Benefits of Using Salicylic Acid on Your Scalp
(Photo : Vecteezy / Roman Friptuleac)

One agent of scalp care is salicylic acid. That's right, this beauty ingredient does more than zap those pesky acne; your scalp can benefit a lot from it, too!

What is salicylic acid?

Salicylic acid is a powerhouse ingredient in skincare, effectively clearing dead skin cells and pore-clogging impurities from head to toe. It is commonly used to treat calluses, acne, psoriasis, and dandruff, thanks to its ability to break down and shed dead skin cells. Found in willow tree bark and some foods like walnuts, salicylic acid is a key ingredient in dandruff shampoo and hair care, gently exfoliating the scalp and maintaining moisture.

Scalp Benefits of Using Salicylic Acid

Salicylic acid is a versatile ingredient with numerous benefits for the scalp. It is commonly incorporated into shampoos and treatments designed to manage dandruff, seborrheic dermatitis, and scalp psoriasis. Dandruff, characterized by flaky and itchy skin, can be caused by various factors, including oily skin, dry scalp, and fungal infections. Salicylic acid helps by softening keratin, allowing for quicker skin cell turnover and reducing dryness and flakiness.

Relieves seborrheic dermatitis

Seborrheic dermatitis, another common scalp condition, is linked to an inflammatory response to the fungus Malassezia. Salicylic acid can effectively reduce symptoms like itchiness and redness by inhibiting fungus growth and promoting hydration. While it doesn't directly treat scalp psoriasis, it can help soften the skin and enhance the effectiveness of topical treatments.


Salicylic acid's benefits extend beyond treating specific scalp conditions. It exfoliates dead skin cells, softens the skin, locks in moisture, and reduces oiliness. By breaking down sebum buildup and reducing itchiness, it promotes overall scalp health.

Regulates moisture levels

In hair care, salicylic acid penetrates the scalp to clear skin and regulate moisture levels. It reduces oily buildup, controls dihydrotestosterone (DHT) production, and aids in dandruff treatment. While it is not a direct solution for hair loss, it can contribute to a healthier scalp environment.

Promotes overall scalp health

Whether you are dealing with dandruff or seborrheic dermatitis, or simply want to maintain a healthy scalp, salicylic acid can be a beneficial ingredient. It effectively addresses various scalp issues and promotes overall scalp health, making it a valuable addition to your hair care routine.

Some Warnings

Salicylic acid is generally safe for hair when used in small amounts on the scalp, but there are important warnings to keep in mind. Avoid contact with the mouth, eyes, and nose, and refrain from using it on open sores or broken skin. 

Rare side effects can include burning, redness, peeling, allergic reactions, and drying of the skin and hair. It's crucial not to use salicylic acid on children under 2 years old, as it can lead to salicylate poisoning.

If you have sensitive or dry scalp, be cautious in using salicylic acid products as it could cause irritation or dryness. It is important to monitor your frequency of use. Opt for moisturizing products and limit salicylic acid use to avoid over-exfoliation.