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What Is Salicylic Acid? A Tried and True Hero for Acne-Prone Skin

A product shot photo of IT Cosmetics Bye Bye Breakout Salicylic Acid Treatment

While some people are more prone to dealing with pimples compared to others, the reality is that we all experience breakouts at some point. Equipping yourself with the right ingredients and following a consistent skincare routine can make a notable difference in the appearance of your skin.

Salicylic acid is one of the most effective ingredients you can add to your skincare arsenal to help unclog pores and promote visibly clearer skin. So what is salicylic acid, and what does salicylic acid do for your complexion? We’re exploring everything you need to know about this exfoliating active ingredient, including what salicylic acid benefits are, whether you can use it daily, and how to add salicylic acid to your current regimen.

We’re also showcasing Bye Bye Breakout Salicylic Acid Acne Serum, the newest addition to the Bye Bye Serums family, which means serious business when it comes to acne.

What Is Salicylic Acid?

Salicylic acid is an oil soluble, beta hydroxy acid (BHA) that’s known for its ability to exfoliate the skin’s surface. In terms of improving acne, salicylic acid can help unclog pores and ease inflammation. When used consistently and as directed, salicylic acid for skin helps promote a clearer complexion and can minimize breakouts.

Bye Bye Breakout Salicylic Acid Acne Serum is a true acne-fighting powerhouse that contains 2% salicylic acid—the highest concentration allowed in over-the-counter products. The formula also contains 3% lactic acid, an alpha hydroxy acid (AHA) that gently exfoliates to help reduce the appearance of post-acne marks and reveal smooth, soft skin. The product also includes a postbiotic ferment that supports calm, balanced skin.

While powerful, this lightweight and layerable serum is still gentle enough for everyday use to help fight active breakouts and prevent future breakouts—although you should start slowly and build up to daily use. It also won’t pill or dry out under makeup, so you can use it morning and night.

Bye Bye Breakout Salicylic Acid Acne Serum


Bye Bye Breakout Salicylic Acid Acne Serum

Old price New price $29.00
One size available
1 US fl. oz. / 30 ml

What Does Salicylic Acid Do for Skin?

Salicylic acid is good for acne in a few different ways. Along with benzoyl peroxide and retinoids, it’s one of the core over-the-counter active ingredients you can use to improve existing breakouts and reduce future breakouts.

Specifically, salicylic acid does work for the following:

1. Active Breakouts

Salicylic acid targets different types of active acne, including papules and pustules. Papules are small bumps that may or may not be red or inflamed, and pustules are raised bumps that contain a white or yellow fluid. You can also use salicylic acid for blackheads and whiteheads to help dissolve plugs and unclog pores.

2. Future Breakouts

The beauty of salicylic acid is that it can help prevent new acne blemishes from forming while tackling existing acne. That said, even if your complexion becomes clear after using salicylic acid products, you’ll want to maintain the regimen to continue promoting clear skin.

Some treatments can also help fade acne marks. For example, Bye Bye Breakout Salicylic Acid Acne Serum is formulated with 3% lactic acid to help lessen the appearance of post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation. (This is the red or brown discoloration that lingers on your skin long after the blemish itself has disappeared.) You can think of salicylic acid and lactic acid as a heroic, skin-clearing team!

Pro Tip: Make sure to use sunscreen and avoid sun exposure because AHAs like lactic acid can make your skin more sensitive to the sun and increase sunburn risk.

How Should You Use Salicylic Acid?

Now that you know what salicylic acid is and that it works for acne, it’s time to incorporate this powerful ingredient into your skincare routine. How you add it to your regimen ultimately depends on the formulation.

For instance, some salicylic acid products are formulated as cleansers, while others are intended for spot treatments. Bye Bye Breakout Salicylic Acid Acne Serum is neither, and can be used on your entire face.

Here’s how to use it:

  • Step One: In the morning or evening, cleanse your face and gently pat dry.

  • Step Two: Apply three to four drops of the serum onto your face and gently press it onto your skin using your fingertips. Make sure to avoid the eye area.

  • Step Three: In the mornings, follow up with a moisturizer and/or CC Cream that contains sunscreen to help hydrate and protect. In the evenings, use a lightweight moisturizer to visibly hydrate, balance, and soothe your skin.

While Bye Bye Breakout Salicylic Acid Acne Serum is suitable for daily use, it’s best to ease into it if you haven’t used salicylic acid before. Aim for once every two to three days and observe how your skin reacts. Side effects might include dry skin, sensitivity, irritation, or light peeling. If this is bothersome, then reduce frequency further. As your skin adjusts, you can increase frequency.

Using Salicylic Acid With Other Ingredients and Products

It’s important to be mindful when adding a new ingredient to your skincare routine since not all ingredients play well with others. Generally speaking, you shouldn’t combine salicylic acid with the following:

  • Abrasive cleansers formulated with physical and/or chemical exfoliants

  • Other topical acne treatments, such as benzoyl peroxide, sulfur, and retinoids

  • Products formulated with alcohol or ingredients that are drying

  • Medicated topical products

Learn more about how to take care of your sensitive skin if you have acne, then take a second to dive deeper into the connection between 'bad skin' and your mental health.

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