Natural Salicylic Acid: Willow Bark Extract vs Salicylic Acid

Natural Salicylic Acid: Willow Bark Extract vs Salicylic Acid

Willow bark extract is a key ingredient for deeply cleansing and exfoliating the skin, also known as Salix Alba extract, it’s an ingredient which has been used for centuries to soothe irritated skin. Often referred to as natures salicylic acid, willow bark plant extract is derived from the bark of the White Willow tree. The key component in willow bark is salicin, a natural antioxidant and exfoliant that is often compared to a known beta hydroxy acid, salicylic acid.

Salicylic acid is derived from components of saliciln, whilst willow bark extract is considered a natural alternative to salicylic acid because of its high salicin content. But is it as effective as salicylic acid in topical skincare products? 

Salicylic Acid is probably an ingredient you’re familiar with if you suffer from acne and breakouts. From exfoliating face washes to powerful serums and purifying masks, salicylic acid is the star ingredient in almost all acne-fighting skincare products. It is effective at deeply cleansing the skin and breaking down impurities, excess oil, and dead skin cells. But in high concentrations, and when combined with other harsh, and stripping ingredients, salicylic acid can cause skin irritation and dryness. The search for a milder alternative that is still effective has brought willow bark extract to the forefront. 


Willow bark extract is an effective ingredient in topical skincare products that helps minimise the appearance of pores by mildly exfoliating the skin. It has antimicrobial properties; these properties essentially work to prevent the spread and growth of bacteria whilst simultaneously working to regulate and balance sebum production. As an antimicrobial ingredient, willow bark is a much better alternative for deeply cleansing and exfoliating the skin as opposed to facial scrubs, which can often spread bacteria over the skin. 

With strong natural antioxidants, willow bark extract stimulates collagen production and cell turnover, resulting in youthful and plumper-looking skin, thus making it especially great for those with hormonal acne who also have the dual concern of anti-aging. Working to neutralize free radicals and help soothe the skin from environmental stressors from pollution and UV rays, the antioxidant effect is especially helpful in detoxifying the skin. 

Unlike salicylic acid, which can be especially strong and intense on the skin, willow bark extract can actually have skin soothing properties when combined with the right ingredients.

Safiya Cosmetics Wash Your Face Daily Facial Cleanser combines willow bark extract and lactic acid to thoroughly cleanse the skin and remove makeup, excess oil, and impurities while keeping the skin soft and hydrated. Lactic acid works to deeply exfoliate the skin, remove dead skin cells, even out the skin tone, and improve skin texture, when combined with the exfoliating and deep cleansing effects of willow bark extract, it creates the perfect deep cleanser which nourishes, enriches, and promotes radiant skin. The added benefit of Aloe Vera further helps to soothe and nourish the skin. 

Pros and Cons of Salicylic Acid 

PROS 

∙ Dissolves impurities and fights acne-causing bacteria 

∙ Breaks down sebum to prevent pores from clogging

∙ Reveals radiant skin by exfoliating and removing dead skin cells 

CONS 

∙ May be harsh and stripping on dry and sensitive skin types 

∙ May break down natural oils that keep the moisture barrier healthy 

∙ High concentrations may lead to dryness 


Pros and Cons of Willow Bark Extract

PROS 

∙ Suitable for most skin types 

∙ Penetrates the skin to gently regulate oil production and unclog pores 

∙ Calms acne-related redness and inflammation 

∙ Anti-microbial, working to prevent the spread of bacteria

∙ Reveals radiant skin by exfoliating and removing dead skin cells 

CONS 

∙ People with an allergy to aspirin may react to salicin


Willow bark extract is a gentle antioxidant and anti-inflammatory ingredient with deep cleansing properties, it’s a much gentler replacement for highly intense salicylic acid, and it presents great results in reducing the appearance of pores and calming acne inflammation. If you suffer from irritation, sensitive skin, inflammation, and acne, willow bark extract can help to not only purify the skin, but alleviate mild irritation and redness.


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