Salicylic Acid FAQ – Frequently Asked Questions About Salicylic Acid

Salicylic acid is one of the most popular acne treatments in the world, and is the active ingredient in most over-the-counter products that you’ll find in drug stores.

Despite the popularity of salicylic acid, there are still a lot of uncertainties and unanswered questions regarding the chemical.

Since it’s important to know as much about a topical medication as possible before you decide to use it, we’ve put together this list of some of the most frequently asked questions that people have about salicylic acid.

Does Salicylic Acid Bleach Fabrics?

One of the main drawbacks of using benzoyl peroxide (another popular acne fighting agent) is that it tends to bleach fabrics and hair. But does salicylic acid do the same thing?

All of the scientific research suggests that the answer is: no, salicylic acid does not bleach fabrics or hair. There is simply nothing in it that would cause fabric to bleach. However, there are some people who claim that it has made their eyebrows or facial hair lighter in color. Since online accounts from users are often unreliable, I’ll side with the scientists on this one and say that salicylic acid is safe to use around sensitive fabrics and on facial hair.

Does Salicylic Acid Burn The Skin When Applied?

Well, when it comes down to it salicylic is an acid, and can indeed cause a burning sensation if your skin isn’t used to it.

Depending on the particular product you’re using, the concentration of salicylic acid may range from 0.5% all the way up to 30%, and obviously a higher amount is going to be more likely to burn your skin.

As with any topical acne medication, it’s important to start slowly and allow your skin to get used to the product before you increase up to the desired amount. Also, be careful to avoid sensitive areas such as around the eyes and any areas of skin that are already irritated or reddened from the use of another product.

Does Salicylic Acid Kill The Bacteria That Causes Acne?

One of the primary causes of acne is a bacteria known as propionibacterium acnes (P. acnes). So if salicylic acid works as an acne treatment, is must be effective at killing that bacteria, right?

Nope, not at all! Actually, salicylic acid has no effect on the P. acnes bacteria. Rather, it works by speeding up the shedding of your top layers of skin, which unclogs pores.

In other words, by using salicylic acid you will still have the acne causing bacteria, but due to the increase rate of skin shedding it won’t be able to flourish inside of your clogged pores and cause acne blemishes.

Does Salicylic Acid Make Acne Worse Before It Gets Better?

One of the drawbacks of switching to any new acne treatment is something called an “initial breakout” which means that your acne could possibly get worse before it gets better.

But does this happen with salicylic acid?

Well, sometimes. There is really no definitive answer, and people’s experiences are vastly different. Some people seem to experience rather extreme initial breakouts, while others don’t have any initial breakout at all.

Unfortunately, there’s no way of knowing how your skin will react to salicylic acid other than by giving it a try.

Does Salicylic Acid Cause Cancer?

To put it bluntly: No, there salicylic acid does not cause or increase the likelihood of any form of cancer.

In fact, salicylic acid is a component of Aspirin, and there are been studies showing that it may actually be helpful in reducing occurrences of skin cancer.

Does Salicylic Acid Work On Warts?

Yes, in addition to acne treatment, salicylic acid has a number of additional medical uses including wart removal.

With over-the-counter treatments containing about 17%, and prescription treatments containing as much as 70%, salicylic acid wart treatments are more highly concentrated than acne treatments.

Daily application of the salicylic acid treatment is required, usually for several weeks, in order to achieve the desired results.

Does Salicylic Acid Dry The Skin Out?

Yes, and no.

Different skin types respond differently to salicylic acid, and there’s no way to tell for sure what it’s going to do to your skin.

Since salicylic acid speeds up skin shedding, it can actually help to remove the top layer of dry, dead skin and expose new layers of moist skin underneath.

Other people have the opposite effect, and find that their skin is more dry after using a salicylic acid facial cleanser. If this is true for you, the solution is to simply follow your salicylic acid treatment with a non-comedogenic moisturizer.

Does Salicylic Acid Fade Acne Scars?

Unfortunately, salicylic acid probably isn’t going to do much to lessen the appearance of acne scars.

In order to reduce the appearance of scars, you will need something that will increase collagen production, such as a Vitamin C serum or a product like Mederma Scar Cream.

Does Salicylic Acid Reduce Redness Caused By Acne?

Yes, because of the way that salicylic acid works, be speeding up the shedding of the top layers of skin, it causes your skin to product new layers faster. This means that the redness caused by acne (post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation) will heal faster and the redness will be reduced with each new layer of skin that comes to the surface.

Does Salicylic Acid Shrink Pores?

No, salicylic acid will not shrink pores. What it will do is promote skin shedding so that your pores do not stay clogged and cause acne to develop.

How Long Does Salicylic Acid Take To Work?

As with any acne treatment, you can’t expect immediate results from salicylic acid. This is mainly because acne actually forms deep within the skin, 2-4 weeks before you actually see it on the surface.

However, it shouldn’t take more than a few weeks before you start to see some results from your salicylic acid treatment. If you’ve been using it longer than that and not seeing any results, then you should probably think about switching to another treatment option.


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