Derived from sugar beets, this ingredient is sometimes used as an alternative to the exfoliating ingredient salicylic acid in countries where the usage of salicylic acid is prohibited or the amount permitted is severely restricted. Although betaine salicylate appears to be promising, there’s no independent research to go on, and no independent studies comparing its effectiveness to the well-established BHA ingredient salicylic acid.
The only research about betaine salicylate comes from Arch Personal Care Products, an ingredient manufacturer that sells this ingredient. According to their information based on in vivo testing, betaine salicylate shows comparable effectiveness to salicylic acid at double the concentration. So, in seems that in order to get the same results from betaine salicylate as a product with 2% salicylic acid, a 4% concentration of betaine salicylate is necessary.
Interestingly, like salicylic acid, betaine salicylate’s effectiveness is pH-dependent, with a pH range of 3.8-4.2 being needed.
Anecdotal information from consumers who’ve tried products with betaine salicylate and salicylic acid is mixed; some people report better results and tolerability with betaine salicylate, while others report that salicylic acid worked better, without any unwanted effects. Our advice? Unless you know your skin cannot tolerate or doesn’t respond well to leave-on exfoliants with salicylic acid, there’s little reason to seek out an exfoliant with betaine salicylate. However, if you live in a country where salicylic acid’s use in skincare is unusually restricted, betaine salicylate exfoliants are worth checking out, but be sure the concentration is at least 4%.