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Capryloyl salicylic acid

* The ester of salicylic acid. Sometimes referred to as LHA. See beta-hydroxy acid.

A skin conditioning agent that works by enhancing the appearance of dry/damaged skin, reducing dry patches/flaking and restoring suppleness to the skin. As an ester of salicylic acid (aka beta hydroxy acid or BHA), it's categorized as a BHA that works as an exfoliant, anti-inflammatory, and antiseptic. The skin care community regards it as an invaluable ingredient because of its multi-functional and versatile nature.

* The ester of salicylic acid. Sometimes referred to as LHA. See beta-hydroxy acid.

Functions:

A skin conditioning agent that works by enhancing the appearance of dry/damaged skin, reducing dry patches/flaking and restoring suppleness to the skin. As an ester of salicylic acid (aka beta hydroxy acid or BHA), it's categorized as a BHA that works as an exfoliant, anti-inflammatory, and antiseptic. The skin care community regards it as an invaluable ingredient because of its multi-functional and versatile nature.

As a keratolytic agent, it exfoliates the skin by causing the cells of the epidermis (upper layer of skin) to shed more easily, making room for new cell growth. Higher concentrations (8-12%) of topically applied salicylic acid can effectively remove warts. Studies have documented concentrations as low as 2% to improve skin thickness, collagen production, wrinkling, roughness and hyperpigmentation over a time period of just 6 months. A study published in Dermatology Times showed a significant improvement in wrinkles in 41% of the subjects who regularly used an LHA (capryloyl salicylic acid) peel, and a substantial lightening of hyperpigmentation in 46% of the LHA users (compared to only 31% and 34%, respectively, for those who used glycolic peels).

Unlike alpha hydroxy acids, which are water soluble, beta hydroxy acids (and its esters) are lipid (oil) soluble. This means that they not only exfoliate the upper layer of skin, but also penetrate deep through the epidermis to exfoliate the dead skin cells and excess oil built up in the pores. For this reason, capryloyl salicylic acid is frequently used to treat blackheads, whiteheads and acne. Yet its keratolytic ability is not the only reason for why it is so often administered to treat blemishes and breakouts. This ingredient also functions as both an antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory agent, making it an ideal anti-acne ingredient. While many other exfoliants (i.e. AHA’s) often irritate the skin, salicylic acid does just the opposite by reducing inflammation. This is due to the fact that it shares a similar chemical composition as Aspirin, a well known analgesic and anti-inflammatory, and thus shares many of Aspirin’s functions as well.

Because this ingredient requires very low concentrations to exfoliate dead skin cells, remove build-up inside the pores, condition the skin and calm inflamed skin, it is used in a variety of cosmetic products. You can find it in moisturizer, cleanser, astringent/toner, anti-aging treatment, shampoo/conditioner, acne cream, facial scrub and skin faders.

Safety Measures/Side Effects:

Despite the fact that salicylic acid appears to be less irritating than AHA’s, they can still have adverse side effects such as burning, stinging, itching, redness and possible scarring (especially those w/ darker skin). However, most of these risks can be avoided by choosing the appropriate concentrations and PH levels for your skin type. It usually works best at a concentration of 1-2%, at a pH level of 3 to 4.

Perhaps the biggest concern about using capryloyl salicylic acid is that it increases the skin’s sun sensitivity by 50%. It’s quite the paradox because while it can effectively reverse some of the damage and pigmentation caused by UV rays, it also makes the skin more susceptible to sunburn and photo-aging. It’s imperative that anyone using this ingredient apply a broad spectrum SPF 30+ sunscreen every morning, wait 30 minutes before going outside, and reapply every couple of hours. It is also recommended that individuals use products with this ingredient only during the night, to further reduce the risk of sun sensitivity.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has reviewed the safety of this ingredient, and determined it as safe to use in OTC drug products, wart removers and anti-dandruff products. The CIR Expert Panel has assessed that this ingredient's potential for skin irritation and sun sensitivity appear to be less mild than that of AHA’s, and have also recognized it as safe to use in OTC cosmetics. However, they’ve also voiced concern over the potential increase in UV damage associated with all exfoliants, and stress the importance of wearing a daily sunscreen in conjunction with exfoliating ingredients such as a BHA like Capryloyl salicylic acid.

The EU Cosmetics Directive has listed this ingredient as safe to use in rinse-off hair products at concentrations up to 3%, and in all other products at up to 2%. They’ve also determined salicylic acid as unsafe to use in products for children under the age of 3, except for shampoo formulations.

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