Select a treatment to
get started

Rosacea-Friendly or Bust: Salicylic Acid & Rosacea   

Read on

Salicylic acid. This common skincare ingredient is in a lot of over-the-counter acne washes. Because rosacea can cause acne-like breakouts, it makes sense that you might want to reach for a salicylic acid wash. But, if you’re trying to manage rosacea symptoms, this is one ingredient you might want to avoid. 

Rosacea-Friendly or Bust is a series here on the Strut Health Journal where we detail what ingredients are rosacea-friendly and which are likely to cause a flare-up. Knowing what triggers your rosacea is the first step to symptom management.  

In this post, we’ll detail salicylic acid and rosacea -- why you’ll want to steer clear of this common ingredient and what you can use instead. 


Salicylic acid for rosacea: friend or foe?

Dermatologists do not recommend that those with rosacea use salicylic acid as it’s a pretty harsh astringent which is a “no-go” for rosacea skincare. 

Salicylic acid is very exfoliating, it’s easy to over-exfoliate when cleansing with a salicylic acid wash. Harsh exfoliation is one important thing those with rosacea should avoid. Often, the skin barrier is likely already compromised so don’t make matters worse with a chemical exfoliant like salicylic acid. 

Rosacea-prone skin is often sensitive and reactive, so any harsh soap, acid (salicylic, glycolic, lactic), or astringent (alcohol, witch hazel) might cause rosacea to worsen. 

Even though those with rosacea will want to avoid it, salicylic acid is not an altogether bad ingredient. 

In fact, it’s a great chemical exfoliator that aids acne care for some. Salicylic acid penetrates deep into the skin and helps to dissolves cell gunk that gets trapped in pores. 

However, if you’re worried about acne and have rosacea, there are gentler products you can use instead of salicylic acid. 


Rosacea-friendly salicylic acid swap

So, no, salicylic acid is not exactly rosacea-friendly, but other acne-fighting agents are. 

Here at Strut Health, for our rosacea subtype 2 patients (who are prone to acne-like breakouts), we recommend the use of azelaic acid and/or metronidazole

These two rosacea-friendly ingredients are anti-inflammatory, redness-reducing, and may help clear pustules and papules. 

Azelaic acid, at prescription strengths, is a mild rosacea-friendly exfoliant that can help reduce rosacea breakouts. Unlike salicylic acid which is just too harsh to be effective for rosacea-prone skin. 

In a study researching the treatment of rosacea, researchers found that both 15% azelaic acid gel and metronidazole gel decreased facial erythema (redness), and decreased inflammatory papules and pustules (small pimples) over 15 weeks.


Strut Health creates custom rosacea formulas available online 

Instead of reaching for salicylic acid to tackle breakouts, opt for rosacea-friendly solutions that won’t make matters worse. Our custom formulas are tailored to each individual to meet their specific needs. Here at Strut Health, we believe rosacea treatment should be easy, affordable, and accessible. 

If you want to see if our formulas are right for you simply complete a questionnaire-based online doctor's consultation.

If our doctors find this is a good fit for you, we’ll ship your prescription to your doorstep.


Article Summary

It’s not advisable to use salicylic acid if you have rosacea. This acid is a very harsh exfoliant that has the potential to worsen rosacea symptoms. It’s best to use gentler acne solutions that are tailored specifically to rosacea-prone skin. If you’re reaching for salicylic acid to tackle rosacea-related breakouts, skip the harsh stuff and opt for prescription solutions like azelaic acid and/or metronidazole


Free shipping
Free follow-up care
Cancel anytime, no fees
Free online MD visit

Related posts