Salicylic acid. If you know it, you love it. Many beauty experts are seeing the expansive benefits of this acid and what it can do to exfoliate, brighten and decongest the skin. The uses are endless; it’s why we refer to it as a super ingredient.

Before we get swept up in how flawless your skin is going to look after this main ingredient hits it, let’s dive into the unexpected history of this fascinating acid.

Where does salicylic acid come from? Naturally derived from willow bark, sweet birch, and wintergreen leaves, salicylic acid has been used for 2000 years to treat various skin issues topically.

A brief history:

1st Century: Willow bark was used to treat calluses and corns in the first century.

Early 1800’s: Salicin was derived from willow bark to use as an anti-inflammatory agent in the human body.

Late 1860’s: It was discovered that salicylic acid can soften and exfoliate the outer layer of the skin known as the stratum corneum.

Early 1900’s: Dr Paul Gerson Unna, a German dermatologist who has been referred to as a pioneer in dermatology and dermatopathology, described the properties of salicylic acid when applied to skin.

Today: Salicylic acid is predominantly synthetically derived for use in skincare preparations including chemical peels and topical skin care products.

The Main Benefits of Salicylic Acid:

There are four main benefits of salicylic acid:

  1. Comedolytic: inhibits blemishes + build ups in oily and/or acne prone skin.
  2. Exfoliation: rejuvenates the skin by preventing and treating ageing skin changes.
  3. Improves product penetration and retention: this enhances the effect of your topical skin regime.
  4. Antibacterial + antifungal.

Oily and Acne Prone Skin:

Working wonders for oily skin, this super acid effectively penetrates deep within pores to break down sebum and cleanse dirt- all causing oil build up. It’s a tried and true ingredient for complete cleansing with anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory results.

Exfoliation: Your At-Home Chemical Peel

Salicylic acid causes a gentle exfoliation of skin through the loosening and detachment of skin cells called corneocytes that make up the outermost part of the epidermis. Salicylic acid works to combine with or dissolve the lipid-based adhesions between skin cells.

Why is this important? Salicylic acid doesn’t ‘burn’ or wound skin cells, but rather breaks up cells from one another. By disrupting cellular junctions rather than damaging or disintegrating your skin barrier, more thorough and even work can take place.

Thinning of the outer dead layer of skin without change in the thickness of the epidermis means salicylic acid can be used as a great at-home chemical peel. This super acid naturally targets fine lines and wrinkles, improves hyperpigmentation, softens and smoothens the skin texture, prevents ageing skin changes, and increases collagen and elastin production without thinning the skin.

Improving Penetration of Active Ingredients:

The wonders of salicylic acid are numerous: it removes the outermost layer of the skin to gently exfoliate, cleans deep within pores, reduces sebum, and provides anti-inflammatory and antibacterial effects. With continued use, this acid paves the way for the rest of your products to absorb and active ingredients to penetrate more effectively.

As you already know, we only use the best super-hero ingredients for our super serums. That's why we've used salicylic acid in pure, our potent medi-shot for superior results within your skincare regime. Find out more about pure here.

Dr Alek


  1. Lin AN, Nakatsui T. Salicylic acid revisited. Int J Dermatol. 1998; 37:335–342. 
  2. Draelos ZD. Rediscovering the cutaneous benefits of salicylic acid. Cosm Derm. 1997;10(Suppl 4):4.
  3. Grimes PE. Salicylic acid. In: Tosti A, Grimes PE, Padova MP, editors. Color Atlas of Chemical Peels.2nd ed. New York, NY, USA: Springer-Verlag; 2006.
  4. Brackett W. The chemistry of salicylic acid. Cosmet Derm. 1997;10 (Suppl 4):5–6.
  5. Kligman AM. Salicylic acid: an alternative to alpha-hydroxy acids. J Geriatr Dermatol. 1997;5:128–131.

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