Serums
  • Moisturizing creams
  • Make-up remover wipes

What care should I take when using salicylic acid?

The first thing to keep in mind about this compound is that we are talking about an acid. As much as the concentration in the products is not high (generally, it does not exceed 3%), it is important to be aware of basic care.

The main one is the use of the appropriate sunscreen for your skin type. This is because, subjected to the drying and exfoliating properties of acid, the skin is more susceptible to damage from UV rays.

More sensitive, and in contact with the sun, the skin can develop intense flaking, burning, spots and irritation. The second point is equally fundamental. See a dermatologist and have your skin thoroughly evaluated before you start using any product with this compound – whether it’s a face mask, cleansing soap or facial toner.

Buying criteria: What to take into account when choosing a product with salicylic acid

If you’re looking to reduce acne or promote skin renewal, you’ve already realised that salicylic acid can help achieve your goal.

However, before you buy any product from our list, here are a few more points that can guide your decision.

Skin type

We spoke earlier about the importance of having a professional accompaniment during the use of products with salicylic acid in the composition. It is he who can make an evaluation of your skin type and conditions to determine the best application.

The products indicated for oily skin are not the same as the ones required by dry or sensitive skin. For this reason, it is necessary to carefully observe for which type of skin the product is intended. This information is always highlighted on the packaging.


Not all skins have the same conditions, much less the same needs. But, besides this evaluation, it is important to make sure that the chosen product does not have, in its formulation, something that may be contraindicated for your case, specifically.

If you have some type of allergy or are doing some other skin treatment, for instance, salicylic acid may not be well accepted. Also for this moment, professional advice is indispensable.

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For each type of skin and its needs, the dermatologist will be able to indicate the most adequate presentation and form of use. Source: easterbunnyuk /

Combination of ingredients

It is very common to find cosmetics that combine the action of several compounds in the same product. This also occurs with salicylic acid and can be very interesting, depending on your objectives. Below, we show the main combinations and their effects on skin care:

Ingredient Effect
Glycolic acid Improves skin texture, disguises expression lines and open pores
Retinoic acid Controls oiliness and stimulates collagen production
Vitamin C Antioxidant and whitening
Hyaluronic acid Stimulates collagen production, smoothes wrinkles and fine expression lines


This point is determinant to guarantee the results expected from the product you are going to choose. For each skin condition, it may be more or less adequate to use a type of product. So, when buying, think about your goals and also about your routine.

If you use make-up every day, it may be interesting to have the product in cleansing wipes or facial toner. For those who are a fan of the “washed face” and avoid makeup, the solution may be to use a cleansing gel or moisturizer with salicylic acid.


With some simple day-to-day attitudes it is possible to change the health and appearance of the skin. And for this, the cosmetics industry relies on salicylic acid. And you can take advantage of its effects on a daily basis.

In this article, we show you the properties of this compound, the care necessary for its use and the combinations of ingredients that enhance its benefits. We also give you a selection of the products preferred by online consumers.

We hope you have enjoyed this material. If so, after choosing the ideal cosmetic, share our guide with other people who want to improve the aspect of their skin. Thank you very much and see you soon!

(Featured image source: belchonock /