Salicylic Acid Acne Treatments

Salicylic acid is a multifunctional ingredient that addresses many of the systemic causes of acne, helping to remove dead skin cells and reduce breakouts. It’s one of the most popular OTC treatments for specific cases of the skin condition, due to its accessibility and low cost. This quarter, we feature this active ingredient in a gentle, alcohol-free regimen.

What Is Salicylic Acid?

Salicylic acid is considered a beta hydroxy acid (BHA) that naturally occurs in the bark of the white willow tree, Salix Alba.

The salts and esters of salicylic acid may be used in personal care and cosmetic products at different levels depending on the desired treatment.

Salicylic acid is known as a compound that is chemically very similar – but not identical – to the active component of aspirin (acetylsalicylic acid), which is commonly used to treat pain and fever.¹

How Does Salicylic Acid Work?

The primary benefit of salicylic acid is as an exfoliant, helping to remove dead skin cells. As a chemical exfoliant, it has the ability to penetrate into the pore lining and remove debris inside the pore, as well as outside of it. It is especially effective at removing blackheads and whiteheads, but for more inflamed or deep cystic acne, other treatments such as benzoyl peroxide or prescription topical medication should be considered.

Salicylic Acid & FDA Guidance

Salicylic acid is a powerful ingredient that is closely regulated by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

The FDA provides guidance that is intended to help small business comply and understand their regulation regarding over-the-counter (OTC) topical acne drug products, and under the FDA’s monograph, permits the use of salicylic acid as a single active ingredient in concentrations of 0.5% to 2.0%.

For this active ingredient, the FDA requires specific directions to be associated with the product, which should be carefully considered when developing packaging and marketing collateral for any product that falls under this monograph.²

For additional guidance around regulatory claims and formulating OTC products with salicylic acid, please contact us.

Alcohol-Free Salicylic Acid Acne Treatments

Some forms of salicylic acid require solubility in alcohol, but research shows that alcohol-based anti-acne products can increase irritation and dryness as it can damage the skin’s barrier.

Our Innovation Team has developed a line of alcohol-free anti-acne products with salicylic acid to explore development opportunities with our customers for shoppers who want gentle, clean, and effective skincare options to address cases of acne with blackheads and whiteheads.

Clarifying Skincare Products to Treat Acne

All of these clarifying products feature 2.0% salicylic acid, which classifies them as Over-the-Counter (OTC) topical acne treatment and requires additional testing and labeling for stability and regulatory requirements.

Clarifying Foaming Cleanser

foam wash bottle pump foamer handThis foaming cleanser features 2.0% salicylic acid to treat acne and reduce the appearance of blemishes on the skin.

In its bottle, the cleanser is a water-thin product, and when dispensed through a foamer packaging component, it froths into a fluffy foam for quick and easy application.

To use, apply directly to damp skin with hands, avoiding contact with the eye area. Massage in to skin and rinse with warm water. Follow with additional clarifying skincare products, moisturizer and sunscreen for daytime. Product can also be used on the body.

This product contains 2.0% salicylic acid, which qualifies it as an over-the-counter (OTC) drug that requires specific testing, labeling, and regulation by the FDA.

Benchmark Analysis
Salicylic Acid Face Washes

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Clarifying Bar Soap

This gentle, soap-free bar soap features 2.0% salicylic acid to deeply cleanse skin.

To use, apply to damp skin and massage in to a foam. Rinse well, and follow with additional clarifying skincare steps.

This bar is versatile and can also be used as a body treatment to help with blemishes on the back, chest, and legs.

Benchmark Analysis
Acne Treatment Bar Soaps

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Clarifying Toner

This lightweight toner is designed to chemically exfoliate the skin, treat acne, and improve skin’s overall appearance.

This gentle clarifying formula removes pollution, dirt, sweat, and dead skin that cleansers alone cannot clear away. It prepares skin for additional skincare products, as cleansed and exfoliated skin is more receptive to treatment and hydration products.

In addition to synthetic salicylic acid, this product features witch hazel, glycerin, and aloe vera to leave skin clean, smooth, and hydrated, clearing acne over time.

To use, apply product to a cotton pad and wipe gently over face and neck, avoiding the eye area and lips. Follow with additional skincare and sunscreen for daytime.

This product contains 2.0% salicylic acid, which qualifies it as an over-the-counter (OTC) drug that requires specific testing, labeling, and regulation by the FDA.

Benchmark Analysis
Acne Treatment Toners

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Clarifying Targeted Acne Treatment

This treatment with 2.0% salicylic acid is designed to use in targeted areas to clear existing acne.

This lightweight serum is intended for spot application and formulated for fast absorption and to be layered underneath other skincare products.

In addition to synthetic salicylic acid, this product features witch hazel, glycerin, and aloe vera to leave skin clean, smooth, and hydrated, clearing acne over time.

To use, apply a small amount of product where needed. Allow to absorb in to the skin, and follow with additional skincare steps and sunscreen in daytime.

This product contains 2.0% salicylic acid, which qualifies it as an over-the-counter (OTC) drug that requires specific testing, labeling, and regulation by the FDA.

Benchmark Analysis
Targeted Salicylic Acid Acne Treatments

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To learn more about exploring opportunities in OTC products, please contact our Sales Team:

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Sources: 1. https://cosmeticsinfo.org/ingredient/salicylic-acid 2. https://www.fda.gov/media/80442/download