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Your Guide to Salicylic Acid for Oily & Acne-Prone Skin

Icon > Oily & Acne Prone Skin Care

A key chemical exfoliant utilised in skincare products is salicylic acid, an important ingredient for targeting a variety of skin concerns, including oily skin and skin prone to mild acne. Remaining one of the most common beta-hydroxy acids (BHA), salicylic acid was first introduced into the skincare industry in the early 19th century. Like other hydroxy acids, salicylic acid is a naturally occurring ingredient and is found in the bark of willow trees and other plant species. Holding an impressive amount of skincare benefits, salicylic acid is a versatile skincare ingredient that can help to manage oily skin and skin prone to mild acne 

How does Salicylic Acid Work?

As a beta-hydroxy acid, salicylic acid works to remove dead skin cells and decongest pores. The outermost layer of skin is called the stratum corneum, which is made up of small skin cells that link together to form the skin’s protective barrier. This barrier remains the first line of defence against external irritants. The skin’s natural cycle typically consists of dead skin cells being shed and new skin cells taking their place. Salicylic acid helps to maintain and accelerate this natural cycle by encouraging the dead skin cells to slough away faster. It does this by purposefully disrupting the ionic bonds between skin cells to help remove the dead skin. Using chemical exfoliants, especially salicylic acid, can help support a healthier skin cycle.

What is Oily and Acne-Prone Skin?

Both oily skin and skin prone to mild acne share the common feature of overactive sebaceous glands (oil glands). Often caused by a genetic predisposition, oily skin will present as a greasy sheen across the skin and can often be worsened through external factors. 

Typical triggers for oily skin types include:

Using harsh or incorrect skincare products
Lifestyle choices like diet, stress and sleep
Hormonal fluctuations

Those with skin prone to mild acne will typically begin with oily skin symptoms that can develop into unwanted blemishes. Sebum (oil) is naturally released through the skin’s pores, which regulate the oil flow for healthy and well-moisturised skin. However, when dead skin builds up and blocks the entrance to the pores, the oil becomes congested in the glands and is referred to as comedones. When there’s no airway, the comedones close and can result in spots, blemishes, and pimples. If there is a consistent formation of closed comedones, this could develop into acne. Acne is a skin concern that affects many different people and can persist well into adulthood.

Common Signs of Oily Skin and Skin Prone to Mild Acne 

When identifying your skin type, there are a few common signs for both oily skin and skin prone to mild acne Taking note and understanding your skin type can help transform your approach to skincare, allowing you to develop an individual plan that can help manage any unwanted oiliness and blemishes. 

Find some of the typical traits of oily skin and skin prone to mild acne below:
A greasy complexion with excess shine, especially around the T-zone (forehead, nose and chin), 
Enlarged pores, 
Regular formation of blemishes, pimples and blackheads on the face and body. 

Using salicylic acid enriched skincare can help you achieve a clearer and more balanced complexion.

The Benefits of Salicylic Acid for Oily Skin and Skin Prone to Mild Acne 

To reduce unwanted blemishes or signs of excess shine, it’s important to utilise the targeted effects of salicylic acid. By learning about how this ingredient works, you will be well-placed to manage your skin concerns for a visibly clearer complexion. 

Salicylic Acid Unblocks Pores

The formation of blocked pores can often lead to a build-up of dead skin cells and unwanted blemishes. To combat this, salicylic acid helps to unblock the pores to help reduce the formation of blemishes, leaving your face visibly clearer. Without excess dead skin cells, the pores can naturally release sebum for a healthier more balanced oil flow.

Regulate Oil Flow with Beta-Hydroxy Acids

Oily skin can form as a result of skin dryness due to the sebaceous glands producing excess oil to compensate. Salicylic acid benefits oily skin by regulating the natural oil flow.

Salicylic Acid is a Lipid-Soluble Chemical Exfoliant

The two main categories of chemical exfoliants used in skincare are alpha-hydroxy acids (AHAs) and beta-hydroxy acids (BHAs). While AHAs are activated in water, BHAs like salicylic acid are lipid (oil) soluble and can help target oily skin types. Those with oily skin and skin prone to mild acne skin should opt for salicylic acid over AHAs as their skin is the ideal platform for this ingredient for the most effective results.

BHAs Can Help Manage Redness and Scarring

Recurring acne or skin blemishes will often come with redness or mild scarring. By using salicylic acid, this can help encourage younger skin cells to help reduce the appearance of minor scars and blemishes. 

Incorporate Salicylic Acid Products into Your Skincare Routine 

Salicylic acid is utilised in different cleansers, toners, creams and scrubs, making it easy for you to start incorporating this powerful ingredient into your skincare regime.

CeraVe SA Smoothing Cleanser

Start your skincare regime with a CeraVe SA Smoothing Cleanser to wash away impurities and cleanse the skin. Formulated with salicylic acid to help decongest pores, this facial cleanser cleanses and purifies the skin.  

CeraVe SA Smoothing Cream

The CeraVe SA Smoothing Cream works to nourish and hydrate your skin, with the added ingredient of salicylic acid to smooth the skin’s texture. 

CeraVe Renewing SA Foot Cream

When opting for a moisturising cream for your feet, the CeraVe’s Renewing SA Foot Cream helps to slough away dead skin cells. After being on your feet all day, the inclusion of salicylic acid works to visibly renew the skin on your feet for softer skin. 


CeraVe develops its skincare alongside dermatologists for effective results. With important active ingredients included to enhance the skin, you will be able to strengthen your skin’s protective barrier to achieve a visibly softer, balanced and healthier complexion. Browse CeraVe’s full range of products to find your ideal skincare.