What is Salicylic Acid?

Salicylic acid is a beta hydroxy acid (BHA) that is used to help exfoliate skin by removing the dead cells and debris that can clog pores. Originally derived from the bark of willow trees, its medicinal properties were first noted over 2,000 years ago. Salicylic acid is so effective that it continues to be used in numerous modern skin care products. In fact, salicylic acid is on the World Health Organization’s Model List of Essential Medicines, a guide to the most important medications needed in a basic health-care system.

How does Salicylic Acid Work?

Salicylic acid is a natural exfoliant that encourages dead skin cells to loosen and shed, which helps to clean out all that acne-causing debris inside pores. Without a buildup of dead skin cells, your pores may look smaller and your skin can appear more radiant.

However, salicylic acid products cannot kill the acne-causing bacteria that thrive below the skin’s surface (the P. acnes bacteria).

Risks and Warnings

For some people, slight skin redness and peeling may occur after using a salicylic acid acne treatment. Serious allergic reactions are rare, but you should consult a dermatologist if your skin is especially irritated.

Proactiv Products with Salicylic Acid

The pore-clearing abilities of salicylic acid make it a critical ingredient in many Proactiv acne products. Proactiv acne products with salicylic acid include:

  • Proactiv+® Complexion Perfecting Hydrator: Step 3 of the Proactiv+ 3-Step System, its salicylic acid acne medicine helps keeps pores clear and looking smaller. The hydrator is a luxurious, nutrient-rich finishing touch designed to leave your skin smooth, supple, even-toned, bright and radiant. Perfect for acne-prone complexions.
  • Blackhead Dissolving Gel: Our blackhead gel is specially formulated to help restore smoothness and clarity. Its salicylic acid treatment helps clear acne and revitalize the complexion while helping to exfoliate dry, dull skin to reveal a healthy-looking, natural glow.
  • Deep Cleansing Wash: Our all-over body Deep Cleansing Wash is a gentle all-over cleanser that helps lift away dead skin cells, while its 2% salicylic acid helps unclog pores and reduce oiliness to clear acne and prevent future breakouts wherever they may occur.
  • Clarifying Night Cream: This rejuvenating, dual-purpose formula addresses acne and anti-aging at the same time. It contains salicylic acid to encourage the shedding of dead skin cells and retinol (Vitamin A), to help smooth away fine lines and wrinkles.
  • Mark Correcting Pads: Each convenient, one-step, no-rinse pad contains professional-strength 5% glycolic acid to exfoliate layers of pigmented dead skin cells, plus maximum-strength 2% salicylic acid acne medicine to help keep pores clear and looking smaller.
  • Cleansing Body Bar: Our invigorating cleansing body bar is formulated with salicylic acid to help keep pores clear and body blemishes at bay. A mild, soap-free bar it contains no sulfates or dyes and can be used all-over the body, wherever there is acne-prone skin.
  • Clear Zone Body Pads: Developed for face and body, these body pads contain the proven acne effectiveness of maximum-strength 2% salicylic acid with the skin-enhancing properties of glycolic acid. With glycolic acid providing moisturizing benefits, the pads help clear acne blemishes and prevent new ones from forming in all areas of the body.
  • Advanced Daily Oil Control: Formulated for acne-prone skin, our Advanced Daily Oil Control instantly eliminates surface shine and helps reduce breakouts using salicylic acid. Lightweight, oil-free and non-comedogenic, the treatment absorbs quickly and helps the skin to stay soft, smooth and hydrated without looking or feeling greasy.

Salicylic Acid: The Bottom Line

Since salicylic acid and benzoyl peroxide are both found in so many acne products, people sometimes debate which is best for acne-prone skin. However, many would argue that each has its own distinct advantages — salicylic acid for clearing the pores, and benzoyl peroxide for reducing oil production and killing acne-causing bacteria. Both ingredients complement each other and work together to help keep skin clear and prevent future breakouts, especially when combined with a moisturizer.