Beta hydroxy acid

Salicylic acid for acne

Understand what salicylic acid is and how this gentle exfoliant helps unclog pores and relieves red skin.

What is salicylic acid?

Also known as beta hydroxy acid (BHA), salicylic acid is derived from the bark of the willow tree. Its name is somewhat misleading – acid implies burning and corrosion – whereas it is in fact a soothing ingredient.

What does salicylic acid do?

Salicylic acid is a gentle but effective exfoliant that helps remove dead skin cells and, because it’s oil-soluble, cleans out any blocked pores. It also soothes sensitive, red skin.

Which skin types can benefit from salicylic acid?

BHA is beneficial to all skin types but is particularly helpful for people with normal to oily skin, clogged pores as well as those showing signs of skin ageing. Salicylic acid also works on milia and Keratosis Pilaris (especially in combination with a water-soluble body wash).

How does salicylic acid work on acne?

When hair follicles get clogged with dead skin cells and excess sebum, blackheads, whiteheads, pustules or papules can appear. Salicylic acid penetrates into your skin and dissolves these dead skin cells. It can take several weeks before you’ll see its full effect. 


You need to look at the ingredients list on the product you’re using to check the concentration of the salicylic acid is between 0.5%-2%. The product must also have a pH level of between 3 and 4.

Learn more about the differences between Salicylic acid and Niacinamide here.