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Salicylic Acid

Updated on September 27, 2007

Salicylic Acid, the Beta Hydroxy Acid, is a generally well tolerated chemical exfoliant, and yet so much more.

Chemical keratolytics (exfoliants) unglue the bonds holding dead skin cells together allowing them to slough off revealing the fresh healthy skin below.

Salicylic acid is far more gentle than Alpha Hydroxy's and causes fewer side effects. Being a derivative of aspirin, salicylic acid is both anti irritant and anti inflammatory. This is not the only thing that sets it apart from the alpha hydroxy acids. Alpha hydroxy acids are water soluble, while salicylic acid is lipid (fat) soluble. This may not mean much at a glance, but in practical terms it ends up being very important. The fact that it does dissolve in fats and oils means that can penetrate the sebum on your skin and pores to get where it needs to go. That is, into the muck (dead skin cells, dirt, and sebum), dissolving it and keeping the pores and oil glands clean.

This makes it a wonderful choice for acne. Acne is not just a problem of oil production, but it can be a problem of inflammation. Salicylic acidwith its anti inflammatory properties make it perfect for calming acneic skin. This beta hydroxy acid also has antimicrobial properties making it an Anti Acne Trifecta. You don't need to wander too far in the department store aisles to see that beauty and personal care companies have figured this out. You can find it in facial washes, in creams and lotions, treatment sticks and serums, and cleansing pads.

Salicylic Acid is also highly useful in the treatment of dandruff and psoriasis. It is found in numerous shampoos and treatments for these conditions.

It also works very well on rough dry heels and on calluses. It is used in wart treatment products. As you can see it is a very versatile product.

When looking for a salicylic acid product there are several guidelines to keep in mind. Look for a product with a concentration of salicylic acid of 1-2 percent. If you can possibly find out the pH of the product, optimal pH is 3 -4 . Effectiveness drops past a pH of 4.

Beta Hydroxy Acid has also remarkably been shown to improve collagen production. Collagen is the framework and support of our skin.

As with any Hydroxy Acid, it is of primary importance to protect your skin from the sun. Using any AHA or BHA will leave you around 50 percent more sensitive to sun damage. So, never go out without a good UVA and UVB sunscreen. Sun damage is serious business, not just for the aging concerns. Melanoma is nothing to mess with either.

Another thing with salicylic acid (or alpha hydroxy acid) is the benefits will only last as long as you are using the product. As soon as you discontinue using it, gradually you will start to go back to where you were prior to beginning the treatment.

Do some research on the different properties of Salicylic Acid and Alpha Hydroxy Acids. Each has its own unique properties and you can judge which is right for you. All I can say is that I have found them to be so helpful in our home.

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