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Willow Bark Extract: A Natural Alternative to Salicylic Acid

Buzzle Staff
Harsh chemical ingredients in beauty products are often derived from natural, less damaging plant sources. Salicylic acid, one of the most common ingredients in anti-acne products, is derived from willow tree bark, and you can find products containing the natural version for a less harmful beauty regimen.
Many common beauty products have chemical ingredients that, although proven to work, can be harsh on skin, can aggravate skin allergies, and can increase rates of skin aging if used for prolonged periods of time. For this reason, some people choose to forgo beauty products altogether or choose natural alternatives that may not be as effective. In some cases, this level of compromise isn't necessary.
It's a little known fact that many of the chemical ingredients in everyday beauty products were actually originally derived from natural plant byproducts. By choosing the alternative products that incorporate the same active ingredient in a more natural form, you can save your skin a lot of trouble and you can feel confident that you're not using anything synthetic that might hurt you in the long run.

Salicylic Acid

One of the best examples of a synthetic product that has a natural source is salicylic acid. Salicylic acid is the active ingredient in an astounding range of beauty and body care products. Perhaps the most well-known use of salicylic acid is as a facial astringent. This ingredient is found in daily face washes, anti-acne pads, wipes, and creams, and even anti-acne body washes.
The reason salicylic acid works is that it tightens pore s, helping to keep pores closed and free of dirt and oil. It also works to kill bacteria and shed old skin cells. Salicylic acid is used for more than just acne treatment and prevention, though. In addition, it is often used to treat skin conditions like eczema, aches and pains, inflammation, and upset stomach.

Salicylic Acid Side Effects

Despite the many benefits listed above, salicylic acid can have adverse effects when it is used often in its concentrated chemical form. Most prominently, frequent use of salicylic acid on the face can cause dry, flaky skin, which can be painful, troublesome, and unattractive. Additionally, the chemical can be toxic if it is ingested.
Some research has even shown that salicylic acid can cause hearing loss in individuals with zinc deficiencies. Although these dangers only rarely cause serious problems, they are cause for concern when purchasing products containing salicylic acid. Also, it's unknown what long-term effects prolonged salicylic acid use might have, including its effects on skin aging.

Willow Bark Extract: The Natural Source

Luckily, many of the drawbacks of salicylic acid are avoided when products contain the natural ingredient from which the acid is derived: willow tree bark. The medicinal benefits of willow tree bark have been known to humanity for thousands of years. The ancient Greek physician Hippocrates wrote about the benefits of willow bark, mentioning that it could be useful in reducing fevers.
Salicylic acid was extracted from willow bark from many years before procedures were developed for synthesizing it. Today, willow bark extract is much more difficult to find than products containing synthetic salicylic acid, but the increasing availability of naturally derived products is changing this.

Willow Bark Extract Drawbacks

The drawback to choosing products containing willow bark extract is that such products contain a lower concentration of the active ingredient. For people who are used to aggressive therapy with salicylic acid, this lower concentration may be slightly less effective.
However, when combined with other natural products and a healthy diet and exercise regimen, many problems treated with synthetic salicylic acid can be just as effectively addressed with natural products containing willow bark extract.

Where to Buy Willow Bark Extract

Among the new products on the market containing natural willow bark extract is the Purifying Facial Cleanser made by Neutrogena's Naturals line. Willow bark extract is also available in pure liquid farm, for example from Nature's Answer. Natural supermarkets and beauty stores are good places to look for these and other products containing the ingredient.
Various online retailers may also stock willow bark extract and products containing it. In the list of ingredients, willow bark extract may be called "salicin," which is the active nutrient. If you have sensitive skin, remember to ensure that you don't purchase any products that contain synthetic fragrances or other unnecessary chemical ingredients.