Salicylic Acid

Is Salicylic Acid an NSAID?

4 Mins read

Ever wondered if salicylic acid is an NSAID?

It’s confusing, I know.

I mean, it shares an acronym with non-selective non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen, but it also seems to biodegrade like a selective one.

How in the world is that supposed to work?

Is Salicylic Acid an NSAID?

Salicylic acid is not an NSAID but instead a beta hydroxy acid.

NSAID stands for “non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug.”

NSAIDs are anti-inflammatory drugs that don’t contain corticosteroids.

NSAIDs are used to treat pain and inflammation.

Common NSAIDs include ibuprofen, naproxen, and aspirin.

A side effect of salicylic acid use is dry skin, especially on the face and scalp.

This should improve as you continue to use salicylic acid after your skin adjusts.

Moisturizing your face with a gentle moisturizer can reduce this side effect.

What are NSAIDs?

NSAIDs are nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. They’re widely used to relieve pain, reduce inflammation and relieve fever.

The most common NSAIDs are aspirin, ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), and naproxen sodium (Aleve).

In the United States, NSAIDs are available over the counter without a prescription from your health care provider.

However, you should consult your physician before taking any medications if you have a chronic medical condition or if you’re pregnant or breastfeeding.

Why are NSAIDs used?

NSAIDs are used to treat pain, inflammation, and stiffness caused by rheumatoid arthritis and other types of arthritis.

They also can be used to treat ankylosing spondylitis (a type of arthritis that causes the spine to curve), gout, painful menstrual periods, and other conditions.

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It’s important to note that although NSAIDs are sometimes called “nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs,” not all NSAIDs reduce inflammation or have anti-inflammatory effects on the body.

Instead, they stop the body from producing certain chemicals that cause pain and inflammation.

Are there safe and effective short-term uses of NSAIDs?

NSAIDs can be used safely and effectively for up to 10 days.

They are not intended as long-term therapy, but they can be used in the short term under certain circumstances.

The most common short-term use of NSAIDs is for minor aches and pains associated with arthritis or muscle strain.

However, it’s important to remember that these medications should not be used for more than 10 days at a time.

If pain continues after that period, talk to your doctor about other options for managing your symptoms.

Why would you use aspirin instead of ibuprofen?

Here are some reasons why you may want to stick with ibuprofen instead:

1. Bleeding disorder

You have a bleeding disorder or are taking blood thinners, such as warfarin (Coumadin).

Aspirin can cause bleeding in these people and increase their risk of bleeding.

2. Allergy

You’re allergic to aspirin or other NSAIDs (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs).

If your doctor prescribes any NSAID for you, ask if there’s another option that would be safer for you because of your allergy or condition.

3. Low blood pressure

You have low blood pressure or heart failure (HF).

Low doses of aspirin may be helpful for people with HF, but high doses can worsen HF by causing fluid retention in the body and increasing blood pressure, which puts extra stress on the heart and lungs.

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4. Pregnant or breastfeeding

You’re pregnant or breastfeeding.

Pregnancy increases the risk of bleeding in women who take blood thinners such as aspirin or warfarin.

Which type of NSAID is best for you?

NSAIDs are an important part of your pain-relief arsenal.

They’re also a great way to reduce inflammation, which is why they’re commonly used for arthritis and other inflammatory conditions like gout.

But there are dozens of NSAIDs available, and each one has a different set of benefits and risks.

Plus, some work better than others for certain conditions.

So how do you know which one to pick?

The first step is to talk to your doctor or pharmacist, who can help you decide which NSAID is right for your condition and lifestyle.

Then check out this guide:


This is the oldest NSAID, and it’s still one of the most popular — especially among people who have heart disease or risk factors for heart attacks or strokes.

Aspirin works by reducing blood clotting, so it can thin the blood and prevent clots from forming in arteries that feed the heart muscle.

This reduces the chance of a heart attack or stroke occurring due to blockages in those arteries.

What can you do to prevent side effects of taking NSAIDs?

NSAIDs are very effective in reducing pain and inflammation.

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However, they have a number of side effects, including stomach bleeding (see below) and kidney damage.

To reduce the risk of these side effects, you should take NSAIDs as directed by your doctor and follow some simple guidelines:

  • Take your medicine exactly as prescribed. Do not stop taking it without consulting your doctor first.
  • Avoid alcohol while on an NSAID and for at least 24 hours after stopping it.
  • Take the lowest dose that works for you.
  • Use over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medicines with caution if you have diabetes or high blood pressure, or if you are over age 65. Also, avoid them if you are pregnant or breastfeeding.

The Difference Between Salicylic Acid and NSAIDs

There are many differences between salicylic acid and NSAIDs.

Salicylic acid is a keratolytic agent, meaning it softens the keratin layer of the skin.

It does this by causing the production of new cells, which eventually slough off.

Salicylic acid is also an exfoliant, meaning it removes dead skin cells from the surface.

The main difference between salicylic acid and NSAIDs is that salicylic acid is used topically (on the skin), while NSAIDs are taken orally (by mouth).

Salicylic acid is available in various forms including creams, gels, lotions, and pads.

Final Thoughts

Salicylic acid is a cousin to the NSAID family, but not actually a member of it.

It is an exfoliant and will likely have many similar effects on the body, but that doesn’t make it an NSAID.