Overcoming pimples and acne can often feel like quite the battle. And just when you think you have overcome it, you realize you have been left with battle scars! Acne outbreak on the skin often does double damage – leaving behind scars and pigmentation that can last long after the acne has subsided. Acne scars are notoriously stubborn and while some do lighten and disappear over time, most need treatment.
Salicylic acid has been a long-time go-to ingredient for the blackheads and whiteheads that constitute acne, but can this tried-and-tested ingredient also do double duty? Does salicylic acid remove acne scars?
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The inflammation of acne can leave behind pitting and patches on the surface of the skin. These, along with the associated discoloration and indentation form the dreaded acne scar. The larger and more inflamed the breakout, the greater the likelihood of scars. To begin treating acne scars with salicylic acid – or by any other method – it is important to first control and treat the acne itself.
Remnants of makeup, trapped skin cells, and other debris can clog skin pores, leading to a build-up that can trigger acne. Salicylic acid, a beta-hydroxy acid, is able to deeply penetrate skin pores and loosen the impurities and oil that block them. Removing these blockages, and unplugging skin pores helps shrink existing acne. Salicylic acid also regulates the oil secreted by oil glands under the skin, helping control new breakouts and preventing current acne breakouts from worsening.
Salicylic acid is a keratolytic – compound that breaks down the outer layer of skin. As new skin cells takeover, dark spots and marks tend to lighten, leading to a reduction in the appearance of acne scars. The cellular turnover also helps remove the dry or scaly outer layer of skin, shedding dead cells and allowing absorption of moisture and oxygen. In addition, the anti-inflammatory properties of salicylic acid can calm inflamed skin and reduce the swelling and redness that often accompanies acne. This works in two ways – preventing acne scars can also minimize the appearance of existing ones.
Salicylic acid can start to work on the acne itself in just a few days. However, it takes longer to have a noticeable effect on acne scars. With a consistent skincare routine, usually, improvement should be visible in about four weeks.
To incorporate salicylic acid into your skin-care routine, you will need to find the concentration that works best for your skin type -the most commonly available being a 2% concentration. However, some trial and error will be needed to find the strength that best suits your skin.
To easily add salicylic acid to your acne skin-care routine, just look for the product that lists it as an active ingredient in your desired concentration. It is available in cleansers, toners, face-wash, creams, and as medicated acne pads. Salicylic acid lightens or fades the appearance of scars.
Salicylic acid may cause redness and irritation to the area to which it is applied. For those with sensitive skin, dryness and peeling are known side effects. When adding salicylic acid to your acne skin-care routine, be sure to add it gradually at first. Begin by using it less frequently than the product directs, and then work your way up to desired frequency only once you know your skin tolerates the ingredient well.
Check with your doctor before using salicylic acid if you are pregnant or using certain medications like blood thinners, as salicylic acid can cause irritation to the skin.
While salicylic acid is an easily available and effective acne scar treatment, it may not work for everyone. Some scars that are particularly stubborn may not respond to this treatment. In addition, deep or old scars may not respond to any home treatment at all and may need an in-office dermatological procedure to improve their appearance. Consultation with a dermatologist will help identify the option best suited for your acne scar treatment – laser, microdermabrasion, subcision, peels, micro-needling, or filler – based on skin type and the type and severity of scarring. Often a combination of these treatments is used for the best results.
It may not be possible to treat acne scars quickly, but with the right arsenal of options, ranging from the humble salicylic acid to specialized acne scar laser treatment, it is never too late to say goodbye to even the most stubborn acne scars. Welcome bright, even skin!
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