Salicylic acid is a beta hydroxy acid (BHA) that is synthetically made. It is used in a variety of cosmetic applications, but its primary use is to treat acne. In fact, it is a common ingredient in over-the-counter acne treatments. Salicylic acid peels can be used to treat acne, fine wrinkles, minor skin discoloration and sun damage. It is an alternative to glycolic peels, which are more common.
Salicylic acid is a chemical compound found in plants which functions as their immune system. Plants produce salicylic at elevated levels to kill invading organisms, and repair plant tissue.
A salicylic acid peel has several natural characteristics that will help immediately reduce the appearance of the blemishes.
- Anti-inflammatory and Antiseptic Properties- the Salicylic Acid (also in aspirin) works actively to reduce the redness and inflammation of the pimple, and to eliminate irritation to the spot, further reducing swelling.
- Germicidal – as a primary hormone in the plant’s immune system, the acid helps kill the P. acnes bacteria and restore healthy environment for faster healing.
- Oil Soluble – the salicylic acid because of its oil solubility is able to effectively penetrate the sebum clogged pores of the skin You might be hesitant about putting acid on your face, but using Salicylic Acid is actually much safer than using something like lemon juice (citric acid) because of the nature of the molecule.
As mentioned earlier, Salicylic acid is oil soluble, which is great for two reasons. First, the outside layer of you skin is covered in oil, and being oil soluble, the salicylic acid is able to penetrate this outer layer. However the under this outermost layer is the dermis, and this layer is made up of mostly water.
As you know oil and water don’t mix, and this keeps the Salicylic acid from moving down past the outermost levels of the epidermis, and so it stays on the surface of the skin.
Of course nothing is without a downside, and Salicylic’s is that it can be very drying to the skin. So if you are using it, you will need to make sure and apply a non-comedonic moisturizer like Cetaphil to prevent excessive dryness. We provide Salicylic/20 Acid in a roll-on applicators, which should make application easy, as long as you are responsible and careful to apply it as directed.
Also, Lactic is great at causing the skin to be hydrated. Combining these peels can have superb results. By alternating between the peels you get the benefits of the Salicylic without the excessive dryness. If alternating, apply them 3-4 days apart, each peel no more than once a week.
There are very few side effects associated with this peel. It may sting or tingle when the acid is on the face but it doesn’t really hurt and there can be some redness associated, but other than that we have had very few problems when done properly. As with many cosmetic procedures, there are some risks associated with chemical peels though these tend to be rare. The risk of side effects and complications is generally greater with deeper peels. Potential complications associated with chemical peels may include the following:
- Allergic reaction.
- Crusting or scaling of the skin.
- Heart, liver, or kidney failure. Though rare, deep phenol chemical peels may cause severe organ complications.
- Hypo or hyperpigmentation. Skin discoloration can occur and may appear as darker or lighter patches around the treatment areas.
- Increased sensitivity to sunlight.
- Infection. Infection is more likely to occur in patients with oral herpes.
- Redness. Some amount of redness can be expected after any peel, though severe redness can occur and may take several months to fade.
How It Works
Your skin is made up of several layers of dead skin cells called the epidermis. The salicylic acid works by breaking down the intracellular glue that connects the epidermal skin cells. This does not cause a visible peeling like peeling an orange, instead it works like if you put the orange in a strong acid: slowly the outside of the orange would be eaten away. This is the result we are trying to achieve. To dissolve the outer layers of skin in a controlled way.
With each application of the Salicylic acid a few more layers are removed. In the long-run you cant remove your skin faster than new skin can grow back. That would be bad! People with thicker skin can often use the Salicylic acid more frequently at first as they remove the built up layers of skin. Because the layers of skin are removed, the body will start generating new skin cells to replace the old ones.
As the excess layers of skin are removed you will need to lessen the frequency of application to prevent irritation (If you remove too much skin you will turn cherry red and your skin will be very sensitive like when sunburned). It is also important to apply a non-comedogenic moisturizer to your skin to prevent excessive dryness from the keratolytic activity.
Prescription Requirements for AHAs
The salicylic acid does not require a prescription in the United States, but in many European countries concentrations above 10% require a prescription.
Salicylic Acid, propylene glycol, denatured alcohol, polyacrylamide, C13-14 isoparaffin, laureth 7.
You will often see other peels contain alcohol, or other solvents. We use a base of entirely Propylene Glycol, which is more expensive than alcohol, but creates a much less irritating peel.
The alcohol used in many peel products is often harsher on the skin than the Salicylic acid itself, and can cause unnecessary dryness, redness and irritation. For this reason we have chosen to use the more expensive, less irritating solvent propylene glycol to comprise the base.
Applying Salicylic/20 at Home
As with all our peels, the Salicylic/20 peel may be safely and confidently applied in the home. The salicylic peel has little risk of complication because of the nature of the molecule.
Salicylic being oil soluble and is able to penetrate the outermost layer of skin. However under this outermost layer is the dermis, and this layer is made up of mostly water. As you know oil (Salicylic) and water don’t mix. This keeps it from getting down past the outermost levels of the epidermis, and is therefore the safest of our home chemical peels.
How often you use the product depends on your skin condition. People with relatively few skin problems, but who are just looking to correct or brighten the skin often use once every 7-10 days. While people who are trying to correct existing problems use every day or two. The products are able to correct skin problems by exfoliating built up skin, and increasing the rate of skin turnover and stimulating collagen growth.
These benefits have been shown to slowly fade when the product is discontinued over a 6-8 week period.
Detailed instructions are included with every purchase, but here is a quick overview:
- It is important to always apply to a test area first. Testing:
- Before you use the peel, apply to a small area of your inner, upper arm prior to applying a full-face peel. You can also apply the test under the chin.
- Test for 1 minute, and rinse off.
- Wait 24 hours, if no problems occur, then you may apply the peel.
- First Use:
- For the first and second applications, apply the peel for 1 minute.
- To remove the peel, do no scrub. Gently wash or wipe the peel from your skin.
- Continuing Treatment:
- For the following applications, you may apply for 3 – 8 minutes.
- To remove the peel, do no scrub. Gently wash or wipe the peel from your skin. Increasing the application time:
- If you have oily skin can generally neutralize the Salicylic Acid.
- Because of this, it can be left on, with no harm done to the skin.
Feeling only a slight tingling is normal with our Salicylic acid peel, and many people initially think it is not working, but after a few applications they start to see a difference. This low application intensity is due to the formulation of peel and the high concentration of Salicylic acid (similar compound to aspirin) which acts to numb the initial nerve response.
Using During Pregnancy
Salicylic acid can be used during pregnancy. There is little, if any at all, that is absorbed through the skin, which would cause it to enter into the bloodstream. However, our product has not been tested specifically on pregnant women. Like all products, if you have any questions about it’s use during pregnancy, please consult your physician prior to use.
The Salicylic/20 should not cause irritation when used as recommended. They are highly effective yet gentle enough to use twice a week.
Salicylic acid poisoning with topical preparations is rare and the amount of salicylates absorbed through the skin very low compared to taking an aspirin tablet orally. To ensure safety you should avoid applying salicylic acid on more than 20 square inches of the body at a time, and do not apply more than once daily. If you require application to a larger, you can rotate the treatment sites on different days.
Skin Drying and Tightness
This is normal with the Salicylic acid. It is recommended for oily/acne prone skin types because it can be very drying.
Make sure and apply a gentle moisturizer to your face to prevent excessive dryness. The Salicylic acid is very good at reducing the inflammation associated with acne and evening out skin tone. For fine lines and texture improvements I would recommend the Lactic acid. Lactic is also good for aging and dry skin as it is a natural humectant and helps the skin pull in moisture.
Superiority of Skin Laboratory’s Salicylic Peels
Many people are concerned when they don’t feel the initial tingling when first applying the peel. This most likely due to the absence of alcohol or acetone in the peel itself. Most peels use harsh solvents to dissolve the Salicylic Acid in solution. These solvents have the effect sensitizing the skin, and often cause more drying and irritation than the Salicylic acid itself.
By formulating a peel that does not use things such as alcohol or acetone solvents, we allow a higher percentage of Salicylic acid to come into contact with the skin while avoiding the unnecessary dryness and irritation of other products. Because of the lessened irritation, the Salicylic acid can safely stay in contact with the skin longer, and provide much more benefit compared with other peel products.
Although it is an extremely effective exfoliate, Salicylic acid is actually relatively gentle on the skin. This is because when it is applied to the skin, a small amount of the Salicylic acid is converted into copper salicylate, which acts as a powerful anti-inflammatory.
The differences are quite dramatic. For example you will find that even a 2% alcohol-based Salicylic solution will be more irritating and drying than our 20% peel.
However, if the potential irritation is not a concern and you would like slightly deeper peel, you can achieve this by cleansing your face with alcohol 5 minutes before applying the Salicylic peel. The alcohol will strip away the surface oil, and prevent this excess oil from neutralizing any of the Salicylic Acid.
In almost all cases we have found the benefits of increased contact time and low irritation to out weight the slightly more intense peel achieve by stripping away surface oil, but as with most things it is a question of how one values the trade-offs.
Callus Away vs. Salicylic/20
The “Callus Away” likely uses an acetone base which is much more aggressive. The acetone cuts through the surface oils of the skin, and pushes the Salicylic acid deeper. This has the effect of making the peel much stronger, but it is not very precise.
With facial treatments you have to be careful. If you applied a product like “Callus Away” to the face it would cause severe burning or even scarring. Because our Salicylic product does NOT use acetone it does not cause a tingling or burning sensation. This is normal with our Salicylic acid peel, and many people initially think it is not working, but after a few applications they start to see a difference.
If you have very thick skin, or many years of sun damage accumulated on the skin, the progress will start off slow. Something that might help to speed this up is to apply the peel after bathing. This will allow the peel product to penetrate the rough outer layers of skin much more easily as the protective oils which are normally on the skin will have been washed away… but be careful when doing this, as you run more potential for causing irritation when applying.
The goal with an safe peeling regimen is to cause the skin to come off in a controlled way, with each peel taking off a few more layers of accumulated skin. With each application of the peel, the results are incremental. You should notice results within the first couple of applications, and the tone and texture of your skin will continue to improve as the layers of old skin are slowly removed to reveal new skin beneath.