health & wellness

Salicylic Acid Peels: Benefits And Side Effects

Sheena Joseph | Dec 21 2019
ImageCredits: Pinterest

Salicylic acid is an organic colourless beta hydroxy acid which is popular as an ingredient in anti-acne products, exfoliating products, and chemical peels. While there are fruits that contain acids and can remove dead skin cells, salicylic chemical peels are more popular to remove blackheads and smoothen the skin. Salicylic acid is derived from willow bark.

But, when it comes to a strong ingredient like salicylic acid, there are many concerns.

Are there any side effects of chemical peels?

What are the side effects of chemical peels?

Can I use salicylic acid peel at home?

Can I use salicylic acid for pigmentation on face?

How to use salicylic acid skincare?

How to get rid of acne with salicylic acid peels?

You need to understand what is salicylic acid’s effect on the skin to address these concerns. Even though it is a common ingredient in many skincare products, you don’t have to worry about it because the products are tested. And salicylic acid in creams or scrubs will not have a strong effect on your skin. But you need more closure with chemical peels. Here are the benefits and side effects of salicylic acid peels.


1. Deeper Penetration


Salicylic acid is a beta-hydroxy acid (BHA) which means the hydroxy part is separated from the acid by two carbons. This also means it is oil soluble. The structure of salicylic acid enables it to penetrate into pores and remove built-up oil. This is important because many products fall short here.

Even though alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs) can exfoliate the skin, they cannot penetrate deeper because they are water-soluble. If your pores are clogged, salicylic acid is more beneficial than AHAs like glycolic acid and lactic acid.

Half-way through your menstrual cycle, progesterone will rise and this will boost sebum production. The chances of clogged pores are high at this point. You can use an exfoliant with salicylic acid to prevent breakouts. This is one of the most popular benefits of salicylic acid peel.


2. Bye Bye Dead Cells


Dead skin cells can often cause acne, blemishes, scars, and dullness. Regular exfoliation is key to fresh-looking skin. Salicylic acid has the ability to break intercellular connections by breaking the carbon-to-carbon double bond. It is known as desmolytic effect. This is one of the most popular benefits of salicylic acid peel. Salicylic acid will dissolve the glue that is attaching skin cells to one another. Dead skin cells will be easily removed once they are broken down. Salicylic acid can remove acne scars, skin discolouration, and even fine lines. You should not overuse salicylic acid for exfoliation.


3. Unclogs Pores


Salicylic acid is comedolytic which means it can prevent the formation of comedones - the blemishes. If your face is prone to breakouts or blemishes, the chances of dead cells and oil being trapped in the pores are high. Salicylic acid will unclog the pores and initiate the normal flow of sebum. The same quality makes it effective in treating blackheads and whiteheads as well. This is one of the most popular benefits of salicylic acid peel. It will dissolve the dead cells that are stuck over the hair follicles.

Also read: 6 Easy Ways To Get Rid Of Taunting Blackheads


4. Kills Acne


If you have an important day coming up and you don't want big angry acne on your face, salicylic acid can rescue you. It is anti-inflammatory in nature. Using an acne spot treatment with salicylic acid will help with red inflamed acne and pustules and make them go away easier. Applying salicylic acid on the pimples will minimise swelling. The pimples will shrink in a day or two. This is one of the most popular benefits of salicylic acid peel. However, do not overuse them as the skin is tender on this point. Once the pimple has shrunk, leave it alone and wait for it to dry up.


5. Treats Melasma


Melasma is characterised by dark patches on the skin. The patches will only be a few shades darker than your skin and will be usually seen on cheeks, forehead, chin, and bridge of the nose. The exposure to UV rays will trigger melasma in people with hormone imbalance due to stress, pregnancy, and abnormal thyroid activity. Products with salicylic acid can be used to treat the patches. It can be used during pregnancy as well. But using a peel might not be safe. Instead, go for products with only 2% of salicylic acid.


6. Removes Warts


Warts are growths on top of the skin due to the infection caused by a virus. This virus can survive on the skin for about a year before the appearance of warts. It is impossible to find from where the virus came in contact with your skin. Salicylic acid can dissolve warts. But the key is to kill the virus. It is a keratolytic agent that will remove epidermal cells infected with HPV. This is one of the most popular benefits of salicylic acid peel.

Also read: 22 Home Remedies To Get Rid Of Facial Warts


7. Helps With Dandruff


The same ability to exfoliate can helps with dandruff too. Products with salicylic acid in lower levels can get rid of the dandruff-affected scalp by boosting sloughing off of skin cells.


Side Effects Of Salicylic Acid Peels

Salicylic acid is a strong ingredient and if you have sensitive skin, you may experience some side effects of salicylic acid peels. To avoid this, use products that have salicylic acid in minimal amount. Higher concentrations are likely to cause trouble. In any case, you should not be overusing such a strong ingredient.


If you have a history of being allergic to aspirin or any kind of irritation on the skin, do not apply salicylic acid. Peels usually have salicylic acid in milder forms. Some of the possible side effects of salicylic acid peels are redness, tingling sensation, greater sun sensitivity, and peeling skin.

However, there are serious allergic reactions too. People with diabetes, kidney disease, liver disease, or trouble with blood circulation are more likely to experience dangerous side effects of salicylic acid peel. Some of them are hives, itching, trouble breathing, lightheadedness, swelling of the tongue or throat. If you have any health issues, consult your doctor before using the salicylic acid peel.