Salicylic acid is a beta hydroxy acid that is synthetically made. It is used in a variety of cosmetic applications, but its primary use is to treat acne. Salicylic acid 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. A salicylic acid peel is an alternative to glycolic peels, which are more common. Salicylic acid peels can be done at home or by a skin professional.
- Skill level:
- Moderately Easy
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Things you need
- Sunblock (SPF 30 or higher)
- Mild cleanser
Determine how deep you want your peel to go. Salicylic acid peels are available in concentrations up to 30 percent, but lesser concentrations can be purchased and applied by the user. If you have more than just minor skin issues that you want addressed, stronger peels are recommended.
Avoid exfoliating your skin for a few days prior to the peel. The peel will exfoliate your skin, and you don't want it to be absorbed too deeply into the dermis.
Wash your skin thoroughly with a mild cleanser before applying the peel. You skin needs to be clean so that nothing irritating comes in contact with the new skin immediately after the peel.
Apply the salicylic acid to the skin and let it sit for 10 to 20 minutes. If you have the peel done in a spa or doctor's office, the appropriate amount of time should be monitored for you. Speak up if the acid is causing discomfort, as it should not produce any more than a minor tingle.
Have between 6 and 10 treatments for best results. The number of peels in your series depends on the severity of your skin condition, but this is average.
Tips and warnings
- If you are prone to skin irritation, choose a salicylic peel over a glycolic peel. Salicylic peels are often less irritating, as they have anti-inflammatory and anesthetic properties.
- Salicylic acid can also be found in combination products that include glycolic acid, lactic acid and other chemicals. Combination products give you the benefits of both types of chemicals.
- Wear a full-spectrum sunblock to protect the new skin from sun exposure. Choose a product that has at least a 30 SPF.
- It's not recommended for pregnant women to get salicylic acid peels.
- Dark-skinned people should avoid deep salicylic acid peels, as they can cause hypopigmentation, or skin lightening.
- Your skin should not be severely damaged from the acid peel, but it may be red and shiny immediately after the peel and for several days.