Advanced Dermatology and Cosmetic Surgery

The largest dermatology practice in America, Advanced Dermatology provides complete clinical and cosmetic skin care. Immediate appointments available at one of our 180+ locations.

Here's Why Your Cleanser Should Contain Salicylic Acid

Salicylic acid is a compound originally derived from wintergreen leaves and white willow bark. It's a beta hydroxyl acid that's prized by dermatologists for its numerous beneficial properties for skin health and cosmetic improvements. You'll find salicylic acid in cleansers, ointments, patches, creams, and even shampoos. Despite its prevalence, it can be tricky to find a cleanser that contains exactly the right concentration of salicylic acid and the ideal balance of other active ingredients. Consider talking to your dermatologist about professional-grade, salicylic acid-based cleaners.


Dermatologists classify salicylic acid as a keratolytic medication. These products work by softening the top layer of skin, and causing the old skin cells on top to slough off. Salicylic acid accomplishes this by acting on the desmosomes. These are the connections between skin cells in the top layer of skin. The desmolytic effect also effectively clears pores. Most skin care experts recommend exfoliating the skin two to three times weekly for normal to combination skin, or no more than once weekly for sensitive skin.

Deep Cleansing

Salicylic acid is lipophilic. This is due to its chemical structure. Alpha hydroxy acid (AHA)—another common ingredient found in skin care products—is related to salicylic acid. However, with AHA, just one carbon atom separates the acid part from the hydroxyl part. Salicylic acid has two carbon atoms here. This minute difference means that salicylic acid is oil soluble, and can penetrate the pores in the skin. Once it's inside the pores, salicylic acid gets to work unclogging pores for a deep cleaning.

Acne Treatment

Salicylic acid is a common ingredient in acne medications, thanks in part to its lipophilic properties. When this compound penetrates into the pores, it can reduce the production of sebum, or oil. This helps prevent breakouts. Additionally, it acts as an anti-inflammatory, which helps to calm breakouts. Salicylic acid is most effective at treating blackheads and whiteheads because it dissolves the keratin plugs in the pores. It's less effective against cystic acne.

For customized skin care recommendations tailored to your skin type, visit a cosmetic dermatologist at Advanced Dermatology and Cosmetic Surgery. Be sure to check out our expertly designed skin care products online, including cleansers with salicylic acid. A friendly staff member is available to take your call at (866) 400-3376.


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