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Salicylic Acid as an Acne Spot Treatment

Salicylic Acid as an Acne Spot Treatment Salicylic Acid as an Acne Spot Treatment Salicylic Acid as an Acne Spot Treatment


Acne is so common that 85 percent of Americans get it at some point in their lives, according to the American Academy of Dermatology, or AAD. It usually appears on the face, but may affect the chest and neck areas, upper arms and back. Some cases are severe enough to need medical attention, but most respond to home treatment. Salicylic acid is a popular ingredient in several readily available products.


Acne is caused by a combination of factors, according to the National Institutes of Health. Most skin areas are rich in oil glands and pores. The glands naturally produce a skin oil called sebum. They usually start producing more during puberty because of accelerated hormone production. The skin continually sheds deal cells, which blend with the sebum and bacteria called P. acnes, the AAD explains. The mixture blocks pores, which leads to pimple development.


Acne treatments must attack at least one of the primary causes. The AAD explains that salicylic acid treats mild to moderate pimples in two ways when it is applied to affected spots on the skin. It inhibits abnormal skin cell shedding and unclogs blocked pores. This helps to clear up blackheads and whiteheads that are already present and prevents new ones from forming. Salicylic acid has no effect on skin oil production and it does not kill bacteria.


Salicylic acid is used as a spot treatment on affected skin. The AAD explains it comes in several forms for home use, including creams, lotions and medicated pads. They contain a 0.5 to 2 percent concentration of salicylic acid, according to the Mayo Clinic. They can all be purchased without a prescription, and all are effective pimple fighters. Acne sufferers generally choose the form that is most convenient to apply. Some prefer dabbing on a cream or lotion, while others prefer wiping the salicylic acid on with a pad. All forms can cause skin irritation and stinging, but this tends to lessen with continued use.

Time Frame

Salicylic acid can take several weeks to produce noticeable results. The AAD advises that it must be used continually, even if the pimples go away. Otherwise, skin cells will clog the pores again, leading to new outbreaks.


Salicylic acid treats mild to moderate acne acceptably for most people. There are alternatives for those who don't get good results, according to the AAD. Benzoyl peroxide affects skin cell shedding and also reduces bacteria. Alcohol and acetone, which are often combined in pimple treatments, reduce oil and bacteria. These treatments are readily available in stores, so they can be tried by sufferers who do not get relief from salicylic acid-based remedies.

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