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L’acide salicylique est-il un perturbateur endocrinien ?

Salicylic Acid Safety: Is It an Endocrine Disruptor?

It is an organic acid naturally present in willow bark. It belongs to the BHA (beta hydroxy acid) family. Particularly recommended for its overall anti-imperfection action, the safety of Salicylic acid is now being questioned as it is suspected to be an endocrine disruptor. What does this mean? Is it really dangerous?

What Is an Endocrine Disruptor?

An endocrine disruptor is an active ingredient that can disrupt the functioning of our body's hormones. The active ingredients known as endocrine disruptors directly attack the endocrine glands, which are responsible for the production of hormones in our body. They can disrupt various functions of our body such as:

— Reproductive functions;

— Thyroid functions;

— Adrenal functions;

— The metabolism in general;

When in contact with the hormone receptor of an organ or tissue of our body, the endocrine disruptor can alter its function or block the action of hormones.

What Is Salicylic Acid?

Salicylic Acid is an organic element found in many plants, including willow bark. In skincare, it can be of natural or synthetic origin. When applied to the skin, it has a keratolytic effect, i.e., it eliminates dead skin. It restores radiance to dull complexions, inhibits bacterial proliferation involved in acne and tightens pores, thus refining the skin texture. This active ingredient is also found in hair care products; it cleanses the scalp and effectively combats dandruff.

Is It an Endocrine Disruptor?

The answer depends on the organizations and committees of experts.

According to the definition of the World Health Organization (WHO), salicylic acid is not an endocrine disruptor.

Nevertheless, in 2017, a team of Danish researchers published a study attesting to the endocrine disrupting nature of salicylic acid. This compound would have moderate effects on testosterone depletion and anti-androgenic effects, as well as on spermatogenesis.

In an opinion published in September 2018, the European Scientific Committee on Consumer Safety (SCCS) concluded that salicylic acid is safe in a cosmetic product at the concentrations at which it is regulated.

For information, the European regulation on cosmetic products, in order to guarantee the safety of salicylic acid, it limits its concentration to 2% in non-rinse-off products, 3% in rinse-off products and 0.5% when introduced as a preservative. This ingredient is allowed in organic products.

Note that the SCCS specifies the following point: “This opinion does not apply to products that are administered orally, such as toothpastes and mouthwashes. Spray products that could result in consumer lung exposure through inhalation are also excluded.” Today, further investigations are underway into endocrine disrupting properties by the CSSC…

At Typology, we thus remain vigilant regarding the latest scientific publications on whether salicylic acid is dangerous or not, and European regulations on this ingredient.


  • SCIENTIFIC COMMITTEE ON CONSUMER SAFETY (SCCS) Request for a scientific opinion on Salicylic acid (CAS No. 69-72-7, EC No. 200-712-3)

  • DANISH CENTRE ON ENDOCRINE DISRUPTERS, List of Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals Final report, (2017)

  • POTENTIAL HORMONE DISRUPTORS IN CONSUMERS’ COSMETICS, BEUC comments to the European Commission’s draft priority list, (2019).


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