Spreading Clean Beauty

Natural salicylic acid: the search for natural alternatives in exfoliation

The search for natural salicylic acid concurs with consumer’s demands for gentle but effective solutions in exfoliation products.

Guided by a growing interest in natural, clean beauty products, consumers are increasingly informed on each ingredient’s potential to enhance their skin health. In such a context, salicylic acid has become one of the best-known ingredients for exfoliation, due to this substance’s potential to reach the innermost layers of the skin.

Taking these trends into account, we analyze the role of natural salicylic acid in a beauty market dominated by demands for effective natural ingredients and what the best natural alternatives for this ingredient are.

What is natural salicylic acid and what are its effects

Derived from a plant hormone and part of salicylates, its chemical composition means salicylic acid is an oil-soluble substance. This characteristic, when applied to beauty and personal-care products, means salicylic acid is able to penetrate further into the skin’s pores and through the lipid layers. This, in turn, makes salicylic acid an exceedingly efficient ingredient for a number of skin care treatments: 

  • It presents anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties
  • Its exfoliating effects are based on this ingredient’s capacities to loosen and break down skin cells. This process helps remove dead cells and, as a result, skin becomes more elastic and polished
  • Salicylic acid is also effective on preventing hyperpigmentation and freckles
  • This substance is appreciated for its anti-acne performance: penetrating into pores, it then unclogs them and eliminates skin debris. As such, it’s a common ingredient for products targeting the removal of acne-related issues such as blackheads and whiteheads

The search for natural salicylic acid

While synthetic salicylic acid has been a well-known ingredient in the BPC market, the shift of consumer demands towards ingredients with a natural origin has compelled brands and laboratories to search for natural ‘salicylic acid-like’ solutions.

A majority of consumers today value a beauty brand’s efforts for offering products where natural ingredients are prioritized. While this is a growing trend across all age groups, younger generations are typically more interested in natural ingredients. In fact, a 2020 survey claimed 47% of millennial respondents are willing to pay more for premium quality products which have been manufactured using organic and natural ingredients. 

At the same time, this search for natural salicylic acid products coincides with other consumer behaviour trends shaping the current post-pandemic BPC market.

On the one hand, it’s also part of consumer’s growing focus on product ingredients, as the effectiveness perceived and demanded by the consumer is increasingly focused on ingredients.

On the other hand, brands are also being compelled to balance natural ingredients with science-based effectiveness. 

As a result, these concurrent trends have also led to the growing focus on other effective ingredients that go beyond natural salicylic acid, such as the use of fruit citric acids in skin care.

Potential issues with salicylic acid and some natural alternatives

Because of salicylic acid’s abilities to reach the innermost layers of skin, it can be potentially overused and cause issues for sensitive skin, such as dryness, excessive peeling or irritation. 

As a result, brands looking to add effective exfoliation products to their catalogues that tap into natural and clean trends should look into alternative active ingredients. While fruit extracts such as Provital’s apricot extract don’t contain salicylic acid, they’re also relevant sources for the same exfoliating and renovation effects.

This particular extract provides skin moisturizing and smoothness, all based on apricots’ abundant malic acid content as well as other beneficial fruit acids such as the intermediates of the citric acid cycle (including cis-aconitic, succinic, pyruvic, citromalic, fumaric, glyceric, glycolic, glyoxylic, isocitric, lactic, oxalacetic, oxalic and 2-oxoglutaric acids). 

More specifically, the science behind this active ingredient’s powerful cell regeneration possibilities is based on the same exfoliating action as salicylic acid, since they are allα-hydroxy acids (AHA). These acids act at the stratum corneum level, making it thinner and improving skin flexibility while promoting exfoliation processes. 
All in all, this natural apricot extract provides an effective alternative to natural salicylic acid with the potential to target ingredient-focused consumers looking for plant-based natural skin care products.

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