Salicylic acid is a topical, over-the-counter treatment approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat psoriasis. Salicylic acid is often used as an ingredient in creams, lotions, soaps, and shampoos, sometimes in combination with coal tar. Some doctors recommend the use of salicylic acid with a prescribed topical corticosteroid such as Luxiq. Salicylic acid is frequently used to treat psoriasis on the scalp. Salicylic acid is also referred to as sal acid.
Salicylic acid should be used with caution in people with diabetes, poor blood circulation, liver or kidney problems, skin infections, or an allergy to non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications such as Motrin. Children and teenagers should not use salicylic acid while they are infected with the flu or chicken pox. Salicylic acid may not be appropriate for women who are pregnant or breastfeeding.
Salicylic acid is a keratolytic, or medication that promotes peeling. In cases of psoriasis, Salicylic acid is believed to work by softening scales and making them easier to remove.
How do I take it?
Always check with your doctor before taking a new medication, including over-the-counter medications.
Use products containing salicylic acid according to directions given by your doctor or found on the medication package. Do not exceed the recommended dosage.
Avoid getting salicylic acid on broken skin, eyes, nose, mouth, or genitals. Wash your hands after applying salicylic acid.
A 2013 article reviewed the use of classic topical treatment combinations for psoriasis. The researchers concluded that salicylic acid and topical corticosteroids were more effective in combination than as mono-therapies, and that combinations of classic topical treatments were beneficial for some people with psoriasis when newer medications fail to provide results.
Common side effects of salicylic acid include burning, itching, peeling, and redness. These side effects may fade as your body becomes accustomed to the medication.
Salicylic acid can cause skin irritation if it is too strong, or left on the skin for too long.
Salicylic acid can cause temporary hair loss.
If the body absorbs too much salicylic acid, it can cause an overdose. Get medical help immediately if you experience confusion, dizziness, nausea, diarrhea, vomiting, severe headache, rapid breathing, or hearing changes while using salicylic acid.
Seek medical help immediately if you experience symptoms of an allergic reaction such as trouble breathing, severe dizziness, rash, or itching or swelling of the face, tongue, and throat.