Normal skin cleansing may not be enough to keep your skin clear and bright, but incorporating a salicylic acid lotion can help exfoliate your skin and reveal the healthy, new skin underneath. Salicylic acid lotions aren't for everyone, but they can benefit many skin types when used appropriately.
Salicylic acid lotion works by gently removing excess skin. When it's applied, the lotion causes the uppermost layer of skin to swell, soften and then peel, removing dead skin cells [source: WebMD]. Salicylic acid also prevents pores from clogging by slowing the shedding of cells inside hair follicles, which helps prevent acne. Salicylic acid lotions can even break down whiteheads and blackheads -- types of acne that are difficult to treat because they form within pores [source: Mayo Clinic]. However, although these lotions unclog pores and treat existing acne, they don't kill acne-causing bacteria.
If you have psoriasis -- a condition in which skin cells build up on the skin's surface, forming scales and dry patches -- salicylic acid lotion also may be a helpful treatment. Because salicylic acid serves as a peeling agent, it will cause the outermost layer of skin to shed, which will soften and remove scales. However, this treatment can occasionally cause an allergic reaction if the lotion is too strong, so it's important to talk to a doctor before you begin using it [source: National Psoriasis Foundation].
Salicylic acid is also found in products besides lotion, including wart-removal products. These products work in the same basic way as creams used to treat acne and other skin conditions: They cause excess skin that's built up to soften and fall off [source: WebMD]. However, they also use a much stronger concentration of salicylic acid than acne treatments do, so you should not use wart removal creams to treat acne.
Keep reading to learn how to use salicylic acid lotions effectively.