Salicylates are compounds which occur naturally in the plants we consume — many fruit, vegetables, herbs and botanical extracts are rich sources, as are toothpaste and mouthwash, as are aspirin and other painkilling and cold/flu medication, which sometimes contain synthetically derived salicylate compounds.
Salicylate intolerance or sensitivity is an under-recognised problem. Symptoms mirror those of more conventional allergies, and include gut symptoms, asthma / breathing difficulties, skin rashes, and neurological complaints.
Avoiding salicylates is difficult, and the low-salicylate diet restrictive. The guidance of a dietitian is required for anyone diagnosed with a salicylate sensitivity, or any woman following the Guaifenesin Protocol — a treatment for fibromyalgia, which requires salicylate avoidance.
Regarding cosmetics and skincare, fruit extracts and essential oils are likely to be high in salicylates. Salicylate derivatives include methyl salicylate, sodium salicylate and calcium salicylate. Salicylic acid — also known as beta hydroxy acid (BHA) — is a common troublesome ingredient, acting as an anti-acne agent, exfoliant, and anti-dandruff ingredient.
Seed butters and oils, and waxes, are generally safe — these include soybean oil, corn oil, wheatgerm oil, beeswax, shea butter, mango seed butter, candellia wax and cocoa butter.
Here are a few brands offering specified low-salicylate / salicylate-free products.
Cleure (US / Worldwide)
This brand offers a huge range of cosmetics, including moisturisers, sunscreen, make-up, body washes, hair care, toothpaste and much more. It’s salicylate free, as well as free from formaldehyde-releasing preservatives, SLS, fragrance, gluten, parabens and more. For international orders, see their website here. Many Cleure products are available through Amazon US.
This is a lovely Austrian brand of salicylate-free products, which include face creams, lotions, cleansers and a shampoo, and which uses gentle sal-safe ingredients such as rice bran oil, shea butter, xanthan gum and glycerin. Learn more about them at their website here, and you can order a selection through Amazon UK.
Andrea Rose (US)
Calling itself ‘the first and original salicylate free company’, Andrea Rose offers products from its own range ‘Personal Basics’, and also stocks some products by other brands which happen to be salicylate free, such as Elta MD and Free & Clear. Skin care, oral care, hair care and sun care are available. They are also fragrance free. Find the website here.
Eye Care Cosmetics (International)
This French brand of salicylate-free cosmetics includes all make-up for eyes and lips, as well as facial cleansers and some creams, including eye creams, as well as nail care products. Find their products on Amazon UK, Amazon US, or through their French website here.
This brand is from the same ‘house’ as Eye Care Cosmetics, and has even greater ‘free from’ credentials for those with particularly sensitive eyes or skin, and requiring high-tolerance / low allergen cosmetics. Order through their UK site or their France site.
CE Sonia Amoroso told us several of this Australian brand’s products are safely sal-free. They are: REVITALEYES, BOOST SERUM, NIGHT AND BODY BLUR. Find the website here.
To avoid reinventing the wheel, you’ll find some lists of salicylate-free / low-salicylate ingredients and products elsewhere on the web, and the following links may help.
When it comes to recommended products, bear in mind that ingredients change regularly so always double-check.
Guaifenesin Protocol Check List — from the very useful Christine’s Cozy Corner blog.
SalSearch — to look up salicylate status of ingredients, from a German Fibromyalgia site.
Salicylate-Free Product Lists — courtesy of the Fibromyalgia Treatment Center.
If you have any other suggestions for safe brands or products, or specific requests for sal-free cosmetics, leave a comment and I’ll look into it in further detail.
Thanks to Pam (@PamAllergy on Twitter) for help with this article.