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Salicylic Acid FOR THE SKIN

Salicylic Acid is an active ingredient that’s great for clarifying blemish prone skin.


Salicylic Acid is an active skincare ingredient that exfoliates skin, controls excess sebum (oil) production, and keeps pores clear. It’s great for blemish prone skin and can refine and refresh skin in as little as 7 days with daily use.

It’s commonly found in cleansers and spot treatment products but can also be found in acne-friendly make-up products and anti-dandruff shampoo.

Salicylic Acid is available in different concentrations, with each concentration designed for a specific purpose. Higher concentrated Salicylic Acid is used as a peeling agent, which can reduce the appearance of acne, melasma and dark spots, while lower concentrations can be used on a daily basis in cleansers and toners. 

If you’ve clicked on this article then there’s a high chance you’ve wondered: what is Salicylic Acid and what does Salicylic Acid do? This guide covers a wide range of Salicylic Acid-related topics, including: how to use Salicylic Acid, is Salicylic Acid a BHA, does Salicylic Acid make acne worse before it gets better, and much more.

Read on to discover the benefits of this wonderful active ingredient, and find out if Salicylic Acid can help boost your skincare regimen.

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One of the more common questions you may have seen floating around: is Salicylic Acid a BHA? Salicylic Acid is indeed a type of Beta Hydroxy Acid (BHA), which are organic compounds commonly used in cosmetics. Although its name might suggest that Salicylic Acid is entirely artificial, it naturally occurs in plants such as willow trees due to its natural ability to promote exfoliation, which helps to protect the plant from bacterial infection. 

Skincare products tend to use synthetic Salicylic Acid, but this form is approved by the cosmetics industry and the FDA, and is championed for its blemish-fighting properties. 

Now you know how to answer if anyone asks: is Salicylic Acid a BHA? You might be wondering: is Salicylic Acid good for acne? Read on to find out more.

Salicylic Acid

Benefits: Protection against acne-causing bacteria, exfoliation of the skin, relief of inflammation, reduction of talc production.

Application: Treatment of symptoms of mild acne, all types of blackheads and pimples.

Uses: Products containing lower concentrations of the active ingredient can be added to the daily skin care routine.

Special Features: Salicylic acid is a BHA (beta-hydroxy acid), an organic compound found in plants such as willow trees


Thanks to its natural exfoliant properties, Salicylic Acid is great for treating symptoms of lighter acne, such as blackheads, whiteheads, and pimples. Salicylic Acid penetrates deep into the skin where it breaks down dead skin cells that’d otherwise clog the pores. But what else is Salicylic Acid good for? Here are 5 main benefits of Salicylic Acid:
What is Salicylic Acid good for?

1. Protects against acne bacteria

Is Salicylic Acid good for acne? Absolutely. Acne bacteria thrive in oxygen-free environments, which is why clogged pores are the perfect nesting ground. Salicylic Acid clears excess oil and dead skin cells away from clogged pores, making the environment less suitable for bacterial growth. This in itself won’t eliminate the bacteria entirely, but it certainly will make an impact if you’re prone to blemished skin. If anyone asks ‘is Salicylic Acid good for acne?’ - be sure to share this handy fact with them. 

You may experience a slight increase in blemishes when first using Salicylic Acid and wonder to yourself: does Salicylic Acid make acne worse before it gets better? Keep reading as we’ll cover that and more later on in this guide.

What is Salicylic Acid good for?

2. Exfoliates

Often sold as a peeling agent, Salicylic Acid gently loosens skin cells in the outermost layer of skin to purify the skin and remove dead skin cells without causing irritation.

What is Salicylic Acid good for?

3. Soothes inflammation

Salicylic Acid contains a chemical called salicin which has anti-inflammatory properties. When applied to skin, it can reduce the redness and soreness often from acne, and also from sunburn. Of course, when it comes to sunburn, it’s best to prevent it from happening altogether by wearing an effective SPF every day.

What is Salicylic Acid good for?

4. Reduces oil production and secretion

Salicylic Acid can inhibit the sebaceous glands that produce sebum (oil). It achieves this by breaking through the skin’s fatty barrier and clearing away excess oil that would otherwise clog the pore and potentially cause acne.

What is Salicylic Acid good for?

5. Prevents acne from forming

In addition to penetrating deep into the pores, Salicylic Acid can also keep the pores clean when used as part of a daily skincare routine. By keeping pores clean, Salicylic Acid prevents whiteheads and blackheads from reappearing due to removing the excess oil or dead skin cells required for an oxygen-free environment.

Frequently asked questions about salicylic acid for the skin:

What does Salicylic Acid do?

Can I use Salicylic Acid everyday?

It’s fine to use Salicylic Acid as part of your daily skincare routine. Doing so will help to keep your skin clarified and refreshed while limiting excess oil production. However, when beginning with any new exfoliant or skin peeling ingredient, we’d recommend easing into it by limiting use to twice a week for the first few weeks.


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What does Salicylic Acid do?

Does Salicylic Acid cause purging?

Purging in a skincare sense means an increased rate of skin cell turnover. This process can occur when an active ingredient such as Salicylic Acid comes in contact with skin, exposing a new layer of skin cells beneath. With this, all manners of other pimple-causing things are brought to the surface along with the skin cells, including excess oil and dead skin cells that would otherwise clog pores. 

As a result, a fresh wave of pimples may appear. However, unlike a bad reaction to a new product - which can cause breakouts in areas of skin where they typically don’t appear - purging pimples form in the usual areas and tend to fade away quicker than normal.

Although purging may not occur, it’s completely understandable to be alarmed if it does. You may even wonder: does Salicylic Acid make acne worse before it gets better? Read on to learn more about this topic.



What does Salicylic Acid do?

Can I use Salicylic Acid and Niacinamide together?

One of the more common skincare-related questions focuses on the combined use of different products. Ever asked yourself, can I use Salicylic Acid and Niacinamide together? Well, we can safely say yes - it’s fine to use Salicylic Acid and niacinamide at the same time. 

In fact, the two ingredients complement each other and can be especially effective for oily skin. Salicylic Acid handles the task of penetrating deep into the skin to clear excess oil and dead skin cells, while Niacinamide provides a wave of nourishing hydration. Together, these two ingredients can leave skin feeling purified, clearer and moisturised, making them an ideal choice for a daily skincare routine.

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What does Salicylic Acid do?

Does Salicylic Acid make acne worse before it gets better?

Although Salicylic Acid works well against acne and the bacteria that causes it, the purging process may initially worsen symptoms of acne. This potentially alarming process shouldn’t last any longer than 6 weeks, and it’s worth the wait as your skin should appear clearer and brighter than before. 

If it does last longer than 6 weeks, or you think you may be experiencing a bad reaction instead of purging, stop using the product and consult a dermatologist right away.


How you should use salicylic depends largely on the type of product - higher concentrations are best used sparingly. Whereas others, such as those in the NIVEA Derma Skin Clear range are formulated for daily use. Below is our step-by-step guide on how to use Salicylic Acid.


  1. Cleanse

    Start by washing your face with a gentle but effective Salicylic Acid cleanser, such as the NIVEA Derma Skin Clear Wash Gel. This will remove any makeup and impurities while deeply cleansing the pores to prevent blemishes from reappearing. Gently massage it onto a wet face, being careful to avoid the sensitive eye area, then rinse it off.

  2. Tone

    Follow cleansing by gently applying a Salicylic Acid toner. The NIVEA Derma Skin Toner is a fantastic option as it will rebalance the skin’s pH level and remove any excess oil, make-up or dirt without further clogging the pores. This will also prepare your skin for moisturisation.

  3. Scrub

    To achieve an even clearer complexion, swap the cleanser for a Salicylic Acid scrub in 2-3 of your daily nighttime routines. The NIVEA Derma Skin Clear Anti-Blemish Scrub can unclog pores and refine the skin without drying it out, so it’s ideal for oily skin types. As with the cleanser, simply massage the scrub onto a wet face and gently rinse away. 

  4. Exfoliate

    Finish off the daily nighttime routine with a chemical exfoliator, such as the NIVEA Derma Skin Clear Chemical Exfoliator. This anti-bacterial purifying formula combines Salicylic Acid, Niacinamide & Glycolic Acid to support the skin’s natural renewal process while providing visibly clearer skin in as little as 7 days.


The NIVEA Derma Skin Clear range can be used in both your morning and night care routine, and like all routines, it’s best to round off with a nourishing moisturiser.

The NIVEA Mattifying Day Cream is the perfect compliment as it intensely moisturises skin while removing any excess oil to leave skin looking refreshed and shine-free for the day ahead. For night time, apply the NIVEA Hydra Skin Effect Regeneration Gel Night Cream for up to 72 hours of hydration, leaving your skin feeling supple, smooth and regenerated.

You might notice some very light stinging when using Salicylic Acid for the first time, but this is completely normal and to be expected. However, when using any new product for the first time, we’d recommend seeking a professional opinion, and only testing a small area of skin before applying any larger amounts. And of course, always avoid using Salicylic Acid on irritated skin.

woman smiling


Blemish prone skin, whilst completely natural, can be tricky to control and may have an impact on self-esteem. NIVEA cares about your skin. So if there are things you want to improve, NIVEA can help.

The innovative NIVEA Derma Skin Clear range is formulated with clearer, refined skin in mind. Harnessing the clarifying combination of Salicylic Acid & Niacinamide to unclog pores and reduce the appearance of whiteheads & blackheads with regular use. If your skin is prone to blemishes and breakouts, this high-quality range might be the solution you’ve been looking for.

As always, consult a dermatologist before trying any new skincare product, and always follow the instructions on the label.

Salicylic Acid at a glance :

Salicylic acid is an active ingredient in skin care products that exfoliates the skin, controls the production of excess sebum and unclogs pores. Ideal for skin prone to blemishes, salicylic acid can refine and refresh skin in as little as 7 days with daily use. Four benefits of salicylic acid are:

  • Protection from acne-causing bacteria
  • Exfoliates the skin
  • Soothes inflammation
  • Controls the production of excess sebum