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Are There Any Dangers or Side Effects Associated with the Use of Salicylic Acid?

Are There Any Dangers or Side Effects Associated with the Use of Salicylic Acid?

Originally extracted from willow bark, salicylic acid is a beta-hydroxy acid (BHA) with well-known keratolytic and sebum-regulating properties. It is particularly recommended in the treatment of oily skin, to prevent or reduce imperfections of all kinds. It stimulates cell renewal and restores radiance to dull and tired skin. What are the potential risks and side effects associated with its use? Focus.

The Potential Risks of Salicylic Acid.

In general, all skin types should tolerate salicylic acid, even the most sensitive.

During the first few weeks after frequent use of salicylic acid, it is possible to experience a slight discomfort and tightness. This active ingredient sometimes causes redness, itching and tingling, especially among people with sensitive skin. These reactions should not cause you concern as they usually disappear after a few days. This is the time it takes for your skin to get used to salicylic acid. Moreover, these reactions are the proof that the care product really acts on your epidermis and boosts cell renewal. In order to alleviate these irritations, reduce the amount and frequency of application of your salicylic acid-based skin care product. If, however, your skin still reacts after several applications, it may not be able to tolerate this active ingredient or another ingredient contained in your product. In this case, stop using it.

Side Effects of Salicylic Acid.

Although it may be suitable for all skin types, salicylic acid has a few side effects:

  • The use of salicylic acid in combination with other keratolytic acids such as glycolic acid and azelaic acid is not recommended. In fact, this combination promotes excessive exfoliation of the epidermis.

  • If your skin has lesions, avoid applying a salicylic acid treatment, as this may aggravate them.

  • Very sensitive skin requires gentle exfoliation and moisturizing. Avoid salicylic acid if you have this type of skin.

The European regulation on cosmetic products prohibits the presence of this active ingredient in preparations intended for children under the age of 3. Shampoos are an exception. For face care products, its content is limited to 2%.Additional clarification: Salicylic acid in facial care is not contraindicated for pregnant or breastfeeding women.

Is Salicylic Acid Photosensitizing?

No, salicylic acid does not increase the skin's sensitivity to the sun. It can be applied in the morning, even if you plan to go out during the day. If you want to incorporate a salicylic acid treatment into your morning beauty routine, apply a broad-spectrum sunscreen afterwards. This will help protect your skin from potential irritation from UV rays.

Interestingly, salicylic acid may have a photo-protective effect on the skin! Two clinical studies have shown that salicylic acid, when applied a few minutes before exposure to UV rays, reduces sunburn. However, it is important to note that in these experiments, a relatively high concentration of salicylic acid was applied in large quantities shortly before UV exposure. It is absolutely not recommended to use salicylic acid as a sunscreen because to achieve effective sun protection, you would have to use a much higher concentration than the 2% commonly used in cosmetics. This concentration would cause too much exfoliation and irritation for frequent use.

Salicylic acid: instructions for use.

This active ingredient is particularly recommended for oily skin with imperfections. It has an antimicrobial and sebum regulating effect. Salicylic acid effectively treats clogged pores and prevents the formation of blackheads. It exfoliates the skin, eliminates dead cells and boosts cell regeneration. The skin complexion is revived and regains its radiance.

Depending on its content in the products, it can be used either as a cure over a limited period of time, or as a daily care in your beauty routine. You can find two treatments based on salicylic acid at Typology. The local imperfections serum contains 2% salicylic acid and is applied locally on the affected areas, for a few weeks only. On the other hand, this purifying treatment can be integrated into your evening beauty routine, containing 1% salicylic acid.


  • RÈGLEMENT (CE) No 1223/2009 DU PARLEMENT EUROPÉEN ET DU CONSEIL du 30 novembre 2009 relatif aux produits cosmétiques.

  • HO-SUP LEE & IL-HWAN KIM. Salicylic acid peels for the treatment of acne vulgaris in asian patients. Dermatologic Surgery (2009).

  • Kornhauser, A. et al. The effects of topically applied glycolic acid and salicylic acid on ultraviolet radiation-induced erythema, DNA damage and sunburn cell formation in human skin. J Dermatol Sci, (2009)

  • Thomas Mammone & al., Salicylic acid protects the skin from UV damage, Journal of Cosmetic Science, (2006).

  • Bubna, A. K. Aspirin in dermatology: Revisited. Indian Dermatol Online J. (2015)


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