Salicylic Acid Peel

Salicylic acid is a common ingredient found in skincare products that treat acne blemishes. In higher concentrations salicylic acid is a powerful exfoliating agent used in chemical peeling treatment to improve overall complexion and pigmentation irregularities.

Salicylic Acid Peel Overview - Everything You Need to Know

The Skinny

Salicylic Acid Peel
avg. recovery
1 days
$100 - $300

About the Procedure

Last Updated: 07.27.2021

Salicylic acid (SA) is a beta hydroxy acid that is naturally derived from willow bark, sweet birch, and wintergreen leaves. SA has been observed to decrease sebum secretion, exfoliate the skin, and reduce inflammation. In lower concentrations, typically .5-10%, SA can be found in many beauty and skincare products designed to reduce acne breakouts and facial redness. Salicylic acid in concentrations of 20-30% is effective as a superficial chemical peeling agent to improve the appearance of dry, dull, and uneven complexions. SA peels are considered superficial, meaning they do not penetrate deeper levels of the skin like medium and deep chemical peels. Multiple treatments are necessary to achieve desired results and are commonly combined with other procedures such as microneedling, microdermabrasion, and facials to further rejuvenate the skin. The patient's skin will be analyzed to determine candidacy for the chemical peel. Once approved and any pretreatment skincare courses have been completed, the patient will return to their provider's office for treatment. The skin will be cleansed and prepped. No anesthesia or topical numbing cream is needed as the SA solution will act as its own anesthetic. The solution will be applied to the skin is several coats and left on the skin for 3-5 minutes. Some patients notice a numbing affect to the treated areas 1-3 minutes and may experience a mild stinging sensation, all of which is normal. Unlike a TCA peel, when frosting occurs during a salicylic acid peel it indicates a crystallization of the SA, not a change in the skin proteins. If the skin begins to turn a white color during a salicylic peel, the patient then may experience more peeling and crusting post procedure. Depending on cause for treatment frosting may or may not be acceptable, which is why it is important to seek a skincare professional to perform chemical exfoliating treatments. After 3-5 minutes the applied solution will be removed with water or a gentle cleanser, no neutralizing agent is necessary. A moisturizing cream will then be applied. Most patients are then able to resume normal activity with little to no downtime.

The goal a salicylic acid peel is to treat and reduce the appearance of acne vulgaris, melasma, sun damage, uneven pigmentation, skin inflammation, fine lines, and other mild skin blemishes.

Recovery Notes

Recovery after a salicylic acid peel is minimal. Most patients will experience mild redness and irritation of the treatment area for up to 2 days. Do not apply makeup or astringent cleansers during this period. Use an unscented moisturizer or a topical steroid cream to mitigate any redness or irritation. Regular skincare routines can be resumed once all irritation and skin peeling has ceased.

Ideal Candidate

The ideal candidate for a salicylic acid chemical peel suffers from irregular skin pigmentation, melasma, fine lines and wrinkles, skin inflammation, or acne. Patients will also understand that improvement will be gradual and require multiple treatment sessions.

Not Recommended For

Salicylic chemical peels are not recommended for patients with active skin rashes or injuries, are pregnant, or have used an isotretinoin product within 3-6 months of treatment.

Side Effects

Side effects from a salicylic acid chemical peel may include prolonged redness, changes in skin pigmentation, allergic reaction, changes in skin sensation, dryness, crusting, or intense skin peeling in the treated area.


  • improved skin tone
  • improved skin texture
  • improved acne
  • noninvasive
  • all skin tones


  • temporary
  • multiple treatments for results
  • maintenance treatments necessary

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