Salicylic Acid Peel

Salicylic Acid PeelSalicylic acid is a colorless and crystalline beta hydroxy acid that occurs naturally as a plant hormone. However, while salicylic acid naturally occurs in this way, it is commonly synthesized artificially for commercial use in the cosmetic and health industries. Use of salicylic acid in such ways dates back to the 5th century B.C. where Hippocrates, a well-known Greek physician, wrote about a bitter powder derived from willow bark, generally believed to be salicylic acid, that acted as a painkiller and fever reducer. But, while salicylic acid is still used in a similar way today, it’s more commonly used in the cosmetics industry as an effective treatment against acne, scars and things of that nature.

Benefits of a Salicylic Acid Peel

Used as a chemical peel, salicylic acid can be a very effective treatment against many different types of skin conditions. At the forefront, salicylic acid peels are used to dramatically reduce the appearance of acne and scars associated with the condition. However, salicylic acid peels have also proven to be effective against blackheads, whiteheads, signs of premature aging, wrinkles, calluses, psoriasis and uneven skin tone in general. In short, salicylic acid peels quite literally remove damaged skin to reveal the healthier and more aesthetically pleasing skin underneath.


Salicylic acid peels work by removing excess sebum (facial oil composed of wax, lipids and dead cells) along with attacking bacteria deep within pores. Due to this, it must be applied directly to the face in concentrations of up to 30%. While the procedure can be done at home it’s recommended that potential users seek guidance from a licensed dermatologist or other trained specialist. Regardless of the method that is chosen, a thin, even layer of concentrated salicylic acid is applied directly to the face only after it has been thoroughly cleansed. This is to prevent any type of debris or bacteria from tainting the vulnerable new skin that will be revealed by the peel.

Upon application, the acid is then left to sit on the skin for approximately 10-20 minutes before being removed. Due to the differences in skin types, a dermatologist or trained specialist should be consulted for appropriate wait times to prevent any unwanted side effects.

While benefits will be noticeable directly after the first use, salicylic acid peels are generally performed 10 or more times on different occasions depending on how severe a skin condition may be. Such benefits will further be made prevalent as additional peels are performed until a desired effect is achieved.

Potential Side Effects

Salicylic acid peels have been known to be generally safe when performed properly but there are potential side effects that may occur. Such side effects associated with salicylic acid peels include flaking, heightened sensitivity, inflammation, itching, burning and general swelling. Due to heightened skin sensitivity it is crucial that high SPF sunscreen is worn at all times following the procedure to prevent any further damage. While the side effects generally stay within this range, those allergic to salicylic acid may experience intensified side effects. Due to the potential for allergies, again, it is wise to consult a dermatologist or trained specialist before proceeding with a salicylic acid peel.