Side Effects of Salicylic Acid: Are You Using Too Much BHA

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skin care
Author Name: Beth Rush
Date: Friday December 25, 2020

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You bought a skin care cream containing BHA and noticed that your appearance got worse, not better. Your wrinkles seem more pronounced, and your skin is red and flaky. 

Could you be using too much salicylic acid? Many people don’t know BHA is synonymous with this substance. While it does offer a host of skin benefits, as with many things, moderation is paramount. Here are the side effects of salicylic acid and how to exfoliate without experiencing these. 

Signs You Exfoliate Too Often 

Skin care experts recommend products containing BHA or salicylic acid for various conditions. If you are acne-prone, this stuff bypasses your skin’s protective oil barrier to dissolve the dead skin and sebum clogging pores and causing breakouts. 

Plus, because it sloughs off the skin’s top layer like alpha-hydroxy acids, it also works to minimize the appearance of fine lines — when used in moderation. Folks with frustrating combination skin benefit from using it to combat aging when they hit their 30s and 40s, yet still get the occasional pimple. 

However, as with many otherwise healthy substances, too much of a good thing can lead to trouble. Pay attention to the following signs you might be slathering on the BHA cream too often. 

1. Redness

When you exfoliate, you want to see a rosy pink glow. However, rubbing off too much skin can leave you looking like you forgot your sunscreen on your last skiing trip. 

Redness can occur for various reasons. Sloughing away too much can make your skin more sensitive to other products that you use. Those that previously created few issues suddenly result in stinging and burning. 

Since you are stripping away a layer of your skin, you are more prone to sunburn. Make sure you always follow an exfoliation session by slathering on the SPF 30+. 

2. Flakiness and Ashiness

If you closely examine your skin after applying a BHA-containing cream the night before, you might notice it looks grayish. If you get up close, you’ll see the ashy appearance results from a collection of dead skin cells on your surface — you may see flakes. 

Many people make the mistake of scrubbing away with a washcloth, then slathering on more cream. When you do this, you kill the emerging healthy cells beneath. As a result, your skin can look older, not dewy and young. 

3. Irritation and Peeling

Another unpleasant side effect of going overboard with salicylic acid includes irritation and peeling. You might damage the top layer of your dermis, creating a chemical burn. 

In severe cases, you might require hospitalization to recover. You could develop painful, pus-filled blisters and severe damage to your skin. The bottom line — if you notice redness, irritation and peeling, stop using the problematic product. 

4. Acne Breakouts 

Salicylic acid does help prevent acne by breaking up sebum and dead skin cells. However, when you over-exfoliate, your products can’t keep up with the production of new cells clogging your pores. The result is increased acne breakouts. 

Those with severe acne often don’t know what their skin’s baseline texture looks and feels like. It’s natural to go overboard to try to heal distressing blemishes. However, you could end up looking worse — consult with a dermatologist and follow their guidance for suggested use. 

5. Sensitivity to Other Products 

Finally, exfoliating too often and too vigorously leaves your skin more sensitive to everything it comes in contact with, from the sun to pollutants. Remember, your skin is your body’s largest organ, and its job is to protect your insides from harmful things in the atmosphere. 

If you use BHA beyond your face, you could find that your favorite sweater suddenly leaves you itchy. You may have used the same laundry detergent for years without incident, but now, wearing a turtleneck makes your jawline break out. 

How Often Should You Exfoliate? 

While experts say using products containing salicylic acid once per day is fine, let your complexion be your ultimate guide. Some folks are more sensitive than others, and if you notice excessive redness or dryness from daily applications, cut back to every other day. 

Use caution if you also rely on products that contain retinol and vitamin C. The combination of either with salicylic acid can cause excessive dryness and irritation. 

Avoid the Side Effects of Salicylic Acid by Getting Wise About Exfoliation 

BHA creams can offer a host of benefits to your skin, from acne to wrinkle reduction. Please avoid the adverse side effects of too much salicylic acid by exercising moderation and stopping use at the first signs of trouble. 

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