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Salicylic Acid, More Than Just Antibacterial Support!

January 10 2023 – Shannon Esau

Salicylic Acid, More Than Just Antibacterial Support!
Salicylic Acid, More Than Just Antibacterial Support!

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. 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 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.

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 monohydroxy benzoic 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.

How it Works on the Skin

In the world of skin care it has been used in the treatment of acne, psoriasis, calluses, keratosis pilaris, and warts. Salicylic, a beta hydroxy acid (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.

Salicylic acid 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.

  • Provides anti-inflammatory, antiseptic, fungicidal, antioxidant and bactericidal benefits.
  • Exfoliates, rejuvenates and supports cell turnover.
  • Decreases the skin’s thickness and softens comedones.
  • Great for sensitive, rosacea, acne-prone and problematic skins.

Where to find it.

RA has long used this ingredient in many of our products. Salicylic acid can be found in many of our brands as well as our Pro Series.  Here are a few of our favorites from the Acne Remedies brand:

GREEN TEA BETA CLEANSE – a must-have for any blemish-prone skin!  A blend of salicylic and mandelic acids eliminate bacteria and smooth skin while the heart of green tea reduces redness and inflammation in skin.

ANTIOX AHA TONIC – is a perfect choice for those struggling with oily, hormonal acne skin.  A blend of potent acids and superior antioxidants make this toner perfect to use a few times per week or even as a spot treat.

BLEMISH SERUM – a blend of natural antibacterial ingredients fight P. acne bacteria in this powerful, yet gentle formula. 

Tips When Introducing Salicylic Acid

While this acid is known for its anti-inflammatory properties it is important to be mindful of any changes in the skin including dryness or occasional flaking, especially when you introduce a toner or corrective.  We recommend easing into these products, typically using them 2-3 times per week or as directed. 

Check with your RA Professional for further guidance on introducing any RA corrective into your skin care regimen.  And start exploring all the different benefits of salicylic acid today and keep pores clear for healthy-looking skin!