Salicylic Acid & Eczema

Fact Checked

itube de crème image by Richard villalon from

According to the American Academy of Allergy Asthma and Immunology, eczema affects between ten and 20 percent of children and between one and three percent of adults. Eczema, also known as atopic dermatitis, often begins in childhood and continues into adulthood. Many treatment options exist for eczema including self care, medications and allergy minimization. While usually not serious, eczema is bothersome and open skin wounds can become infected. Salicylic acid can be used to treat dry, flaky skin disorders such as eczema.

What is Salicylic Acid

Common scaly skin disorders can be treated with a medicine called salicylic acid, which is a topical preparation and may be used in conjunction with other medicines and treatments. You can get salicylic acid in the following forms: creams, gels, lotions, ointments, pads, plaster, shampoo and topical solutions. Depending on the condition you are treating, you can get salicylic acid in doses ranging from 0.5% to 30%.

Treating Eczema

When treating eczema, you can use a solution of salicylic acid to soften keratin, which is a protein that is part of the skin structure. Salicylic acid will help loosen the dry skin and take off the top layer of skin. This allows other topical medicines to penetrate better.

Salicylic Acid Side Effects

Mild side effects of salicylic acid can include skin irritation especially if the skin is broken or sensitive in the area you have applied it. More serious side effects include severe skin irritation, flushing and unusual warmth and redness of the skin. While not common, salicylic acid poisoning is possible and symptoms include confusion, diarrhea, nausea, dizziness, headache, rapid breathing, ringing in ears and severe drowsiness.

You should tell your doctor if you are pregnant or breast-feeding as salicylic acid can be absorbed through your skin. Salicylic acid is not recommended for children under two years of age.

Eczema Symptoms

Eczema often appears on your arms and behind your knees. It can also show up anywhere else on your body including your face and neck. Usually it will show up as a red, itchy rash with cracked or scaly skin. You may have small, raised bumps that leak fluid and crust over. Eczema rashes are often itchy, especially at night. Most often, infants and children get eczema but it can continue into adulthood.

Most of the time, eczema comes and goes. Flare-ups can be triggered by many factors including hot baths or showers, stress, sweating, dry air, cigarette smoke and allergies.

Eczema Treatments

Depending on the severity of your eczema a different treatment options are available. You can use a combination of treatment options to manage your eczema.

Allergy control does not always eliminate eczema but it can reduce the extent of flare-ups. You can try to avoid or regularly clean items that trap dust such as carpets, stuffed toys, pillows, mattresses, down comforters and drapes. suggests using unscented soaps, moisturizers and calamine lotion, cool showers, and humidifiers to reduce eczema.

If your eczema is quite severe and bothersome your doctor may prescribe medications for you to take. He may prescribe corticosteroid creams, antibiotics, antihistamines, oral corticosteroids and immunomodulators.