Can I put salicylic acid on my face while sleeping?


If you've had acne in the past, chances are you've used products that contain salicylic acid, whether you realize it or not. Salicylic acid, one of the most commonly used beta hydroxy acids, has a reputation for being effective in combating frequent breakouts and acne-prone skin. 

The question is: Can this powerful ingredient be used overnight on the face? Does it still provide the results you want, or is it too harsh on the skin, causing dryness, flaking, and increased irritation? Let's explore how this ingredient works and see if you can sleep with salicylic acid on your face. 

Don't forget, if you want to learn more about salicylic acid and how it affects your skin, you can check out our dedicated blog post on The Beauty Insiders. 


Can salicylic acid be left on the face overnight? 

Yes, you really can! You can use salicylic acid twice a day if necessary. Those with oily and acne-prone skin types will benefit the most from using BHA. If you have a dry skin type that breaks out from time to time, you may need to find a product that doesn't sit on your skin for too long, and you should avoid leaving it on your face overnight. 

If you have used salicylic acid before and your skin has developed a tolerance to it 

For serums and moisturizers, you'll find them formulated with salicylic acid typically at a concentration of 1% to 2%, which is considered low enough to leave on the skin overnight and rinse off in the morning. 

I strongly advise against overnight use of medical or professional grade formulas at concentrations of 15% or higher. Ideal for skin treatments like chemical peels, these products are best for restoring a vibrant, clear, flawless complexion. 


Does salicylic acid work overnight? 

Yes, salicylic acid can solve all pimples and acne problems overnight. Thanks to its exfoliating, antibacterial and anti-inflammatory action, it fights against the outbreak of blemishes that are active on the skin's surface and works in the lower layers to prevent possible breakouts from reaching the surface. 

You'll find that serum products that contain salicylic acid have a higher percentage of BHA, which can cause some skin dehydration. Therefore, it is considered a good idea to combine any salicylic acid skin care product with moisturizing ingredients such as hyaluronic acid, which can keep the skin surface plump, hydrated and youthful elasticity. 

How long does salicylic acid stay on the face? 

It depends a lot on the products used, as all products stay on the skin for different lengths of time. 

When you're just introducing salicylic acid into your routine, it's best to start with an exfoliating toner, which is applied to the skin by dampening a cotton pad and sweeping the formula over the face. This along with a salicylic acid-rich cleanser is another option, as both products either rinse off the face or absorb quickly. 

If you decide to use serums, oils or moisturizers, they tend to stay on the skin significantly longer. Some skincare experts recommend using salicylic acid products overnight to allow the ingredients to work without the effects of free radicals like pollution or UV rays. 

Should salicylic acid be used in the morning or at night? You can use salicylic acid twice a day, morning and night. This keeps skin clean and free of dirt while fighting blemish-causing bacteria. Using BHA twice a day really depends on your skin type. Oily and acne-prone skin especially benefits from salicylic acid. 

For those with slightly drier and more sensitive skin types, it's best to avoid salicylic acid altogether, as there can be too much salicylic acid, which can sometimes rob the skin of the essential oils it needs to stay healthy. For your skin barrier to function properly, it needs the right amount of water and oils to ensure it's strong enough to defend against free radical damage. 

By removing this oil, you weaken the skin barrier and stimulate sebum production (the natural oil in the skin), which can lead to breakouts of pimples, blackheads and pimples. 


When does salicylic acid start to work? 

If you use salicylic acid-rich products regularly for 6-8 weeks, you may see improvements in your acne breakouts. If you find that this time has passed and you don't notice any changes in your skin, the next step is to consult a doctor or dermatologist for alternative treatments that will hopefully be more effective. 

Is it normal to have a rash after using salicylic acid? Yes, it is completely normal to have breakouts on the skin after using salicylic acid. This burst, also known as a detox, occurs due to the action of BHA on the skin. 

Since salicylic acid is oil-soluble, it can penetrate down to unclog pores of excess sebum, dirt, bacteria, and other impurities. This causes all the "dirt" to be pushed to the surface of the skin at once, resulting in acne-like breakouts. 


Can salicylic acid remove blackheads? 

Yes, it does! Salicylic acid is one of the most commonly used ingredients to combat blemishes and acne-prone skin. It breaks down impurities, removes excess sebum, and removes the buildup of dead skin cells that often build up on the surface and can cause blackheads, whiteheads, and acne. 

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