Willow bark form the White Willow Tree has been used for centuries to treat aches and pains. It contains a natural chemical called salicin that blocks specific hormones that regulate inflammation. Today, an oxidized version known as Salicylic Acid is a staple in acne fighting skincare. Why?
Acne primarily results from an overproduction of sebum (oil secreted from pores) paired with an abnormally high rate of desquamation (shedding of skin cells) in individuals that lack enzymes breaking down the cellular glue. The result are clogged pores, in which acne bacteria can grow.
Salicylic Acid is a lipophilic, or oil-soluble acid. This means it can break down sebum - the skin's own oils. It is also kreatolitic, meaning it can break down keratinocytes a.k.a. skin cells. Salicylic Acid thus tackles the two main factors leading to breakouts. Its small molecular size allows it to penetrate easily into the pore where it cleans out blockages and prevents new ones from forming.
In high concentrations, Salicylic Acid can be irritating and potentially lead to inflammation. New encapsulation technologies that allow a timed release into the skin can successfully eliminate irritation. This is especially valuable as it allows to treat darker skin tones and sensitive skin.
Salicylic Acid can be a valuable tool in treating aging skin as well. As we age, the glue that holds skin cells together strengthens. At the same time, cell production decreases and slows. The result is a change in skin texture and dull appearance. A regular exfoliation of the skin with a combination of Salicylic Acid and Alpha-Hydroxy-Acids (water-soluble acids that break down the water-based glue that hold skin cells together) will address these issues and prepare the skin for better product penetration and increase effectiveness of other active ingredients.