Can salicylic acid make skin worse?

Author: Angus Zboncak  |  Last update: Tuesday, August 8, 2023

Acne treatments — especially those that contain active ingredients like benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid — are drying and a bit harsh on your skin. If you use too many treatments at the same time, your skin may become irritated, and you may actually suffer more breakouts as a result.

Why does my skin look worse after salicylic acid?

Skin purging occurs because of some ingredients that accelerate your body's natural process of getting rid of dead skin cells. Products that contain certain components—including lactic acid, salicylic acid, glycolic acid, and retinoids—are likely the culprits of your acne breakout.

How long does purging last salicylic acid?

Generally speaking, dermatologists say purging should be over within four to six weeks of starting a new skin care regimen. If your purge lasts longer than six weeks, consult your dermatologist.

Does salicylic acid make it worse before better?

There are times when using products that contain salicylic acid can make the skin appear worse before it gets better. This is down to a process called 'skin purging' that can occur after treatment with salicylic acid.

Can salicylic acid damage skin?

Although salicylic acid is considered safe overall, it may cause skin irritation when first starting. It may also remove too much oil, resulting in dryness and potential irritation. Other potential side effects include : skin tingling or stinging.


How do you know if salicylic acid is working?

Signs that treatment is effective

Wart medications, such as salicylic acid, gradually peel away layers of a wart until it reaches the same level as the skin. People may notice the wart becoming flatter over time.

How long does it take for skin to adjust to salicylic acid?

You'll find it takes on average, about 6-8 weeks to start noticing a marked improvement of the look and feel of the skin. If you are using salicylic acid as a spot treatment or method of clearing up acne and breakouts, you may find your skin will look a little worse before it gets better.

How do you know if I should stop using salicylic acid?

Salicylic acid may produce mild side effects, such as skin irritation or peeling. If people experience more severe side effects, they should stop using the product and contact their doctor.

When should I stop applying salicylic acid?

For warts—Repeat one or two times a day as needed for up to 12 weeks, or as directed by your doctor, until wart is removed. For corns and calluses—Repeat one or two times a day as needed for up to 14 days, or as directed by your doctor, until the corn or callus is removed.

Why is salicylic acid not clearing my skin?

Why it might not be working: There are multiple types and causes of acne — and if your acne is severe, salicylic acid might not be strong enough for you. “Cystic acne will need something stronger than salicylic acid,” says Dr. Debra Jaliman, a dermatologist based in New York City.

What does salicylic acid purging look like?

Some of these ingredients are retinoids, vitamin C, AHAs and BHAs (glycolic, malic, lactic, and salicylic acid). What does skin purging look like? Skin purging typically looks like tiny red bumps on the skin that are painful to touch. They are often accompanied by whiteheads or blackheads.

Does salicylic acid push out acne?

Salicylic acid is a key ingredient in many acne treatments.

This is because it helps to unclog pores, remove dead skin cells, and reduce inflammation. It is also gentle enough to use on sensitive skin.

Is it OK to use salicylic acid everyday?

"If salicylic acid is an ingredient in your cleanser, it is fine to use it every day." However, if you are using an exfoliant that has salicylic acid in the formula, Dr. Hu advises only using the product three times per week, to avoid over-exfoliating the skin and drying it out.

What are signs of skin purging?

If you have skin purging, you may experience whiteheads, blackheads, dryness, or even flaking. While skin purging and breakouts have similar symptoms, skin purging is temporary and lasts for a maximum of six weeks, while breakouts can last longer.

What does purging skin look like?

What Does Skin Purging Look Like? Purging breakouts look like tiny, red bumps on the skin that are painful when touched. Often, there may be whiteheads and blackheads that appear along with the bumps.

How do you repair skin after salicylic acid?

How to Heal Over-Exfoliated Skin from Salicylic Acid
  1. Say "aloe" to your new best friend! Other than being extremely soothing, aloe vera can also help restore hydration and rebuild firmness to your skin, which is exactly what you need right now. ...
  2. Invest in a hyaluronic acid serum. ...
  3. Prioritise rebuilding your skin barrier.

Does salicylic acid cause purging?

Retinoids such as Tretinoin, acids such as salicylic, and benzoyl peroxide are just a few of the products that cause purging. These products contain active ingredients that increase the skin cell turnover rate, therefore causing your skin to purge.

How long does it take for salicylic acid to fully work?

Salicylic acid starts working by 2-3 weeks, and takes around 2-3 months to show full effect. This potent antioxidant reduces pigmentation and builds up skin collagen. You will start noticing a brighter complexion in 4-6 weeks but actual improvements, in terms of dark spots reduction, will take around 3-4 months.

How often should a beginner use salicylic acid?

While it is okay to use salicylic acid every day, it could cause irritation. Many dermatologists, therefore, recommend using the acid in moderation, beginning by applying it three times a week and working up from there. Can salicylic acid dry the skin out?

What not to use salicylic acid with?

AHAs and BHAs, such as glycolic, salicylic, and lactic acids should never be used with Vitamin C. Vitamin C is an acid, too, and is unstable, so the pH balance will be thrown off by layering these ingredients together and might as well be useless.

How does salicylic acid break you out at first?

Salicylic acid (also known as BHA) is the chemical exfoliant most associated with this phenomenon because it penetrates into pores, breaking apart clumps of skin cells. It also thins the thick, sticky oil (sebum) buildup inside to reduce the size of clogs residing deeper in skin.

What are the side effects of salicylic acid?

Incidence not known
  • Difficult breathing.
  • dryness and peeling of skin.
  • hives or itching.
  • swelling of the eyes, face, lips, or tongue.
  • tightness in the throat.
  • unusually warm skin.

Should I leave salicylic acid on overnight?

Can you leave salicylic acid on your face overnight? Yes, you really can! You can use salicylic acid twice a day if required, those with a skin type that is oily and prone to breakouts will benefit from using the BHA most.

How do you know if its purging or breakout?

Purging is when your skin is adjusting to the new product. Persevering with the product will eventually make your skin better – in fact, the sudden crop of pimples means that it's working as intended. A regular breakout is when your skin is reacting because it's sensitive to something in the product.

Can salicylic acid cause cystic acne?

Like I mentioned earlier, salicylic acid and sulfur won't help cystic acne. It can make it even worse if it dries out or irritates your skin.

Previous article
What happens if you don't like your lip fillers?
Next article
How many glasses of water a day?