My dermatologist has recommended a 20% salicylic acid peel for my persistent clogged pores and oily skin. I've read that salicylic acid can bioaccumulate, leading to cancer, organ toxicity, etc. What do you think about the risks of an occasional 20% peel?
Is a Salicylic Acid Peel Safe?
Doctor Answers (8)
Salicylic acid peeling is effective for acne
Salicylic acid is a great peeling agent for improve skin texture, but is particularly effective in helping acne patients because salicylic acid is comedolytic. Comedolytic peels are excellent to combine with other acne treatments including retinoids and LED light therapy (Red/Blue light). I often use Jessner's peels as an alternative to salicylic acid peels because they tend to offer great results for skin tone and texture with limited adverse effects. These peels should be used in series for best results.
Michael Swann, MD
Judging by your terminology, It sounds like you have been reading from the Environmental Working Group's web site.
I would not be that concerned. We consume salicylates in our diet all the time. (In fact salicylates can be a source of hives). Of course, aspirin is acetyl salicylic acid and is a prime source of salicylates.
I might suggest avoiding a salicylic acid ( Beta) peel during pregnancy, but I can not see much of a problem otherwise. Also, realize that your peel would be washed off, limiting any potential for toxicity.
Because salicylic acid can penetrate into the hair follicle and disrupt the keratin formed within, it is the preferred peel for acne. It is an excellent peel to eliminate blackheads and clogged pores.
Salicylic Acid Peels are Safe
- Breast feeding or pregnant women
- Very young children
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Are Salicylic acid peels safe? Everything has a risk.
All chemical peels have potential risks. As chemical peels go, a 20% salicylic acid peel is a low risk peel. One has to decide if the risk out weighs the benefit. Salicylic acid peels are great for acne, fine lines, blemishes, sun damage, melasma, razor bumps or to just achieve a more beautiful, glowing complexion. The risks of a salicylic acid peel are burn (if you have any dermatitis or have recently used an exfoliating agent at the time of the peel), infection, scar (very unlikely), discoloration, peeling and stinging. That being said, a 20% salicylic acid peel is one of the most popular peels in my practice--particularly with the acne patients. A salicylic acid peel can been done on patients of all skin colors and they usually get excellent results. As a side note, as salicylic acid is related to aspirin, avoid the peel if you are aspirin or salicylic acid allergic.
Every treatment has risks
In our daily lives, everything we do involves risk. Every medicine, OTC or by prescription as well as food additives, hormones, pesticides and even vitamins can harm if in large dosages. Unfortunately, that is just the world we live in. As salicylic acid peels are not "required", of course it is important to carefully weigh the risks versus the benefits of this treatment and to not overdo it. SAHA peels are generally considered very safe with minimal risk. In my experience they work well and my patients enjoy the benefit they obtain from them.
Salicylic acid peels
Salicylic acid is available in many over the counter preparations in a 2% form. While it is relatively safe it should be administered by a qualified individual who is well versed in its use, indications, and administration as well as the evaluation of candidates for the treatment.
A very standard procedure
Salicylic acid is a safe and reliable peel for all skin color and types to treat may problems, but it is especially good for acne and rosacea.