EWG Risk Score:
What is it:
Salicylic acid is a weak acid that is typically synthetically produced. Also known as beta-hydroxy acid, it's used in anti-aging, anti-acne, and other skin care treatments.
- Many studies have shown Salicylic acid to cause developmental abnormalities during pregnancy. Most of these studies, however, pertain to salicylic acid being taken internally. No studies of the reproductive/developmental effects of external/dermal applicaion are available. (Source) (Source) (Source) (Source)
- Salicylic acid is an phenolic aromatic hydrocarbon. This is the same class of chemicals as BPA and other estrogen mimiking compounds. (Source) According to a 1973 RTECs study, salicylic acid does act as a xenoestrogen. More recent studies are not available on the subject.
- The FDA advises that because salicylic acid is a beta hydroxy acid that removes dead skin cells and reveals newer cells, it can increase one's suseptibility to UV radiation. They suggest that sunscreen or sunblock ingredients be used with any product containing salicylic acid to counteract the damaging effects of UV radiation. The FDA is studying the long-term effects of salicylic acid (Source)
Types of products it's in:
Anti-aging creams, anti-acne creams, toners, scalp treatments, exfoliants and scrubs
Some brands that use this ingredient:
More studies need to be done on the possible estrogenic and developmental effects of salicylic acid when applied to skin. Because of my personal suseptibility to xenoestrogens and the phenolic chemical structure of this compound, I avoid salicylic acid.
Salicylic acid can be helpful against acne in the short term, it only covers up the symptoms and doesn't get to the root cause of acne (hormonal imbalances, dietary intolerances etc, lack of omega-3 fatty acids.) Popular acne treatments like Proactiv use salicylic acid, and while they may help to dry up blemishes, as soon as one stops using the product, they come back. If you're really trying to treat acne, visit a skilled naturopathic physician to get to the actual cause of the acne and treat it from within with dietary changes and supplementation.