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Skin exfoliants are central to managing the occurrence of blackheads and pimples. One exfoliant used widely in skincare for pimples is salicylic acid – a potent and multi-tasking component of acne-prone skincare routines. Salicylic acid is a beta-hydroxy acid (BHA) which is extracted from willow tree bark. BHAs are oil-soluble (as opposed to alpha hydroxy-acids which are water-soluble). This means that the exfoliant can penetrate oil which contributes to blocked pores and pimples. In this guide, we examine the different benefits of salicylic acid for pimples, whiteheads, and other imperfections. See the best skincare for teenage pimples and how to apply them.

Is salicylic acid good for pimples?

To work effectively, skincare ingredients for pimples need to address the different components that form breakouts. Blemishes occur when excess oil, dead skin, bacteria and debris combine together and clog pores. Those with oily skin can experience breakouts more frequently because of this. BHAs such as salicylic acid can target pimples effectively as they have the ability to permeate pores and remove dead skin cells and oil. Salicylic acid can help to reduce the appearance of the following types of blemishes:

  • Blackheads.
  • Whiteheads.
  • Pimples (pustules)
  • Maskne’.

What does salicylic acid do for pimples?

Salicylic acid (BHA) formulas are recommended for mild acne-prone skin types, thanks to the ingredient’s wide-ranging benefits. Like BHAs, AHAs also exfoliate skin, but differ in that they are used to help improve skin texture and reduce the appearance post-acne marks. For how to manage pimples when they occur, a BHA is recommended. Salicylic acid has the following benefits when used in skincare for pimples:

1. Exfoliates dead skin
Salicylic acid is a keratolytic, which means that it can break down the outer layers of dead skin cells. This function helps to clear pimple-causing debris from clogged pores. Salicylic acid can also encourage cell turnover, helping with dulled skin.

2. Targets whiteheads and blackheads
As well as helping to target whiteheads and blackheads that are already apparent on skin, salicylic acid can assist in preventing future occurrences. It does this by reducing the amount of dead skin cells which become trapped in skin pores.

3. Clears excess oil
Thanks to its oil-soluble nature, salicylic acid is able to cut through excess sebum which contributes to pimples. Being oil-soluble also helps it to penetrate the skin’s surface to break down the contents of clogged pores.

4. Assists with post-blemish marks in skin
Salicylic acid has properties that may help it to address the appearance of redness and post-blemish marks related to breakouts. Used in CeraVe formulas, salicylic acid is gentle on skin and suitable for all skin types.

How to use salicylic acid for pimples

Using salicylic acid in oily and acne-prone routines can help to unblock pores and regulate oil flow to help prevent future breakouts. When using skincare for pimples, it’s important that each step works to benefit acne-prone skin without overwhelming it. You can do this by using formulas which combine exfoliants like salicylic acid with hydrating properties like ceramides. See how to use salicylic acid as part of a supportive mild acne-prone skincare routine below.

Blemish Control Cleanser

Cleansers are an important component of acne-prone skincare routines as they help to clear impurities built up over the day, or refresh the skin after sleep. In terms of what ingredients to look for when cleansing skin, a salicylic acid-infused formula enhances a cleanser’s ability to remove pore-clogging debris. Blemish Control Cleanser has been formulated with salicylic acid alongside 3 essential ceramides and niacinamide. These ingredients help to reduce the appearance of pores, blackheads and pimples, while managing excess oil. We recommend using once per day and building up to twice per day as tolerated.

Blemish Control Gel

When pimples occur you can implement targeted formulas. Blemish Control Cleanser is recommended for use after Blemish Control Cleanser and can help with blemishes already present on the skin. The inclusion of salicylic acid, alongside AHAs like glycolic acid and lactic acid offers gentle exfoliation, while ceramides help to hydrate and strengthen the skin moisture barrier. Used consistently as part of your skincare for pimples routine, Blemish Control Gel can help to prevent new breakouts from occurring in a consistent skincare routine. We recommend use in the evening after cleansing, starting with a low weekly frequency (1-2 uses per week) and increasing as skin tolerance permits.

How to implement ingredients for pimples

Now that you know how to use salicylic acid, establish your anti-pimple skincare routine via our virtual Find My Skincare Routine tool. Generally, skincare for pimples follows a hydrating and clarifying approach. Your routine will feature exfoliating ingredients alongside components that improve skin texture and promote moisture content in skin. The best skincare for teenage pimples will depend on your unique skin, but will typically include the following order:
1. Cleanser (AM & PM)
2. Targeted formula (PM)
3. Facial serum (AM & PM)
4. Facial moisturiser (AM & PM)
5. Eye cream (AM & PM)
6. SPF (AM)

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