Home Skincare Salicylic Acid are Good for Dark Spots: Here’s Why
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Salicylic Acid are Good for Dark Spots: Here’s Why

by Sandy Taylor

You may have wondered if Salicylic acid is good for removing dark spots. As a matter of fact, a lot of my clients ask me the same question. That’s why I decided to do some research and share the information that I have gathered for this topic.

Salicylic Acid is great for removing dark spots. This is because it’s a keratolytic, which means it breaks down keratin, thins the skin and causes the skin to loosen and shred. This effect renews your skin which lightens dark spots in the process.

Salicylic acid is usually not brought alone but on the ingredients list of many skincare products. It’s not for everyone and if you have sensitive skin, the acid can actually dry out your skin.  Therefore, you need to test your products first before making any commitments.

Salicylic acid also has anti-inflammatory and an antibacterial properties. Which makes them great for your skincare routine.

What is Salicylic Acid?

It’s important to understand what salicylic acid actually is and what it does to your skin. In terms of makeup products, there are two common classes of acids: alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs) and beta hydroxy acids (BHAs).

AHAs are great for exfoliating and smoothing out your skin tone. BHAs are similar to AHAS and are mostly included as an antibacterial agent. BHAs can also help unclog your pores and exfoliate skin.

Salicylic acid is a BHA. Throughout the day, fats and lipids on your skin causes dead skin cells to stick together and block your pores. Salicylic acid can be used to break down this bond, help you easily remove dead skin and promote skin regeneration.

The acid is also a great exfoliator and keratolytic agent. This means the acid can loosen keratin. Once keratin is loosened up, it’s easier for your skin to shed and make room for new skin. This makes them great for treating skin conditions like seborrheic dermatitis, psoriasis and eczema and dark spots.

Can Salicylic Acid cause Dark Spots?

Too much salicylic acid could actually cause more dark spots on your skin and worsen acne. The acid has a drying effect which irritates acne, causing more breakouts and darkens the appearance of dark spots.

Here are some tips if you’re considering using salicylic acid based products on your dark spots:

  1. Check to see where the spots are and note any pimples or acne in the area. Use Q-tip for application and only apply to your dark spots.
  2. Regularly moisturize your skin and have a solid skin care routine.
  3. If your skin is swollen, red or infected, do not use products with salicylic acid to prevent further irritation.

Is It Bad for Your Skin?

Most skincare products that contain salicylic acid are safe for most people. Dr Marnie Nussbaum, Cosmetic & Medical Dermatology professional from New York, told huffpost that over-the-counter products with 0.5% – 2% salicylic acid are safe to use.  

When considering using this product, you need to think of your skin type to determine if these products are suitable for you. Here are my recommendations:

Oil Skin / Combination Skin – Salicylic acid works great here. They can help you remove excess oil and dead skin cells effectively. Always use in moderation and test different products to suit your needs.  

Sensitive Skin – Test products on your skin before using. The acid can cause dryness and irritate your skin.

Dry Skin – The acid can dry your skin even more. I would not recommend unless you are keeping up with your skincare routine. If you really want to use it, make sure slap on extra moisturizers afterwards.

Rosacea Prone Skin  – Dr. Nussbaum does not recommend it if your skin is rosacea prone. Additional irritations could worsen your skin condition.

When you’re just starting out, it’s recommended that you start off with 1 application every other day and monitor how the product affects your skin. Seek the help of a dermatologist if you develop allergic reactions or swelling.

If you’re comfortable with the product and didn’t notice any irritations, then daily usage is acceptable.

Side Effects of Using Salicylic Acid on Face

Side effects of using salicylic acid includes:

  1. Peeling
  2. Burning
  3. Dryness
  4. Red blemished skin

These side effects are most commonly noticeable at the beginning of using the acid when your skin is trying to adapt to the new products. According to WebMd.com, serious allergic reactions are rare. In the case of an allergic relation, your skin may feel itchy, swell and develop rashes. You may also experience dizziness and have trouble breathing.

Note that the side effects described above is not a complete list.

If you’re living in the United States or Canada, you can report side effects using the following contact information:

USA: Report side effects to FDA at 1-800-FDA-1088

CANADA: Report side effects to Health Canada at 1-866-234-2345

How to Use Salicylic Acid for Dark Spots

Removing dark spots with salicylic acid is easy. Here is what you need to do on the first time and for the first week:

  1. Find a salicylic acid skin peel. This stuff is usually concentrated (upwards to 30%) and should only be used for spot treatments.
  2. Since salicylic acid has a drying effect. Choose a cleanser that is moisturizing to balance out the drying effect. This goes for all skin types, even for people with oily / combination skin types.
  3. Apply a thin layer of the skin peel to a test area (like the inside of your wrist) and wait 48 hours to ensure that there is no allergic reaction. Check the area 96 hours later to make sure there is no delayed reaction.
  4. Apply a thin layer of the skin peel to your dark spots, let it dry for 30 seconds and then wash it off with water.

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