It’s impossible to talk about blemish-prone skin, acne, the lot, without talking about Salicylic Acid. Whether you’re browsing the internet or scrolling through TikTok, it’s an ingredient that’s become synonymous in recent years for helping those with spotty skin concerns and conditions. And for good reason.
First impressions? It's a mouthful to say, and for those of us with sensitive skin it sounds pretty scary. It’s OK though, because when used correctly it isn't so intimidating. We’re here to tell you everything you need to know about Salicylic Acid before you start experimenting with it.
What is Salicylic Acid?
Salicylic Acid is a naturally-occurring ingredient that mostly comes from White Willow Bark. It’s a BHA (beta hydroxy acid), which are oil-soluble molecules used in skincare to exfoliate.
You might have heard of alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs) and polyhydroxy acids (PHAs) too - those are water-soluble. They do a similar thing, but work more on the skin’s surface.
What does Salicylic Acid do?
As acids go, Salicylic Acid benefits blemish- and acne-prone skin the most. It penetrates the deepest and dissolves oil and debris in our pores. That makes it a dream ingredient for breakout-prone skin, because it helps to stop blemishes in their tracks.
Salicylic Acid is brilliant at helping to control sebum, but it’s a great exfoliant too. It loosens the skin’s top layer of cells, making it easier to slough away dead skin cells – which can also cause a build-up that leads to blackheads and blemishes. All skin types will benefit from the resulting radiance, particularly dull skin. Plus, your follow-up skincare will sink in better, too.
Salicylic Acid for sensitive skin
Because it works deep within the pores, Salicylic Acid can be tricky if you have sensitive skin. Some find it causes dryness and irritation, although it entirely depends on the formula, which is often not made with sensitive skin in mind.
That’s because many brands assume that sensitive skin means dry, flaky skin – not spot-prone. But we know better. Sensitivity isn’t a skin type, and it can raise its angry head in even the oiliest of complexions. And that means dealing with blemishes and irritation simultaneously; something many products just can’t do.
What’s more, breakouts cause their own issues, which have similar needs to a compromised barrier. Ideally, products tackling combination and blemish-prone skin should contain ingredients that have both an anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory action, to help combat both.
With Salicylic Acid, it’s not only about what’s working alongside it in the formula, but the strength, too.
There are strict limitations on the strength formulators can use. Usually, products will be between 0.5% and 2%. Any higher would have to be on prescription, so be wary of any labels telling you otherwise.
The good news is, if you’re looking to try or top up on Salicylic Acid, we have a sensitive skin-friendly BHA for the job.
Our Salicylic Acid Clarifying Booster puts you in control of how you use it. Use it alone or add a drop to your favourite skincare to ease yourself in – the dosage is fully up to you.
In our certified natural formula, we use two types of Salicylic Acid; one from White Willow Bark, and the other from the essential oil of the Wintergreen plant. But because we know that sensitivity can be a concern, we’ve cushioned it with moisturising Organic Glycerin and soothing Organic Chamomile Water – and enriched it with Prebiotic Inulin to help protect the skin at the same time.
Naturally, like the rest of our range, it’s clinically proven for sensitive skin too – so you can try it with confidence. Read more about the story behind our BHA booster here to discover how we made it and why.
How to use Salicylic Acid in your skincare routine
There are a few different ways you can add Salicylic Acid into your routine and what you choose will depend on your preferred format. If you’re looking for a wash-off product, try a Salicylic Acid-based cleanser, using it as the first step of your routine. Or if you want to introduce an exfoliating acid into your cleansing step, you could give our PHA foaming face wash a go – the acid molecules are larger and therefore kinder to the skin.
Want something that’s more potent? Opt for a serum to target blemishes and sebum production. Or if you’d rather use a liquid exfoliant, you can add it as your toning step, before applying a moisturiser. Even liquid exfoliants vary in texture – some will be more of a lotion, while others will be watery and require a cotton pad to apply. Which one you choose will be down to personal preference and what you’re using it alongside.
If you’d rather drop Salicylic Acid into your existing routine, rather than shopping for a whole new product, our natural clarifying booster is the way to go.
We recommend adding a drop to your existing moisturiser or serum to supercharge it with BHA. Alternatively, you can apply 1-2 drops of our booster directly onto skin if you’re less sensitive, or as more of a spot treatment.