Using Salicylic Acid For Blackheads

Salicylic Acid

Blackheads can be difficult to get rid of and even with a good cleansing routine, these stubborn blemishes often remain. Even though they are stubborn, it is not difficult to get rid of blackheads or to reduce their occurrence. Salicylic acid is a very effective ingredient in treating oily skin prone to blackheads and open pores.

Blackheads can develop at any stage of one’s life but generally start from our teens during which time our hormones are usually out of balance. We start producing more androgens or hormones that stimulate oil production. These oils along with dead skin cells get clogged up in the pores where they get exposed to oxygen from the air which turns them black and solid. The areas affected the most appear to be the oily areas on the face, mostly the nose, chin and cheeks.

What causes blackheads

These are some of the most common causes of blackheads formation and include:

  • Hormones – an imbalance or a surge in the female sex hormones can result in the excess production of oil from the sebaceous glands. The excess oil fills up within the pore with dead skin cells resulting in a build-up.
  • Skincare products – excessive use or layering of foundations, makeup, sunscreens and moisturisers may quicken the process of developing blackheads by clogging pores.
  • Excessive sweating – increased sweating, especially when paired with external products, may add to the obstruction of pores.
  • Medications – certain medications raise testosterone and/or oestrogen levels which causes an increase in oil production.
  • Harsh skincare products – many skincare products recommended to achieve clear skin can be either too drying or irritating resulting in excess oil production.

How to treat blackheads

Preventing blackheads is obviously the best approach in the first instance and an appropriate skincare routine might be of great value. It does not have to be time consuming. Simply use a warm face flannel to open up the pores and then follow this with a good gentle cleanser. There are many gentle cleansers on the market which also help minimise the appearance of open pores.

For blackheads that have already developed, there are a few approaches that help in eradicating blackheads, some more effective than others. The obvious method is to squeeze the blackheads but this can cause trauma to the region especially if the blackheads are hard. Facial steaming opens up the pores allowing blackheads to be gently squeezed out.

Exfoliation is a process which you use to get rid of dead skin cells on the skin’s surface. You should only carry this out twice a week as overuse can lead to irritation and inflammation leading to excess oil production.

How to use salicylic acid serum to clear blackheads

Salicylic acid is a very effective ingredient for treating oily skin types prone to open pores and blackheads. It is a beta hydroxyl acid (BHA) and is available in serums to be used as a chemical exfoliant or peel with excellent pore cleaning ability.

Salicylic acid, because of its large molecular size, stays on the surface of skin longer giving it fantastic pore cleaning abilities. Salicylic acid is stronger at a lower concentration than alpha hydroxyl acids (AHAs) such as lactic acid and glycolic acid. A 10 percent concentration of lactic acid and glycolic acid is considered mild whereas a 10 percent concentration of salicylic acid would be quite irritating for new users.

A good serum for acne control is The Ordinary’s Salicylic Acid 2% Solution. With the just the right concentration for daily use both in the morning and evening, The Ordinary Salicylic Acid Solution may help to prevent acne flare-ups over a period of time with daily use. For blackheads, use salicylic acid for a few weeks to give them time to clear on their own. Once the blackheads have cleared, use Salicylic Acid to prevent the pores from clogging.

If you are not seeing results with the 2% Salicylic Acid, then use a combined serum containing alpha hydroxyl acid and salicylic acid since sometimes the lower concentration may not be sufficient. Using a combination of AHA and BHA solution helps remove the dead skin cells on the surface of skin which may be impeding the effectiveness of salicylic acid.

Please note that any exfoliant, whether beta hydroxyl acid or alpha hydroxyl acid, exposes fresh skin to the sun and hence it would be prudent to use a sunscreen during the day.

The Ordinary’s Salicyclic Acid 2% Solution has a pH between 3.2 and 3.5 which means that it has mild peeling properties, is less liable to irritate skin and therefore can be used on a daily basis. Please note that some people may experience some light flaking or dry patches but this is completely normal – salicylic acid breaks down the bonds between dead skin cells accelerating their removal and is not peeling off healthy living cells.

Salicylic acid is one of the most effective ways of preventing and treating blackheads. It also has the added benefit of treating acne and spots at the same time. By breaking down the plugs that block pores causing blackheads, it gives pores a chance to decrease in size over a period of time. Look to incorporate salicylic acid into your daily skincare regimen to maintain skin free from blackheads.

This content is not intended to replace conventional medical treatment. Any suggestions made and all herbs listed are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease, condition or symptom. Personal directions and use should be provided by a clinical herbalist or other qualified healthcare practitioner.

Shabir Daya | , , , , , , , , , , , ,
  • Liz Millington

    Hi Shabir
    I would like to encorporate Salicylic Acid 2% into my routine to treat and prevent blackheads. At what stage would I use this in my routine and would it just be once a day? Thanks Liz

  • Victoria Health

    Hi Liz, being a water based solution, I tend to recommend Salicylic acid before the use of anything else however many people use it after other serums. I just believe that anything like a cream stops its effectiveness so best used first before anything else. You can use it twice daily. Shabir

  • Fatima Bhana

    Hi, thank you for this informative article. I have been using Salicylic Acid by The Ordinary on my nose, as this is where I have very visible pores and lots of blackheads. I have also been using the Niacinamide 10% + Zinc PCA 1% over the Salicylic Acid. I only apply both products in the PM. While it has certainly reduced the oiliness on this area, I am yet to see any improvement with the blackheads. I was wondering what you would suggest? I currently follow their “anti aging” regimen which includes the use of their Retinol 2%… Thanks :)

  • Victoria Health

    Hi Fatima, I am glad that the Niacinamide is helping to normalise oil production. I would recommend that once a week you use Salicylic acid as a treatment mask leaving it on the area for about ten to fifteen minutes and then rinsing off before the application of other serums. It might also be prudent to consider using NIOD’s Sanskrit Saponins to clean skin, remove oil and debris and improve pore appearance without stripping skin of its natural oils since this could lead to more oil production. Shabir

  • Fatima Bhana

    Thank you for your swift reply! I am already using SS by NIOD :) I started using it about 2 weeks ago and, I must say, it is a rather dreamy product! But, again, yet to see any change with the blackhead situation.

    I’ll certainly give the Salicylic acid as a treatment mask a go, as I haven’t tried this yet. Is it OK to apply this all over the face as a weekly exfoliator? Then, rinse, and apply Niacinamide on the nose, and Granactive Retinoid 2% in Squalane on the rest of the face, followed by Rosehip oil as I have been doing?

    Also, would you advise still applying the Salicylic acid and Niacinamide every night as I have been, or to stop this and just trial the Salicylic Acid as a mask once a week instead?

    Finally, I read that Niacinamide is good for uneven skin tone too… and i suffer from uneven skintone around my mouth… I’m wondering if it is a good idea to apply this before/after Retinoid in the PM?

    Thanks again :)

  • Victoria Health

    Hi Fatima, glad you are enjoying SS and I am sure with time this will prove to be useful. You can used Salicylic acid all over the face and then follow this with the routine mentioned with rosehip oil being the last topical at night.
    I would still recommend daily use of Salicylic acid because the weekly mask treatment is more of a deep cleanse routine but you still need to unclog pores and remove dead skin on a daily basis. Niacinamide has been used for hyperpigmentation alongside alpha arbutin and the vitamin C derivative Magnesium Ascorbyl Phosphate. Use niacinamide before retinoid. Shabir

  • Fatima Bhana

    Awesome. Thank you for your advice :)

  • Victoria Health

    You are welcome Fatima