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Can Salicylic Acid Cause Acne or Other Blemishes?

Can Salicylic Acid Cause Acne or Other Blemishes?

Salicylic acid has many virtues and is the perfect ally for oily (+) problem skin. It regulates sebum levels, exfoliates the skin and inhibits bacterial proliferation. Originally, it was extracted from the bark of the willow tree from which it takes its name. As pore clogging is the cause of blackheads, it is important not to apply comedogenic ingredients to the skin if you have a tendency to develop this type of blemish. What about salicylic acid and its comedogenicity? Can it cause acne?

Comedogenic Ingredient: Definition.

It is a substance that clogs pores because of its texture and promotes the formation of a film on the skin preventing sebum from draining. This can lead to the appearance of blemishes, called comedones. These take the form of blackheads or whiteheads. If you have acne, applying a comedogenic substance can make your skin condition worse. For each substance, a comedogenicity index ranging from 0 to 5 can be calculated to evaluate its occlusive potential. However, it is important to qualify the subject. The comedogenicity of an ingredient does not necessarily lead to skin imperfections, it depends on the person and his skin type. Each user can react differently after application of a comedogenic care.

In cosmetics, mineral oils from petrochemicals are generally occlusive. Here are some INCI names to spot them in your products: Paraffinum Liquidum, Paraffin, Petrolatum, Petrolatum jelly, Cera Microcristallina, Mineral Oil, Ceresin, Ozokerite, Polyisobutylene, Hydrogenated Polyisobutene. A vegetable oil can also be comedogenic, but will be better tolerated by your skin and will provide more benefits than a synthetic oil. For example, coconut oil has a comedogenicity index of 4, but when used in conjunction with other ingredients in a formula, it can be relevant for dry skin.

Salicylic Acid, a Non-Comedogenic Ingredient.

Salicylic acid skincare is a great ally for oily skin. Non-comedogenic, it does not accumulate on the surface of the skin and regulates the production of sebum, preventing the clogging of pores, which is usually the cause of blackheads and pimples. Thus, salicylic acid cannot cause acne. It even helps fight against the proliferation of the bacteria Propionibacterium acnes, the microorganism responsible for inflammatory reactions in acne. It stimulates cell renewal, refines skin texture and restores radiance to dull and tired complexions.


  • IL-HWAN KIM & al. Salicylic acid peels for the treatment of acne vulgaris in asian patients. Dermatologic Surgery (2003).

  • ARIF T. Salicylic acid as a peeling agent: a comprehensive review. Clinical, Cosmetic and Investigational Dermatology (2015).

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


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