Salicylic acid (On the skin)


Salicylic Acid (sal-i-SIL-ik AS-id)

Treats skin problems, such as acne, psoriasis, or seborrheic dermatitis. Some forms of salicylic acid are used to remove warts.

Brand Name(s)

AMBI Even & Clear Exfoliating Wash, AMBI Even & Clear Foaming Cleanser, Aveeno Clear Complexion Cleansing Bar, Aveeno Clear Complexion Cream Cleanser, Aveeno Clear Complexion Daily Cleansing Pads, Aveeno Clear Complexion Daily Moisturizer, Aveeno Clear Complexion Foaming Cleanser, Avidoxy DK, Avosil, Bensal HP, Betasal, Clean & Clear Advantage Acne Control Kit, Clean & Clear Advantage Acne Moisturizer, Clean & Clear Advantage Acne Spot Treatment, Clean & Clear Advantage Daily Soothing Acne Scrub

When This Medicine Should Not Be Used

How to Use This Medicine

Foam, Paste, Cream, Lotion, Pad, Ointment, Soap, Stick, Shampoo, Liquid, Gel/Jelly

  • Take your medicine as directed.
  • Follow the instructions on the medicine label if you are using this medicine without a prescription.
  • Use this medicine only on your skin. Rinse it off right away if it gets on a cut or scrape. Do not get the medicine in your eyes, nose, or mouth.
  • Wash your hands with soap and water before and after you use this medicine.
  • At first, you might need to use this medicine on only a small skin area or use it only once a day. This is to make sure it does not irritate your skin.
  • For lotion, cream, or gel:Apply a thin layer of the medicine to the affected area. Rub it in gently.
  • If this medicine comes with an applicator or pad, use only that applicator or pad to apply the medicine. Some forms of this medicine can be applied directly with your fingers, and some forms can be applied with a cotton ball or washcloth. Follow the directions on the medicine package.
  • The gel or liquid might be flammable. Do not use it or store it near a flame, heater, or anything else hot.
  • It may take up to 6 weeks before your skin improves. It may take up to 12 weeks to remove a wart.

If a dose is missed:

  • It is usually not a problem if you miss one dose of this medicine.
  • Apply a dose as soon as you can. If it is almost time for your next dose, wait until then and apply a regular dose. Do not apply extra medicine to make up for a missed dose.

How to Store and Dispose of This Medicine

  • Store the medicine in a closed container at room temperature, away from heat, moisture, and direct light.
  • Ask your pharmacist or doctor how to dispose of the medicine container and any leftover or expired medicine.
  • Keep all medicine out of the reach of children. Never share your medicine with anyone.

Drugs and Foods to Avoid

Ask your doctor or pharmacist before using any other medicine, including over-the-counter medicines, vitamins, and herbal products.

Warnings While Using This Medicine

  • Make sure your doctor knows if you are pregnant or breastfeeding.
  • Do not use this medicine on a large skin area unless your doctor tells you to.
  • Do not use this medicine to treat a wart if you have diabetes or trouble with blood circulation.
  • Call your doctor if your symptoms do not improve or if they get worse.
  • If you use more than one product that contains salicylic acid, your skin is more likely to become too red, irritated, or dry. If this happens, you might need to use only one product.

Possible Side Effects While Using This Medicine

Call your doctor right away if you notice any of these side effects:

  • Skin sores or ulcers.
  • Severe skin redness, peeling, or irritation.

If you notice other side effects that you think are caused by this medicine, tell your doctor

Call your doctor for medical advice about side effects. You may report side effects to FDA at 1-800-FDA-1088

Version Info

  • Last reviewed on 8/4/2014

A.D.A.M., Inc. is accredited by URAC, also known as the American Accreditation HealthCare Commission ( URAC's accreditation program is an independent audit to verify that A.D.A.M. follows rigorous standards of quality and accountability. A.D.A.M. is among the first to achieve this important distinction for online health information and services. Learn more about A.D.A.M.'s editorial policy, editorial process and privacy policy. A.D.A.M. is also a founding member of Hi-Ethics and subscribes to the principles of the Health on the Net Foundation (

The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- 2013 A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.