Salicylic Acid Exfoliant: A Skin Care Ingredient You Need to Know!

Salicylic acid is a popular ingredient for exfoliation. Most notably, salicylic acid exfoliants are used to treat acne. This is because it is antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, and skin-refining.

As an antibacterial agent, salicyclic acid has the potential to neutralize any of the acne-causing bacterium P. Acnes that’s present in acne papules and pustules. Salicylic acid specifically inhibits the production of various aspects necessary for bacterial binary fission (bacterial reproduction), such as fibrinogen, fibronectin, and alpha-hemolysis.

Yet salicyclic acid is also anti-inflammatory, which again is great for treating acne conditions. SA’s anti-inflammatory nature comes from its ability to truncate the arachidonic acid (AA) cascade within the skin.

According to Dr. Heather Brannon, M.D., a family-practice physician with a specialty in Dermatology, salicyclic acid is also reported to improve signs of aging including wrinkling, roughness, and mottled pigmentation of photodamaged skin with at least 6 months of daily application. This is because salicylic acid softens keratin, a protein that forms part of the skin structure. This helps to loosen dry scaly skin, increasing cell turnover and effectively renewing the skin. It is often used in acne treatments to cleanse and to prevent clogging of the pores (DermNetNZ).

When a salicylic acid exfoliant is used in combination with other treatments, it is often to allow the other formulation’s ingredients to penetrate the skin more effectively. The keratin softening results in greater exfoliation for the skin!

Which Skin Care Ingredients Should You Use in Conjunction With Salicyclic Acid?


Be sure to wear a broad-spectrum, UVA/UVB sunscreen of at least SPF 15 everyday with salicyclic acid use, as advised by to Dr. Heather Brannon, M.D. The reason is that alpha and beta hydroxy acids tend to thin the skin, making it more susceptible to sun damage. If you are using beta hydroxy acids for the anti-aging effects, you are negating your purpose in the long run if you don’t use sunscreen!

Another great acne exfoliator for use with salicylic acid is the ViaBuff Extra Gentle Exfoliator – Level 1. It can be hard to find the correct sponge or washcloth for use with salicylic acid cleansers, as some can be too harsh and abrasive. The ViaBuff Extra Gentle Exfoliator is non-sensitizing, non-irritating, cruelty-free, and dermatologist-tested. It works well with your favorite salicylic acid cleanser in treating acne!

What Skin Care Ingredients Should You Not Use in Conjunction with a Salicylic Acid Exfoliant?

According to DermNetNZ, skin care ingredients with any of the following ingredients should not be used in conjunction with salicylic acid, unless you are advised otherwise by your physician:

In Summary

For acne, salicylic acid is a hard agent to beat, as it contains antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, and skin-refining ingredients. For best results, use your salicylic acid exfoliant with the ViaBuff Extra Gentle Exfoliator, which is made of a moisture-loving material that builds optimal lather and uniform application, so you get less waste.


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