What is Salicylic Acid Cream?

B. Miller

Salicylic acid cream is any type of cream or lotion that contains salicylic acid as an active ingredient. Salicylic acid is used for the treatment of skin conditions, most commonly acne, psoriasis, and warts. The percentage of salicylic acid found in the cream generally determines what the cream is used for.

Salicylic acid is commonly used to treat acne.
Salicylic acid is commonly used to treat acne.

Cream containing salicylic acid is generally available in formulations that contain .5 percent to two percent salicylic acid. A cream that contains more than two percent salicylic acid will require a prescription from a dermatologist. When applied to the skin, the salicylic acid will help to soften thickened skin and slough off dead skin cells; this will reveal new, fresher skin underneath and allow other medicines to better penetrate the skin. It also helps to prevent whiteheads and blackheads from forming.

Salicylic acid cream should be used regularly in order to work most effectively.
Salicylic acid cream should be used regularly in order to work most effectively.

Salicylic acid cream is often used on the face as an acne treatment. It should be used regularly for it to work most effectively; the product will not work as well if it is simply applied to a blackhead or blemish after one already exists. The creams that contain salicylic acid tend to work best as a preventative measure for acne. Some people find they have a sensitivity to salicylic acid; in that case, an acne cream that contains benzoyl peroxide is another option. Both of these products are used regularly for the treatment of acne, and some people find that one will simply work better than the other.

In addition to using salicylic acid cream to treat acne on the face, there are a number of cleansers and toners that contain salicylic acid as well. When used as part of a daily routine, a cleanser, toner, and cream can be very effective at clearing up blemishes. It may even be possible to find makeup that contains acne-fighting ingredients and that is designed to be hypoallergenic and non-comedogenic, which means it will not clog the pores.

When using salicylic acid cream to treat warts on the hands or feet, it is important to follow the directions on the package, and to only use the product as directed. If the warts do not clear up within a reasonable amount of time, it may be necessary to visit a dermatologist. Aside from the products used to treat acne or warts, it is typically not possible to find other salicylic acid creams in stores; they must be prescribed by a dermatologist.

Topical salicylic acid can be used to treat warts.
Topical salicylic acid can be used to treat warts.

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Discussion Comments


@babylove - Both the glycolic and salicylic peel are good at treating acne. Generally the salicylic acid controls acne better than the glycolic because it has the ability to penetrate the oil follicles where the condition starts.

Lighter glycolic cleansers are ideal for every day use as they are less abrasive than the salicylic acid peels. Both of the acids can be found in numerous skin treatment whether over the counter or by prescription.

However I read somewhere once that the glycolic acid had not yet been approved by the FDA. I don't know if it's true or not but it can be just as effective in treating acne as the other acid peels.


What is the difference between a salicylic acid peel and the glycolic peels? I've noticed that most of the acne peels include one of these compounds in their ingredients but I don't understand which one is the better treatment for acne.

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