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Salicylic acid structural formula

   P.G. Unna, a German dermatologist, was the first to describe the properties and use of salicylic acid. It has since been used for many decades as a keratolytic agent in concentrations of 3 to 6%. Salicylic acid is frequently utilized in topical acne preparations because of its comedolytic effects. In addition, it facilitates the penetration of other topical agents.

    Salicylic acid (ortho-hydroxybenzoic acid) is a beta hydroxy acid agent. It is a lipophilic compound which removes intercellular lipids that are covalently linked to the cornified envelope surrounding cornified epithelioid
cells. Due to its antihyperplastic effects on the epidermis,multiple investigators have used salicylic acid as a peeling agent. Recently, histologic assessments using salicylic acid peels in hairless mice reported loss of cornified cells followed by activation of epidermal basal cells and underlying fibroblasts. These findings suggest that salicylic acid peeling can alter the underlying dermal tissue without directly wounding the tissue or causing inflammation. Salicylic acid has also been shown to have anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties.

   When used in combination with benzoic acid in Whitfield’s ointment, it has fungicidal properties.

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