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Salicylic acid

What medicine is salicylic acid?

What is salicylic acid medicine?

Salicylic acid is a type of keratolytic drug, which is a drug that acts as an exfoliating agent. This drug works to remove dead skin cells and smooths rough skin surfaces.

Because of its properties, salicylic acid is often used to treat skin diseases that cause scales or excess skin buildup such as psoriasis or eczema (atopic dermatitis).

The drug works by softening keratin, a protein in the structure of human skin. This process loosens the dry scaly skin, making it easier to remove.

Medicines can also work as anti-inflammatory agents, so they are often used to treat acne or other skin inflammatory problems.

Other problems that can be treated with salicylic acid include:

  • warts,
  • dandruff,
  • seborrheic dermatitis,
  • simplex moss, as well
  • ichiosis.

Generally, this drug is found in topical form that is used for external use (topically), it can be in the form of cream, gel, ointment, solution, or soap.

Use of salicylates

How do I use salicylic acid?

The use of salicylic acid must be in accordance with the doctor’s instructions or the instructions provided in the drug packaging. However, this medication is usually used in the manner described below.

Creams, lotions, and ointments

To use it, first clean the affected skin area, then apply the drug as recommended on the packaging label or doctor’s recommendation.


Clean the skin, then compress or soak the problem area with water for five minutes, then rub the skin with salicylic acid gel.


Medicines in the form of plasters are often used to treat warts, calluses, and fish eyes. First, clean the skin and then soak the affected area in warm water for five minutes to make it easier to remove.

Then stick the plaster that has been cut to the required size. The plaster that is affixed should be replaced with a new one every two times a day.

Sometimes, there are also bandages that must be used before bed and left for at least 8 hours, then removed in the morning and replaced every 24 hours as needed. Repeat for up to 12 weeks or until the disease clears up.


Wet hair and scalp with warm water. Apply enough medicine on the head so that it lathers, then massage the scalp for two or three minutes, rinse with water. This step can be repeated as needed.


Using your usual soap, rub it into a lather and then gently rub the soap on the skin or affected area. Rinse with warm water.


Pour the solution on a cotton swab, then gently wipe the affected area. Let the medicine dry and do not rinse it off. If two times use is recommended, make sure the first smear is dry before re-applying the drug.

Please note, you must really use the drug according to the rules, not less and no more, unless this change is recommended directly from the doctor. Each person’s skin condition is also different, the duration of the drug in showing its efficacy may be different.

Before using salicylic acid drugs, it’s a good idea to have your skin checked by a doctor to ensure that the use of the drug is completely safe.

Do not give medicine to children or teenagers who have the flu, fever, or chickenpox as these can cause Reye’s syndrome.

How do I store salicylic acid?

This medication is best stored at room temperature and kept away from exposure to direct light and damp areas. Do not store in the bathroom and do not freeze this drug.

Other brands of this drug may have different storage rules. Observe the storage instructions on the product package or ask your pharmacist. Keep all medicines away from children and pets.

Do not flush medicines down the toilet or down the drain unless instructed to do so. Discard this product when it has expired or when it is no longer needed. Consult your pharmacist about how to safely dispose of your product.

Salicylic acid dosage

The information provided is not a substitute for medical advice. ALWAYS consult your doctor or pharmacist before using this medication.

How many doses will be given?

The dose given will differ depending on the strength of the drug and the condition you have. The information below includes only the average doses that are commonly used.

Adult dosage for acne

Pads with 1% salicylic acid:

Clean the problematic skin area, then apply it on the part 2-3 times every day. If your skin gets drier, reduce the frequency to use it to once a day.

Adult dosage for dermatological disorders

16.7% salicylic acid solution:

Wash and dry the area completely. Use just enough to cover each wart 1-2 times per day.

Soap containing 3% salicylic acid:

Apply to problem areas twice every week. Leave it on the cut or skin for two minutes then rinse. Repeat if necessary.

6 percent cream:

Use on problem skin once every day. Moisten the area for 5 minutes beforehand if possible. Close the area at night. Wash in the morning.

6 percent lotion:

Use it on the affected skin once every day. Moisten the area for 5 minutes beforehand if possible. Close the area at night. Wash in the morning.

Salicylic acid side effects

What side effects can occur?

Like other medicines, salicylic acid can cause side effects in some people. Often times, these side effects tend to be mild and do not require special treatment, such as a mild stinging sensation from using drugs with higher concentrations.

You also need to be careful when using this medicine. The reason is that salicylic acid can irritate or burn healthy skin, so you have to make sure you apply the drug only to the affected areas.

Tell your doctor right away if you experience any of the following:

  • moderate to severe skin irritation that appears after drug use,
  • skin feels warm or hot, as well
  • skin shows an unusual reddish hue.

Not everyone experiences this side effect. There may be some side effects not listed above. If you have concerns about certain side effects, don’t hesitate to consult a doctor or pharmacist.

Salicylic acid drug warnings and cautions

What should be known before using salicylic acid?

Before using this drug, make sure you know the things below.

  • This medication may not be suitable for some people, tell your doctor if you have allergies or have any unusual reactions.
  • Salicylic acid is not recommended for application to large areas of skin and is not recommended for long-term use.
  • The risk of side effects is higher in children due to the higher absorption rate of salicylic acid in children’s skin.
  • The medicine is not recommended for children younger than two years.

Is this drug safe for pregnant and lactating women?

There has not been adequate research regarding the risks of using this drug in pregnant or breastfeeding women. Always consult your doctor to weigh the potential benefits and risks before using this medication.

According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), this drug falls into category C based on the possible risks for pregnant women. The following references the pregnancy risk categories according to the FDA.

  • A = no risk
  • B = no risk in several studies
  • C = possibly risky
  • D = there is positive evidence of risk
  • X = contraindicated
  • N = unknown

Salicylic acid drug interactions

What medicines may interact with salicylic acid?

There are several drugs that when used together with salicylic acid can cause interactions. These interactions can affect the performance of the drug or increase the risk of side effects. Here are some of them.

  • Adapalene. Applying adapalene and salicylic acid to the same area can cause excessive irritation or dry out your skin. The resulting interaction intensity is moderate.
  • Alitretinoin. Similar to adapalene, the use of the drug together can cause irritation and dryness of the skin. Interaction is moderate.
  • Bexarotene. Causes moderate interaction, irritating the skin and becoming drier.
  • Isotretinoin. The interaction between the two drugs will worsen any skin irritation that is happening.

There are still various other drugs that are not mentioned. If you have questions about the impact of using a particular drug, please discuss it with your doctor.

Also, do not use any of these products that should not be used over the area that has been applied the salicylic acid medication unless recommended by a doctor. Among others are:

  • soaps or abrasive cleaners,
  • products containing alcohol,
  • cosmetics or soaps that dry the skin, and
  • cosmetic medicine.


What to do if you have a salicylic acid overdose?

In rare cases, using too much salicylic acid can cause poisoning. Symptoms that will be felt include:

  • diarrhea,
  • nausea and vomiting,
  • dizzy,
  • dazed,
  • breath becomes faster,
  • headache,
  • buzzing ears,
  • abdominal pain, as well
  • feeling severe drowsiness.

If these signs occur, seek medical attention immediately by contacting an emergency service provider (119) or going to the hospital so that you can get prompt treatment right away.

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