Does Salicylic Acid Work to Lighten Dark Spots?

After Electrocautery treatments I got dark spots on my face. I tried using 4% Hydroquinone on them but it didn't work. Is Salicylic Acid good? Thank You.

Doctor Answers 7

Salacylic acid for dark spots

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SA is a good choice for superficial skin issues such as sun spots and acne and skin texture. Used in combination with other treatments it can he helpful for other dark spots. The most likely issue you have is what is called postinflammatory hyperpigmentation form the cautery and this would be better treated by bleaching creams (prescription strength). Good luck and save the money on the peels and buy the cream.

Boulder Dermatologist

Glycolic Acid Peel Better for PIH

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While a salicylic acid peel is better for acne, since it scoops the keratin out of the follicle, glycolic acid is a superior peeling agent for pigmentation.

I would also recommend adding a retinoid to your hydroquinone. Oftentimes, increasing the strength to 6% will give a significantly better improvement than 4%. One of my dermatology friends even recommends 10%. I am leery of this strength however, since it can cause irritation.

Other agents such as azelaic acid, arbutin, and kogic acid might also be tried.

Arnold R. Oppenheim, MD
Virginia Beach Dermatologist

Salicylic Acid and Dark Spots

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There are many different peeling agents and of varying strengths.  Hydroquinone takes time, and is well supplemented  by treatments.  In order to remove that pigmentation, the cellular turnover of the skin needs to be accelerated.  Hydroquinone will prevent new pigment during this process.  Retinols are also helpful in this process.  Glycolic and Lactic acids are also great for pigmentation and brightening the complexion, respectively.  If you are taking the chemical peel route, consider blended peels that combine a few acids.  There are also many technology based treatments that are effective at correcting pigment.  As with anything, start with a consultation to discuss all of your options. 

Salicylic Acid to Lighten Dark Spots

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Salicylic acid is an effective lightening agent, but most effective when used in combination with other lightening products.

It is best used as an adjutant therapy with:
  • Sunscreen
  • Laser
  • Hydroquinone
  • Retinoids
  • Other topical alpha or beta hydroxy acid therapies

Brian Feinstein, DO
Delray Beach Dermatologist

Not really.

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Salicylic Acid peels are more like skin treatments or aids to other peeling agents. They work well to dry the skin up for acne control when used alone, but not for pigment or wrinkles.


Best Regards,


John Di Saia MD

John P. Di Saia, MD
Orange Plastic Surgeon

Salicylic acid chemical peel for pigmentation

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Our office specializes in skin lightening procedures. We utilize the Melapeel, which contains several active ingredients including Salicylic Acid. We combine this modality with daily application of Melarase creams. 

Dr. Karamanoukian 

Hyperpigmentation and sal peel

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This is a mild peel, and when used in combination with bleaching agents an be effective. More than one treatment may be needed to see the desired results however.

These answers are for educational purposes and should not be relied upon as a substitute for medical advice you may receive from your physician. If you have a medical emergency, please call 911. These answers do not constitute or initiate a patient/doctor relationship.