How Long Should You Leave Salicylic Acid on Your Face?

Salicylic acid is a keratolytic or peeling agent. It is one of the most effective skin care ingredients that can effectively shed the outer layer of skin. It is used in the treatment of acne, dandruff, seborrhea, or psoriasis, and to remove corns, calluses, and warts. Though it has so many good benefits, when used for a prolonged time, it can cause a rare but serious allergic reaction or severe skin irritation. So, read on to know how long you should leave salicylic acid on your face.

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How to Use Salicylic Acid:

Introduce salicylic acid into your skincare routine slowly. Start using it once or twice a week. The next week increase it to thrice a week and the following week, use it four times. Continue doing this until irritation in the form of dry skin, peeling, redness subsides. You get the maximum benefit when you adjust your skin to start using it twice a day. But, if you are sensitive to salicylic acid and using it up regularly left your skin dry, red, and peeling, then use it as a toner and leave it up for up to 30 seconds and then rinse off.
You can do heavy peels once every few weeks (such as 15% salicylic acid), but using it consistently every day is much effective, safer, and more beneficial. Salicylic acid creams that are only 1% or 2% in strength, you can leave it overnight on the skin and rinse it off in the morning. Remember to use a good broad spectrum sunscreen because salicylic acid can make your skin sensitive.

Also, BHA causes a “purging period” when acne gets worse initially when you start using it, but don’t fret. This is simply because the salicylic acid decongesting what was already there. Depending on how frequently you’re using it, the purging period should last 3-4 weeks maximum before subsiding.

Not All Salicylic Acid Products Are The Same!:

  • Just because a product contains salicylic acid, it doesn’t mean that it’s in the right dose to be effective:
    It needs to be in a high enough percentage/concentration – facial products should have at least 2% concentration to show some effective results.
  • The pH is vitally important – Salicylic Acid is pH dependent requiring an acidity level of 3 to 4 to effectively exfoliate and treat acne at its maximum capacity. Anything higher reduces its potency, and a pH above 7 essentially renders it useless.

When To Use Salicylic Acid:

As salicylic acid is pH dependent, the order of it in your skincare routine matters very much. You want to use it right after cleanser and before moisturizer.

If you wish to start your skincare journey with a salicylic acid, here’s a list of products that have the proper pH needed to work. For sensitive, dry, or dehydrated skin- Cosrx BHA Blackhead Power Liquid. For oily, tough skin- Paula’s Choice Skin Perfecting 2% BHA Liquid. For normal to oily skin- Stridex Strength Medicated Pad. For acne-skin type – Sebogel.


2 thoughts on “How Long Should You Leave Salicylic Acid on Your Face?

  1. Hello, I’m using a chemical peel since 8 days now. Initially for the first 5 days I used it twice a day, now I’m using it only once and it’s been 8 days. My skin has got dried, it’s peeled and it doesn’t peel anymore and has turned brown. When will I retain my color back? I intended to use this to lighten up my complexion and remove a few scars that I had. Please help. I’m kinda worried.

  2. I heard from a skin specialist that when you use chemical peels,one should not go out in the sun or cook and stay in A/C for a week for best results

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