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Salicylic Acid Peel: Benefits, Uses, Skincare Tips & Results

Salicylic acid belongs to the beta-hydroxy acid family of acids and has a moderate exfoliating activity when compared to other chemical peels. Salicylic acid peels are treatments that exfoliate the skin’s superficial layers extensively. Salicylic acid causes the skin’s cells to shed or peel by breaking the connections that hold them together. The skin is revitalized as it regenerates. 

Salicylic acid has a myriad of benefits. It unclogs the pores of dead skin cells and clogged oils that cause acne breakouts. It also has anti-inflammatory properties and has the ability to exfoliate skin cells by disrupting intercellular connections. Dermatologists frequently use salicylic acid to treat skin conditions such as acne, melasma, freckles, dark spots, acne scars, and sunspots due to its positive effects. It can also reduce dark circles but applying Salicylic acid skin peel near eyes should only be done by a medical professional. 

Salicylic acid peel is suitable for all individuals whose skin goals are to improve the appearance of moderate fine lines/wrinkles, skin irritation, irregular skin pigmentation, or acne. For dark skin tones, salicylic acid peels are safe, however, there could be a larger risk of hyperpigmentation. That’s why it is always suggested to do patch testing first. Salicylic acid peels are not recommended to individuals with active skin rashes or damages (such as cuts or sunburns), individuals who have used isotretinoin in the past three to six months, and to breastfeeding or pregnant women. 

Over-the-counter (OTC) salicylic acid skin peels for at-home use are available at cosmetic stores, hairdressers, and other stores that sell skincare products.  It comes in many forms, from creams and gels to pads.  Smoother, softer, brighter skin, improved mild breakouts, and faded blemishes can all be achieved with regular application. At-home peels can contain up to 20% salicylic acid. These have a mild exfoliating effect and can help with mild acne, but they’re not the same as a doctor’s office chemical peel which has about 30% to 35% salicylic acid content. Some even have over 40% salicylic acid concentration. Salicylic acid peels performed at a doctor’s office are more powerful and penetrate deeper layers of the skin than these at-home solutions.

The Salicylic Acid Peel (SAP) is a superficial peeling agent that can be used to treat acne and pimple marks on the skin. A salicylic acid chemical peel can be used on the face, upper back, upper arm, and upper chest. This peel works by destroying the connections that hold the skin’s cells together, causing the skin to shed or peel away. It also brightens and smoothes your skin, cures blackheads, and more in this manner.

Before getting a Salicylic Acid Peel, the following pointers must be followed-

  • At least 72 hours before applying the peel, don’t shave, use masks, scrubs, or exfoliate. 
  • While getting a peel, try to stay out of the sun and avoid tanning. 
  • Waxing should be avoided for a week before and after the operation.
  • Avoid loofahs, face masks, glycolic or lactic acid products, and Vitamin A before and after the treatment.
  • If you have a cold sore, wait until it heals before starting the SAP therapy.
  • Inform the dermatologist about your allergies, skin conditions, medications, and comprehensive medical history.

The effects of salicylic acid peel will be visible after 3-6 sittings. Erythema (redness) on the skin with flaking and dryness normally fades in two to three days. Recovery might be aided by using an unscented moisturizer or a topical steroid. Consider using sunscreen and limiting your exposure to the sun. Once the skin is no longer inflamed and flaking, makeup and routine skincare can be applied. The results can be maintained with regular sittings every six months after the desired results have been achieved. The effects are short-term and they are prone to aging and sun damage.

The following precautions should be taken post-peel:

  • For 1 to 2 days, don’t use a cleanser.
  • Apply moisturizer to your skin many times a day.
  • Every three hours, apply a broad-spectrum physical or chemical sunscreen with an SPF of 30 to 50. Avoid going outside under direct sunlight.
  • For a minimum of 3 to 5 days after the peel, avoid using retinoids, vitamin C, anti-acne products, and other exfoliating agents like glycolic acid, salicylic acid, and others. If you have a deeper peel, you should avoid it for a week to ten days.
  • Direct heat should be avoided.
  • Swimming should be avoided for 5 days after the peel.
  • For a week after the peel, avoid waxing, threading, epilating, lasers for hair reduction and other purposes, and collagen-stimulating procedures/lasers.

Depending on the severity of your skin condition, the Salicylic Acid Peel treatment may require multiple sessions. You may require 4 to 6 peels, which should be done every 3 to 4 weeks.

Salicylic acid peels are typically gentler peels with fewer side effects. They may include higher sun sensitivity, redness, slight tingling sensation, and skin peeling. Additionally, pregnant women, people with allergies, eczema and skin cancers should not use them.

Glycolic acid peel, TCA peel (trichloroacetic acid), Jessner’s peel, Mandelic acid peel, Lactic acid peel and enzyme peels are some of the popular alternatives to the Salicyclic Acid peel.

After the treatment, it will take 3-4 weeks for you to see a difference in your skin texture. Following the peel, you will notice a visible reduction in the look of your acne and pimple marks. However, depending on the severity of your skin disease, this treatment may require many sessions. You may require 4 to 6 peels, which should be done every 3 to 4 weeks. Once you’ve finished the treatment, you’ll notice that your skin is brighter than it was before.

Salicylic acid is a common ingredient in skincare treatments that are used to heal acne scars. Salicylic acid is an active exfoliating agent that is used in chemical peeling treatments to enhance general complexion and pigmentation abnormalities at greater concentrations. Salicylic acid peels are a common non-surgical skin treatment that can significantly enhance the overall texture of the skin. If you have acne or hyperpigmentation on your skin, salicylic acid peels may be a good option.

  • Can pregnant women use Salicyclic Acid Peels?

It is not advised for pregnant women to use chemical peels. Also, never use new chemical ingredients without a doctor’s prescription when pregnant. 

  • What other chemical peels can I use instead of Salicyclic Acid peels?

Alpha and Beta hydroxy acids, such as glycolic, lactic, citric, malic, or tartaric acid, azelaic acid, kojic acid, and vitamin C are all popular choices for chemical peels.

  • How Often Should a Salicylic Acid Peel Be Used

You may require 4 to 6 peels every 3 to 4 weeks but it mostly depends person to person and on the severity of your skin condition.

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