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Ingredient Spotlight: Salicylic Acid

We know it as a superb exfoliant and essential component to the treatment of acne skin, but did you know that Salicylic Acid is also an analgesic and pain reliever?

Before skin care professionals used it for cosmetic purposes, salicylic was used by Greek physicians to ease headaches and pains, and reduce fever. In fact, this wonder ingredient is noted throughout history among different cultures including Native Americans, Germans, French and English, and it plays a very significant role in plant growth and development. Intrigued? Read on…

What It Is

The name salicylic is derived from the Latin word Salix, which literally translates to willow tree – the bark from which this ingredient was originally obtained. It is a monohydroxybenzoic acid, a type of phenolic and beta hydroxy acid (BHA) that occurs naturally in wintergreen leaves, licorice, marigold, sweet birch, willow bark extract and several other plant species.

In plants it fills a critical role in the growth and development, photosynthesis, transpiration, and ion uptake and transport. It also aids in endogenous signaling, supporting the plant in its defenses against pathogens.

Its uses in medicine date back to 5th century BC and it has been used throughout history to relieve aches, reduce fever, and in some cases as an anti-inflammatory. In the world of skin care it has been used in the treatment of acne, psoriasis, calluses, keratosis pilaris, and warts. This is because salicylic works as an exfoliant, preventing pores from clogging while stimulating cell renewal.

How It Works

Salicylic, a BHA, works as a keratolytic agent causing cellular turnover, unclogging pores and neutralizing the bacteria within, then essentially constricting the pore size to prevent future clogging. It also stimulates new cell growth.

It has a larger molecule size than its cousin alpha hydroxyl acid, which enables the acid to stay on the surface of the skin allowing it to more effectively, penetrate and exfoliate within the pore. Once it has penetrated the pore it also acts as a chemical trap for free radicals, essentially exfoliating from the inside out. This characteristic makes it a superb exfoliant for acne and acne-prone skin. The larger molecule size also produces less irritation than AHAs, making it a welcome alternative for sensitive skins.

Salicylic acid also has anti-inflammatory, antiseptic, fungicidal, antioxidant and bactericidal properties, while simultaneously supporting cell turnover.

Where to Find It

We’ve long used this ingredient in many of our products, and it’s likely you’ve already been using several of them for some time now. Here are few not-so-obvious salicylic products:

Be sure to introduce salicylic to your clients, especially if they have more acne-prone or sensitive skin.

Question: What results have you seen with salicylic acid?

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