Salicylic Acid for Acne: How does it work?


In the world of dermatology and skin care, salicylic acid is a golden ingredient used to treat blackheads, whiteheads, and excess oil on the skin. Salicylic acid is also used and recommended to treat acne and can be found in many skincare products, including face wash with salicylic acid. The sections below answer some of the main questions about salicylic acid.

What is Salicylic Acid?

In technical terms, salicylic acid is a beta-hydroxy acid (BHA). In simpler terms, salicylic acid is an active ingredient in willow barks and is a common skincare component. Salicylic acid is anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, and an exfoliant for removing dead skin cells.

How does Salicylic Acid Work for Acne?

To understand how salicylic acid works, it is essential to realize how acne is formed. Acne develops when dead skin cells and excess oil clog pores in the skin. Bacteria can get stuck inside the pore and cause inflammation and pus-filled pimples.

To address this, salicylic acid has keratolytic capabilities, which allow it to exfoliate dead skin cells and enhance texture and tone while penetrating the skin to help remove excess oil and unclog pores. As such, salicylic acid breaks down the bonds between dead skin cells, allowing them to more easily exit the pore while breaking down lipids, such as sebum. Salicylic acid also reduces sebum production in the skin, resulting in fewer breakouts.

How to Use Salicylic Acid?

Many acne-fighting face washes, cleansers, and skin care products contain salicylic acid in variable concentrations. Hence, if you’re battling clogged pores and acne, you must look for skincare solutions containing salicylic acid.

Make sure to always follow product labels as well as the advice of a doctor or dermatologist. The below table provides further details on how frequently one should apply salicylic acid in over-the-counter treatments.


Percent of salicylic acid

Frequency of Use



Once per day



1 to 3 times per day



When needed



1 to 3 times per day



When needed



1 to 3 times per day

Reduce the application of salicylic acid-containing products every other day if extreme dryness or peeling occurs.

Some chemical peels contain up to 50% of salicylic acid. Professional dermatologists should only administer those peels.

Is Salicylic Acid Effective?

The short and brief answer to this question is a definite yes!

To treat specific forms of acne, the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) recommends using a skin care product containing salicylic acid, such as:

  • Pustules as in pimples that are filled with pus
  • Papules that are small, firm bumps on the skin
  • Blackheads due to blockage within a hair follicle
  • Whiteheads, which are a result of a totally clogged follicles

Also read to know more on different types of acne, here.

That being said, you do not want to miss out on the Acne Treatments with Salicylic Acid by Neutrogena.

Acne Treatments with Salicylic Acid by Neutrogena

Benefit from a wide array of Neutrogena acne based products, from scrubs, to moisturizers, to face washes, and more!

Neutrogena® Spot Controlling Daily Face Wash helps remove breakouts and maintains skin's protection from day one, resulting in skin that is clearer, smoother, and more protected. It is clinically proven to preserve the majority of skin's critical nutrients while strengthening its natural defenses against fresh breakouts. One of its main components is salicylic acid!

Neutrogena® Spot Controlling 2-in-1 Face Wash Mask clears and protects your face by removing excess oil and moisturizing it. From the first application, Neutrogena® Spot Controlling 2-in-1 Wash Mask helps remove breakouts while also preserving skin's resistance, resulting in skin that is clearer and more protected. One of its main components (you guess it!) is salicylic acid.

In conclusion, salicylic acid could be the remedy to your acne breakout. It is about time to invest in products that listen to your skin and provide them with the care they need!

If you are looking for more information on how to treat Acne, check out articles, especially for Acne related issues here.