A compound obtained from the bark of the white willow and wintergreen leaves, and also prepared synthetically. It has bacteriostatic, fungicidal, and keratolytic actions. Its salts, the salicylates, are used as analgesics.
Key additive in many skin-care products for the treatment of acne, psoriasis, callouses, corns, keratosis pilaris and warts.
Salicylic acid treats acne by causing skin cells to slough off more readily, preventing pores from clogging up. This effect on skin cells also makes salicylic acid an active ingredient in several shampoos meant to treat dandruff. Use of straight salicylic solution may cause hyperpigmentation on unpretreated skin for those with darker skin types (Fitzpatrick phototypes IV, V, VI), as well as with the lack of use of a broad spectrum sunblock. Subsalicylate in combination with bismuth form the popular stomach relief aid known commonly as Pepto-Bismol. When combined the two key ingredients help control diarrhea, nausea, heartburn, and even gas. It is also very mildly anti-biotic.
Mechanism of action
Salicylic acid directly and irreversibly inhibits the activity of both types of cyclo-oxygenases (COX-1 and COX-2) to decrease the formation of precursors of prostaglandins and thromboxanes from arachidonic acid. Salicylate may competitively inhibit prostaglandin formation. Salicylate's antirheumatic (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory) actions are a result of its analgesic and anti-inflammatory mechanisms. Salicylic acid is a key ingredient in many skin-care products for the treatment of acne, psoriasis, calluses, corns, keratosis pilaris, and warts. It works by causing the cells of the epidermis to slough off more readily, preventing pores from clogging up, and allowing room for new cell growth. Because of its effect on skin cells, salicylic acid is used in several shampoos used to treat dandruff. Salicylic acid is also used as an active ingredient in gels which remove verrucas (plantar warts). Salicylic acid inhibits the oxidation of uridine-5-diphosphoglucose (UDPG) competitively with nicotinamide adenosine dinucleotide (NAD) and noncompetitively with UDPG. It also competitively inhibits the transferring of glucuronyl group of uridine-5-phosphoglucuronic acid (UDPGA) to the phenolic acceptor. The wound-healing retardation action of salicylates is probably due mainly to its inhibitory action on mucopolysaccharide synthesis.