Acne treatment Acne treatment

Salicylic Acid to Treat Acne

Salicylic Acid to Treat Acne Salicylic Acid to Treat Acne


Salicylic acid is an effective treatment for noninflammatory acne, according to Berkley University Health Services. It unclogs pores, which helps prevent acne breakouts. It also works to stop abnormal skin cell shedding. However, it has no effect on bacterial growth or oil production. In order to be effective, salicylic acid must be used continuously.


Salicylic acid is a component of many different over-the-counter acne medications. It is available as a cream, foam, pad, lotion, soap, stick, ointment, shampoo, gel and liquid, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center. Some forms can be applied with the fingertips and rubbed into your skin. Other forms come with an applicator or are to be applied with a washcloth.

Time Frame

The University of Maryland Medical Center website advises it could take up to six weeks of consistent use before you notice improvement in your skin condition. The Mayo Clinic warns against trying to speed results by applying more salicylic acid than recommended by your doctor or the product label, as this could lead to salicylic acid poisoning.


During the time you are using salicylic acid on your skin, you should be selective when choosing other skin care products. Combining topical medications or using harsh cleansers might cause severe skin irritation. The Mayo Clinic suggests you avoid medicated cosmetics, topical medications, peeling agents, abrasive soap and products that contain alcohol.

Side Effects

Salicylic acid may cause skin irritation, peeling and redness. More serious side effects can occur if you absorb too much of the medication through your skin and develop salicylate toxicity. Some of these effects are nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, loss of hearing, ringing in your ears, lethargy, dizziness and psychological disturbances, warns the Mayo Clinic.


Caution should be used in children under 12 and in patients with liver or kidney disease, as they are more susceptible to salicylate toxicity, advises the Mayo Clinic. If you are under medical care or taking prescription medications, you should discuss the use of salicylic acid with your doctor before you begin treatment for acne to make sure it won't interfere with your current regimen.

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