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Salicylic acid topical

Generic name: salicylic acid topical [ SAL-i-SIL-ik-AS-id-TOP-ik-al ]
Brand names: Acnevir, CeraVe SA Renewing, Compound W, DermalZone, Dermarest Psoriasis Skin Treatment, ... show all 157 brands
Dosage forms: topical bar (1%); topical cream (-; 6%); topical film, extended release (15%); topical foam (6%); topical gel (17%; 2%; 3%; 6%); topical kit (17%; 6%; 6% with cleanser); topical liquid (16.7%; 17.6%; 17%; 27.5%; 3%); topical lotion (-; 2%; 6%; 6% with cleanser); topical ointment (3%); topical pad (0.5%; 1%; 2%; 40%); topical shampoo (1.8%; 2%; 3%; 6%); topical soap (1%; 2%; 3%); topical solution (26%; 28.5%); topical solution, extended release (28%); topical stick (40%)
Drug classes: Topical acne agents, Topical keratolytics

Medically reviewed by Drugs.com on Aug 3, 2021. Written by Cerner Multum.

What is salicylic acid topical?

Salicylic acid is a keratolytic (peeling agent) that causes shedding of the outer layer of skin.

Salicylic acid topical (for the skin) is used in the treatment of acne, dandruff, seborrhea, or psoriasis, and to remove corns, calluses, and warts.

Salicylic acid topical may also be used for purposes not listed in this medication guide.

Warnings

Salicylic acid topical can cause a rare but serious allergic reaction or severe skin irritation. Stop using salicylic acid topical and get emergency medical help if you have: hives, itching; difficult breathing, feeling light-headed; or swelling of your face, lips, tongue, or throat.

Before taking this medicine

You should not use salicylic acid topical if you are allergic to it.

Using this medicine in a child or teenager with flu symptoms or chickenpox can cause a serious or fatal condition called Reye's syndrome.

Ask a doctor or pharmacist if this medicine is safe to use if you have:

  • liver or kidney disease;

  • diabetes; or

  • blood circulation problems.

Ask a doctor before using this medicine if you are pregnant or breastfeeding.

How should I use salicylic acid topical?

Salicylic acid topical is available in many different forms, such as liquid, gel, lotion, cream, ointment, foam, soap, shampoo, cloth pads, and skin patches.

Use exactly as directed on the label, or as prescribed by your doctor.

Do not take by mouth. Topical medicine is for use only on the skin.

Salicylic acid topical can cause a rare but serious allergic reaction or severe skin irritation. Apply a very small amount of the medicine as a "test dose" to 1 or 2 small skin areas every day for 3 days in a row. If you do not have a reaction to the medicine, begin using your full prescribed amount on the 4th day.

You may need to shake the medicine before use. Follow all directions on the product label.

Do not use salicylic acid topical to treat any condition that has not been checked by your doctor.

Your symptoms may not improve for several days. Call your doctor if your symptoms do not improve, or if they get worse.

Store salicylic acid topical in the original container at room temperature, away from moisture and heat.

Keep the foam canister away from open flame or high heat. The canister may explode if it gets too hot. Do not puncture or burn an empty aerosol canister.

What happens if I miss a dose?

Salicylic acid topical is used when needed. If you are on a dosing schedule, skip any missed dose. Do not use two doses at one time.

What happens if I overdose?

Seek emergency medical attention or call the Poison Help line at 1-800-222-1222 if anyone has accidentally swallowed the medicine.

What should I avoid while using salicylic acid topical?

Avoid using salicylic acid topical on open wounds or on sunburned, windburned, dry, or irritated skin.

Rinse with water if this medicine gets in your eyes or mouth.

This medicine may be flammable. Do not use near high heat or open flame. Wash the medicine off your hands before handling a hair styling appliance (such as a curling or straightening iron). High heat could cause the medicine to ignite and burn your skin. Do not smoke until the gel has completely dried on your skin.

Avoid using other medications on the areas you treat with salicylic acid topical, unless you doctor tells you to.

Salicylic acid topical side effects

Salicylic acid topical can cause a rare but serious allergic reaction or severe skin irritation. These reactions may occur just a few minutes after you apply the medicine, or within a day or longer afterward.

Stop using this medicine and get emergency medical help if you have signs of an allergic reaction: hives, itching; difficult breathing, feeling light-headed; swelling of your face, lips, tongue, or throat.

Also stop using salicylic acid topical and call your doctor at once if you have:

  • severe headache, ringing in your ears, problems with hearing, thinking problems;

  • severe stomach pain, vomiting, or diarrhea;

  • a light-headed feeling, like you might pass out;

  • shortness of breath; or

  • severe burning, dryness, or irritation of the skin.

Common side effects may include:

This is not a complete list of side effects and others may occur. Call your doctor for medical advice about side effects. You may report side effects to FDA at 1-800-FDA-1088.

Salicylic acid topical dosing information

Usual Adult Dose for Acne:

Salicylic acid topical 1% pad:
Cleanse affected area. Apply 2 to 3 times daily. If dryness occurs, reduce to every other or once a day.

Usual Adult Dose for Dermatological Disorders:

Salicylic acid topical 16.7% liquid:
Wash and dry area thoroughly. Apply enough to cover each wart 1 to 2 times daily.

Salicylic acid 3% topical soap:
Apply to affect areas at least twice weekly. Leave lather on scalp or skin for two minutes then rinse. Repeat if necessary.

Salicylic acid topical 6% cream:
Apply to affected area once daily. Hydrate area for 5 minutes prior to application if possible. Occlude the area at night. Wash off in morning.

Salicylic acid topical 6% lotion:
Apply to affected area once daily. Hydrate area for 5 minutes prior to application if possible. Occlude the area at night. Wash off in morning.

Salicylic acid topical 6% foam:
Apply to affected area once daily at bedtime. Hydrate area for 5 minutes prior to application if possible. Occlude the area after application. Wash off in morning.

Usual Pediatric Dose for Acne:

Salicylic acid topical 1% pad:
12 years or older: Cleanse affected area. Apply 2 to 3 times daily. If dryness occurs, reduce to every other or once a day.

What other drugs will affect salicylic acid topical?

Medicine used on the skin is not likely to be affected by other drugs you use, but many drugs can interact. Tell your doctor about all your current medicines, including prescription and over-the-counter medicines, vitamins, and herbal products.

Further information

Remember, keep this and all other medicines out of the reach of children, never share your medicines with others, and use this medication only for the indication prescribed.

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.