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Salicylic Acid FAQ

How does salicylic acid control acne?

Salicylic acid unclogs pores and controls non-inflammatory skin lesions with regular use. It reduces blackheads and whiteheads, and is most effective when applied before bedtime and rinsed off in the morning. Medicated Clearing Gel by Dermalogica is one example of an overnight acne gel with salicylic acid.

Why are pads and wipes so prevalent as salicylic acid products?

Acne pads and wipes contain a predetermined amount of salicylic acid on each pad, and the "dosage" can be adjusted by using fewer pads per day if the skin gets too dry or irritated. They can be used as necessary, usually one to three times per day. Maximum Strength Oil Controlling Pads by Neutrogena is one of the more effective acne products in pad form.

How does salicylic acid compare to benzoyl peroxide as an acne treatment?

Studies have shown that salicylic acid is a more effective treatment for acne than benzoyl peroxide. It is also milder and causes no side effects on most users. If you are using a salicylic acid product for acne, you should not use a benzoyl peroxide one as well, as this may cause irritation and redness.

Can I use salicylic products on chapped lips or around my eyes?

The exfoliant properties of salicylic acid are perfect for very dry, chapped lips. Soothing Skin & Lip Therapy by Murad is a good product for soothing lips that have lost moisture due to weather, wind or aging. Salicylic acid is one of a number of ingredients in Lift & Lighten Eye Cream by MD Skincare which combats dark circles, wrinkles and puffiness around the eyes.

Are there any times I should not use salicylic acid products?

A woman should not use salicylic acid when she is pregnant or nursing. It should also not be used on broken skin.

How does salicylic acid treat warts?

Salicylic acid treatments for plantar warts loosen the skin that forms the warts, making it easier to remove the wart with a file or emery board. It is a good choice for home treatment because it causes little or no irritation. Recent research indicates that salicylic acid works 75% of the time when used to treat warts. Freezing the wart with liquid nitrogen (cryotherapy), the other major treatment for warts, not been proven more effective than salicylic acid. Occlusal-HP by Occlusal-HP is an effective non-prescription serum for wart removal.

Can I use salicylic acid to remove corns or calluses?

Yes, though the process may take longer than the one used to remove warts. Salicylic acid softens dead skin so that the corn or callus can be wiped off. When applying salicylic acid to a corn or callus, be careful not to spill any on healthy skin as this may damage it. Cover the skin surrounding a corn or callus with a bandage when using a non-prescription treatment.

What are some of the other conditions that can be treated with products containing salicylic acid?

Melasma and Age Spots

Discolorations and hyperpigmentation can be treated by products containing salicylic acid and other ingredients such as hydroquinone. One example is Potent Skin Lightening Gel Complex by Peter Thomas Roth. Salicylic acid helps peel the dark top layer of skin away to expose normal pigmentation.

Psoriasis And Eczema

The flaking and itching of both psoriasis and eczema on the scalp and skin are usually treatable by using a 3% salicylic acid shampoo, such as SAL Shampoo Maximum Strength by DHS and related products like Dry Skin Relief Bar - pHaze10 by PCA.


Rosacea, a skin disorder characterized by a "butterfly" pattern of redness on the nose and cheeks, broken capillaries and rashes, is sometimes treated by products containing salicylic acid. Pure Mask by Babor, which is also used to treat acne, soothes and diminishes the redness caused by rosacea.