Is Salicylic Acid Good for the Treatment of Psoriasis?
The ingredient salicylic acid seems to pop up a lot in skincare products. These days you will find salicylic acid in anti-wrinkle creams, moisturizing lotions and even over-the-counter (OTC) drug products. Sometimes when people see the word “acid” in an ingredient list they immediately think it is going to burn when they apply it to their psoriasis area. However, if formulated correctly, salicylic acid can be a very good for the treatment of psoriasis.
What is Salicylic Acid?
Salicylic Acid is a beta-hydroxy acid (BHA) and is known as a keratolytic. In simple terms, keratolytics are basically exfoliating ingredients. They work by dissolving the substance that causes skin cells to stick together. This helps to remove dead skin cells more quickly from our body. Since psoriasis causes our immune system to over produce skin cells, the only way to fight the skin condition is to help our bodies accelerate the exfoliation process. By accelerating the exfoliation process the dead skin cells can be removed more quickly than the psoriasis can create them. This helps to reduce the plaque buildup that is often found with psoriasis.
Where Does Salicylic Acid Come From?
Salicylic acid is a natural substance that can be derived from the bark of a willow tree. It was first discovered and named way back in 1763. However, there are earlier accounts dating back to ancient Greece, about Hippocrates using willow bark compounds to help relieve aches and pains. Salicylic acid is really quite common these days. In fact, we all likely have a form of it in our medicine cabinets right now. If you look at the back of an aspirin bottle you will notice that it is made from a derivative of salicylic acid called acetylsalicylic acid. Salicylic acid got its start in topical skincare products sometime in the early 20th century. It wasn’t until later in the 20th century that the FDA began to recognize salicylic acid as an over-the-counter drug treatment for psoriasis.
What is the Difference between an AHA and a BHA
Alpha Hydroxy Acids (AHA) and Beta Hydroxy Acids (BHA) have become well known for their benefits in topical skincare preparations. The main difference between these two is that Alpha Hydroxy Acids are water soluble and Beta Hydroxy Acids are oil soluble. They are both used for their exfoliating or peeling properties to help the body more quickly remove dead skin cells. AHA’s are mainly fruit acids and are found naturally in most citrus fruits. They can also be found in milk (Lactic Acid), corn and sugar cane. Alpha Hydroxy Acids tend to be more irritating to the skin and can have side effects such as dryness, scaling and burning. Beta Hydroxy Acids like salicylic acid are more gentle because they are oil soluble. They can work naturally with the oils in our skin without causing the drying and irritation that is often associated with AHA’s. With both AHA’s and BHA’s there are limits to the amount that should be used in any formulation to prevent side effects.
The FDA Recognizes Salicylic Acid for the Treatment of Psoriasis
Any topical skincare product that is labeled for the treatment of psoriasis is considered an OTC drug product by the FDA. OTC drug products are formulated under specific guidelines presented by the FDA to meet the standards needed to be an effective treatment for psoriasis. The percentage of salicylic acid in a topical cream can vary slightly within a prescribed range. The percentage of salicylic acid found in a topical shampoo or body wash may be higher than found in a cream because these products are formulated to be on the scalp or skin for only a short period of time. Where creams are formulated to be applied and left on the skin. Although there are other substances recognized by the FDA for the treatment of psoriasis in topical skincare products, salicylic acid is definitely the most popular. The main reason is because it is odor-free. The second most popular ingredient found in OTC products for psoriasis is Coal Tar. Coal tar can be very effective in treating psoriasis but it comes along with an intense and often offensive smell.
Is Salicylic Acid All You Need to Treat Psoriasis?
Using salicylic acid as an active ingredient will help to remove the dead buildup of skin cells that is caused by psoriasis. However, your skin will need extra moisture and nourishment if it is going to heal and look normal again. Many salicylic acid products will quickly remove the dead skin cells by people find they are often left with red blotches on their skin. The redness comes from the new healthy skin cells being revealed. Our bodies need moisture and nourishment to help calm and soothe the redness so the skin can look normal and healthy. Moisturizing ingredients like aloe are excellent when combined with emollients that lock the moisture in the skin. Nourishment like vitamins, minerals and proteins can be obtained from essential oils, herbal extracts and even food based ingredients like eggs. Eggs are a complete source of nutrition. They contain every vitamin, mineral and protein necessary for life. The topical use of eggs in skincare products can be very beneficial to your skin.
By combining a BHA like salicylic acid together with moisturizing and nourishing ingredients, topical creams, lotions and shampoos can be created that are excellent for the treatment of psoriasis.