Salicylic acid (Sally, as we like to call her) is the grand-dame of the skincare world. So what makes salicylic acid popular? We’d be hard pressed to get the excellent results that we strive for without it, particularly when it comes to congested or acne-prone skin. It’s truly a classic ingredient when it comes to providing dramatic results, and it’s important not to overlook salicylic acid in favour of trendier ingredients perhaps, because salicylic acid is still trendy (she is transcendent of trends and time – transtrendent). Sally is here to stay – and you can quote us on that one.
Well, salicylic acid is derived from willow bark, and it’s a bit of a big cheese all over the medical field. It’s related to acetylsalicylate, which is the good stuff from which we get our common or garden aspirin.
This is why there are so many recipes online for DIY anti-acne aspirin face-masks, but honestly, we’re not recommending that you jump on board with the trend. There are plenty of expertly formulated salicylic acid products out there that will do the best job… But we have to say, Sally Cleanse is our favourite.
What Does Salicylic Acid Do?
You’ve probably noticed salicylic acid as a rockstar ingredient in many anti-acne products. Sally is what we nerdily call a beta-hydroxy acid (BHA), which means that it is lipid or oil-soluble. This means that it works particularly well on hoomans prone to oily skin. Oily skin simply means that your skin produces more sebum than average, which is perfectly fine.
The problems start when all that good sebum, useful for protecting and waterproofing your skin, is overproduced and blocks your pores. Overproduction of sebum can also lead to shininess, large pores, open and closed comedones (blackheads and teeny whiteheads respectively) and general lumps and bumps. Not very rock and roll, sebum.
Alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs) and BHAs exfoliate the skin (good), but AHAs are water-soluble, unlike the oil-soluble BHAs. This means that BHAs penetrate the lipid layers of the skin with greater ease. So, an AHA can exfoliate the surface of your skin, but with more problematic skin, you need to get a little deeper.
Enter Sally. As a BHA, she can go deep into the pores of your skin to change the way that cells are bound, making her ideal for deep exfoliation. Salicylic acid softens the top layer of skin and dissolves the plug of dead skin in the pores. She breaks apart attachments in the skin (called desmosomes) which encourages skin exfoliation and helps to reduce the appearance of blackheads. Sally is deep-diving into the skin and sorting it the frick out, like the Dr. Phil of plugs of sebum.
What Does Salicylic Acid Work Best On?
Sally is your only hooman when it comes to a deep exfoliation of the skin. In our opinion, salicylic acid products are superior to harsher exfoliants as it works to dissolve the dirt, whereas most scrubs work by removing dead skin from the surface manually (when they aren’t in the passenger side of their best friend’s ride trying to holla at you).
Salicylic acid goes about things a little more scientifically, by speeding up cell turnover and shedding older skin cells, as well as loosening the bonds which keep old, dead skin cells clinging on grimly long after they should have been turfed out. Salicylic acid works as the last call for dead skin.
So, salicylic is good for oily and acne-prone skin. It dissolves skin cells within pores, keeping your pores clear. Salicylic acid is powerful in taking on black and whiteheads and kicking them to the curb. It also has antibacterial qualities so can help to reduce the bacteria that leads to spots becoming angry. Salicylic acid is also anti-inflammatory, which means that it can bring down the redness of a spot, and help to reduce sebum overproduction, reducing the likelihood of future breakouts.
How To Use Salicylic Acid
In Europe, 2% is the highest legal amount of salicylic acid that can be retailed in a cosmetic product. This packs a punch however, so you must use it as directed. When it comes to our own Skingredients Sally Cleanse, we recommend it to be used every third night, unless otherwise directed by your Nerd or Nerdette. It is not suitable for use if you’re pregnant, due to its relationship with aspirin.
Salicylic acid has been around the block and seen a thing or two. It’s been hailed as something of a medical marvel up to 4,000 years ago when the Sumerians recommended chowing down on some willow bark in order to reduce pain.
Our pal Hippocrates was also keen to extoll its virtues back to 400 BCE, when he recommended patients suffering from fever and pain to gnaw on some willow bark, and from 100 CE, it was being prescribed as an anti-inflammatory agent – handy!
Where To Get Your Salicylic Fix
Here’s a good folksy saying for you: a new broom sweeps clean, but an old broom knows the corners. Salicylic acid may have been around for a while, but it’s not about to budge. Our Skingredients range would be lost without her!
Sally Cleanse is close to our hearts and within easy reach for those of us at Nerd HQ prone to a bit (ahem) of excess oil. Sally Cleanse will clear out those pores, reduce inflammation and will also work a treat on lumps or bumps in the skin like keratosis pilaris, as well as ingrown hairs. These issues are all caused by faults in the skin’s keratinisation process, which the exfoliating quality of salicylic acid can help with.
Sally Cleanse as a Micro-Mask
Sally is such a cosmopolitan lady, there’s more to her than meets the eye. She’s primarily formulated to work hard as a cleanser to clear pores and target congestion, but there’s more than one side to her. She’s perfect as a micro-mask, too.
Micro-masking is the perfect solution for those looking to pack a punch to their problem areas without taking all day about it. Micro-masking is ideal for when you really need that little bit extra, such as when your skin is behaving worse than usual. Leaving your salicylic on for a bit longer will keep it in line but please, please, please be cautious of over-exfoliating – (you can check out The Skin Nerd here for explanation of symptoms and downfalls of over-exfoliating). You should only leave your micro-mask on for five minutes. That’s sure to keep things moving along nicely.
Sally is not a lone warrior, however strong she may be. In order to support her and keep your skin in prime condition, it’s absolutely imperative that we hydrate skin when using Sally. To this end, make sure you’re using it alongside a nourishing cleanser like Skingredients Preprobiotic Cleanser, as the probiotics in this are skin-soothing – absolutely vital. Using Skingredients Skin Protein will help to keep your skin hydrated, with sunflower seed oil doing its work. Salicylic acid increases the photosensitivity of skin, so it’s extra super-duper important that you’re wearing your Skin Shield SPF 50 PA+++, protecting your skin from UVA and UVB rays, as well as pesky HEV light rays.
Sally is not about to lay down, she’s always been comfortable in the spotlight. She’s the old reliable that we go back to again and again when our skin is in need. Classique, et magnifique.