This isn’t to say that salicylic acid is bad for skin. The chemical exfoliant and beta-hydroxy acid is a staple acne-fighting ingredient that experts recommend all the time to help clear pores. But it’s not your best bet if you’re over the age of 50. “In general, I have older patients avoid salicylic acid as an ingredient,” says Paul Jarrod Frank, MD, a cosmetic dermatologist and founder of PFRANKMD. “It’s used mostly for younger people who are acne-prone, but it is quite drying.” The ingredient’s potential to be drying is the main issue, since, he says, you have a more difficult time balancing hydration in the skin as you age.
Despite the drying factor, however, it really depends on your skin type. According to board-certified dermatologist Mona Gohara, MD, oily skin types of any age can benefit from salicylic acid. But if your skin is super sensitive, it’s probably best for you to skip it. “It’s a good exfoliant, but it is not for sensitive skin,” says Shirley Chi, MD, a board-certified dermatologist in Los Angeles.
If your skin is relatively normal or on the dry side, Dr. Frank recommends using a certain trio of skin-care products in your regimen in lieu of salicylic acid in order to maintain an even, healthy, moisturized complexion. “Sun protection, hydration, and an antioxidant serum are essential to the maintenance [of healthy skin],” he says. So stock up on those three star skin-care buys, and you should be good to go.
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