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Aspirin Allergy and Salicylic Acid: A Warning

According to a recent study in the Archives of Dermatology, as much as 1% of the American population has a sensitivity to Aspirin. (That’s close to 3 million people) What’s more, with the popularity of non-aspirin derived pain relievers, many consumers (especially younger ones) don’t know if they are allergic or sensitive to aspirin, because they simply haven’t used it.

So what does this have to do with adult acne?

More than you may realize.

Salicylic acid, a popular component of many (if not most) acne cleansers, body washes, and treatments is made from aspirin. That means that if you are allergic to aspirin, then acne products may be dangerous—or fatal—to you.

Symptoms of aspirin sensitivity include everything from itchy watery eyes, nasal congestion, and rash to hives, cough, wheezing, trouble catching your breath, and even anaphylaxis. Anaphylaxis is a severe and potentially fatal allergic reaction. It causes a drop in blood pressure and serious breathing difficulties.

And if you’re thinking that it’s ok to use SA on your skin because you’re not actually ingesting it… think again. Your skin absorbs the acid right through the cleanser.

Using a facial cleanser that contains 2% salicylic acid is the equivalent of taking about 80-100 mg of aspirin orally. (That’s about ½ of a baby aspirin tablet) And if you’re using a 2% SA body wash in your daily shower, that’s over 300 mg of aspirin every time you lather up!

That’s not all, either. Recent studies show that people with asthma may be more susceptible to aspirin sensitivity. (And that aspirin and aspirin containing products like salicylic acid) can seriously aggravate asthma symptoms—even causing asthma attacks.

So does this mean that SA is unsafe for use? In general, I’m thinking not. As long as you don’t have an aspirin allergy, you should be ok. But just in case, I’m going to look into it a bit more, and report back to you guys with any interesting findings!


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