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The Benefits of Salicylic Acid for Hair

You’ve probably heard about the hero skincare ingredient salicylic acid. But, what about salicylic acid for hair? Turns out, this does-it-all even works wonders on the skin above your baby hairs, giving you the clean slate you’ve been waiting for so your follicles are clear to grow without dandruff or buildup. If we’ve learned anything from researching salicylic acid, it’s to stop treating our scalp skin like it’s somehow removed from the facial skin we painstakingly care for. When you prioritize salicylic acid you don’t have to compromise your scalp health for your hair. Below, we spoke with a top derm about the benefits of salicylic acid for hair, how to use it, and more.

Salicylic acid for hair | Mane Addicts
(Image Source: Unsplash / Claudia Mañas)

About the Expert

Dhaval Bhanusali, MD, FAAD, founder of Hudson Dermatology & Laser Surgery, is a board-certified dermatologist, tech health company founder, and creator of  HairStim Labs. He is known as the “King of Formulation” and is a regular guest speaker on ABC News, Fox, Daily Mail, and others.


What Is Salicylic Acid?

According to board-certified dermatologist Dr. Bhanusali, “salicylic acid is a beta hydroxy acid commonly used in acne, helping with oily skin, and also to help with the penetration of actives.” Little known fact, it’s actually “derived from willow bark,” he explains. So not only is it effective, but it’s also plant-based and natural.

Salicylic Acid for Hair Benefits

Again, salicylic acid doesn’t have to be confined to your face. It works just as well all over, and that includes your hair, especially those fighting pesky scalp issues. “The acid can help with those who get folliculitis or scalp acne as well as those with oily hair (when used as a cleanser),” Dr. Bhanusali notes. What’s more, it may even help you maximize other products in your current arsenal, including bolstering hair loss treatments. “It can be used to enhance penetration of certain actives like minoxidil, he confirms.” For anyone suffering from dandruff, take note—salicylic acid will give you a clean slate. “It’s a great exfoliator for flakes,” Dr. Bhanusali confirms.

Who Would Benefit the Most From Salicylic Acid?

Salicylic acid is hyper-effective when combined with other ingredients, which is why Dr. Bhanusali likes it “in compounds where additional penetration is needed.” Because of this special enhancement feature, he notes that “we sometimes use it in prescription formulas (via HairStim labs) to try and get better penetration of minoxidil.”

Who Should Avoid It and Why?

That being said, salicylic isn’t for all—namely “anyone with sensitive or dry skin,” says Dr. Bhanusali. If you go red easily or irritation is a constant, it’s best to leave it in the bottle. Chances are that if you have a reaction from it on your facial skin, it won’t agree with the skin on your scalp, as this is even more sensitive.

How to Use Salicylic Acid for Hair

Salicylic acid is more powerful when coupled with other strong active ingredients. “We use them with prescription hair loss formulas to help grow hair (via increased penetration). It can be also beneficial in patients who have increased flakes but as part of an existing regimen (not on its own),” Dr. Bhanusali shares. So, if you use a salicylic acid formula coupled with a dandruff shampoo, you’ll maximize the effectiveness of the dandruff blocker, which is especially good to know if you’ve got a stubborn case.

The Best Salicylic Acid Hair Products

First Aid Beauty Anti-Dandruff Scalp Serum With 2% Salicylic Acid: $32

The “skintification” of hair has completely changed the products we use and how we use them. Case in point, First Aid Beauty’s Anti-Dandruff Scalp Serum With 2% Salicylic Acid. This FDA-approved, lightweight, leave-in treatment powered by salicylic acid combats dandruff and dry skin and the nozzle makes applying the serum directly to the scalp a breeze.

First Aid Beauty's Anti-Dandruff Scalp Serum With 2% Salicylic Acid | Mane Addicts
(Image Source: Ulta.com)

Hairstim: $60

This prescription-only monthly subscription is formulated specifically for you. In this case, salicylic acid can help boost proven hair loss fighters for extra efficacy.

(Image Source: Hairstimlabs.com)

Oribe Serene Scalp Anti-Dandruff Shampoo: $46

Keep calm with this Serene Scalp Shampoo by Oribe. This shampoo uses salicylic acid to fight dandruff while hydrating.

(Image Source: Sephora.com)

Sachajuan Scalp Shampoo: $31

Say goodbye to any pesky scalp concerns, including dandruff and itchiness, with this powerful shampoo by cult fave brand Sachajuan. Thanks to a proprietary blend of rosemary oil, menthol, salicylic acid, and ginger extract, your scalp will be in tip-top shape.

(Image Source: Dermstore.com)

Sunday Riley Clean Rinse Clarifying Scalp Treatment Serum: $48

Sunday Riley is peak skintification. The brand shows off its skin expertise with this Clean Rinse Clarifying Treatment that gives your scalp a clean slate. Not only does it eliminate flakes and product buildup, but it goes even deeper, clearing away pollution from your hair. Leave it on for up to 30 minutes to reap the full benefits.

(Image Source: Sundayriley.com)

Struggle with scalp acne? HERE is how to effectively use salicylic acid to clear your scalp!



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