Acne is a multifactorial skin health condition, and its main triggers are still elusive. However, we do know that when the skin pores become blocked by oil overproduction and dead skin cells, the skin is likely to become inflamed and irritated.

Factors such as stress, diet, and hormonal changes can all influence the severity and frequency of your breakouts. But, even more importantly, it is your skin microbiome – or the colony of billions of bacteria and microbes that live on your skin – that have the greatest impact.

Indeed, when treating acne, we all tend to address its symptoms, such as pimples and redness, rather than its causes. Medical solutions such as Salicylic Acid and antibiotics have been seen to help reduce acne breakouts. But they can also disrupt the skin microbiome and weaken your skin’s defences. Here is what you need to know about using Salicylic Acid for your skin and how a healthy microbiome can enhance its benefits.

What is salicylic acid?

Listed in the WHO Model Lists of Essential Medicines, Salicylic Acid is deemed to be one of the safest and most efficient medications. Among its various uses, this compound is seen to be particularly useful to remove the skin’s outer layer.

The compound allows the skin to shed the dead cells affecting the pores, regaining moisture and fresh oxygen.

From a chemical viewpoint, Salicylic Acid is a beta hydroxy acid commonly sold as an over-the-counter (OTC) product. Still, it can also be found as an ingredient in prescription drugs.

Since it allows the skin to regenerate, this compound is used to treat skin conditions such as acne (blackhead and whiteheads), psoriasis, dandruff, and dermatitis. You are likely to find this compound in several skincare products.

How does salicylic acid affect the skin?

To understand how Salicylic Acid affects the skin, it is essential to look into its chemical composition. While this is a little complicated, you need to know that it is a beta hydroxy acid, in which the acid is separated by two carbon atoms instead of one. This peculiarity in its chemical structure makes the molecules more oil-soluble, which means that it can work its way behind the skin’s oil and free the pores.

Salicylic acid has many benefits on the skin, including:

  • It acts at a deeper level than other medicines
  • It is a powerful exfoliant that eliminates dead skin cells and breaks apart desmosomes, unclogging the pores
  • It can help cleaning the skin cells
  • It can reduce sebum production, making the skin less oily and less prone to acne breakouts
  • It helps reduce blackheads and whiteheads by dissolving the debris that are clogging the pores
  • It can help reduce dandruff
  • It has anti-ageing properties

While this medication is generally safe and accessible, it is always recommended to speak to your doctor before applying it to your skin – especially if you are pregnant or breastfeeding.

How to use salicylic acid

As we have seen, Salicylic Acid has many uses and yields endless benefits for your skin. However, one of its most popular uses is as a treatment for acne.

Indeed, acne breakouts are likely to happen, especially when the skin pores – or follicles – become clogged with debris, including skin cells and oil. As the skin can’t get enough fresh oxygen, moisture, and nutrients, it becomes more prone to infections and breakouts.

Salicylic acid can penetrate through the oil layer and helps the skin clean and regenerate. This can not only stop a breakout but can also prevent future flare-ups.

When using Salicylic Acid for acne, it is always recommendable to follow your doctor’s instructions and ensure that other products in your skincare routine don’t also include the same compound. Indeed, when used in excess, Salicylic Acid can dry out your skin and prevent it from absorbing the moisture it needs.

How a healthy skin microbiome can make a difference

As we have seen, our skin is home to a unique colony of billions of bacteria and microorganisms that play vital roles in protecting our skin and maintaining it young and healthy. While much of the skin flora’s potential is still undiscovered, some connections are becoming clear – such as the one between acne and microbiome composition.

So, when treating the symptoms of some skin conditions such as acne, psoriasis, and dermatitis with drying chemicals, acids, and antibiotics, it is essential to understand the impact that these will have on the skin flora.

In turn, the medicines might help you reduce your acne breakout at the cost of leaving your skin unprotected, exposed to infections, and entirely out of balance. Therefore, before choosing your acne treatment, it is essential to understand your skin microbiome’s composition and select products that agree with it.

At the Skin Trust Club, we can support you in your choice by introducing you to your skin microbiome! With our simple at-home swab test, you can have a team of scientists examine your skin composition and you will receive the results directly on your phone via our app, and benefit from personalised skincare suggestions that are suitable for your unique skin type!