Difference Wiki

Aspirin vs. Salicylic Acid: What's the Difference?

Edited by Aimie Carlson || By Janet White || Published on February 25, 2024
Aspirin is a pain-relieving, fever-reducing, and anti-inflammatory medication, chemically known as acetylsalicylic acid. Salicylic Acid is a compound used primarily in acne treatment, known for its ability to exfoliate and treat skin disorders.

Key Differences

Aspirin, or acetylsalicylic acid, is a derivative of salicylic acid, modified to be gentler on the stomach. Salicylic acid is a beta hydroxy acid, naturally occurring in plants like willow bark.
Aspirin is widely used as an anti-inflammatory, analgesic (pain reliever), and antipyretic (fever reducer). Salicylic acid is primarily used in skincare, particularly in treating acne due to its exfoliating properties.
Aspirin works by inhibiting the production of prostaglandins, thereby reducing pain and inflammation. Salicylic acid works by dissolving the type of skin debris that clogs pores and causes acne.
Aspirin can cause stomach irritation and is not recommended for individuals with certain health conditions. Salicylic acid, when used topically, can cause skin irritation and dryness, especially in sensitive skin types.
Aspirin is available over-the-counter for pain relief and as a blood thinner. Salicylic acid is also available over-the-counter in various skincare products, including cleansers and treatments for acne.

Comparison Chart

Chemical Composition

Acetylsalicylic acid, a derivative of salicylic acid
Beta hydroxy acid, natural compound

Primary Use

Pain relief, anti-inflammatory, fever reducer
Skincare, particularly for acne treatment

Mode of Action

Inhibits prostaglandins to reduce pain and swelling
Exfoliates skin, unclogs pores

Typical Side Effects

Stomach irritation, not suitable for some conditions
Skin irritation and dryness in sensitive skin


Over-the-counter in pharmacies
Over-the-counter in skincare products

Aspirin and Salicylic Acid Definitions


Aspirin is a medication used for pain relief, reducing fever, and minimizing inflammation.
I took an aspirin to alleviate my headache.

Salicylic Acid

Salicylic acid is derived from willow bark and has anti-inflammatory properties.
The salicylic acid in my skincare comes from natural willow bark extract.


Aspirin acts as a blood thinner and is often used to prevent heart attacks and strokes.
My doctor recommended daily aspirin to lower my risk of stroke.

Salicylic Acid

Salicylic acid is a beta hydroxy acid used primarily in acne treatment.
I use a face wash containing salicylic acid for my acne.


Aspirin is known chemically as acetylsalicylic acid.
Aspirin's anti-inflammatory properties are due to its acetylsalicylic acid composition.

Salicylic Acid

Salicylic acid can treat warts and psoriasis in addition to acne.
Salicylic acid ointments are effective in treating plantar warts.


Aspirin is commonly used to treat minor aches and pains.
After my workout, I took aspirin to relieve muscle soreness.

Salicylic Acid

Salicylic acid exfoliates the skin and helps unclog pores.
Salicylic acid helps in removing dead skin cells and preventing pimples.


Aspirin can be used as an antipyretic to reduce fever.
She used aspirin to reduce her high fever during the flu.

Salicylic Acid

Salicylic acid is found in various over-the-counter skincare products.
My dermatologist recommended a salicylic acid serum for clearer skin.


A white, crystalline compound, C9H8O4, derived from salicylic acid and commonly used in tablet form to relieve pain and reduce fever and inflammation. It is also used as an antiplatelet agent. Also called acetylsalicylic acid.


A tablet of aspirin.


An analgesic drug, acetylsalicylic acid


(countable) a tablet containing this substance


A white crystalline compound, acetyl salicylic acid (CH3.CO.O.C6H4.CO.OH) widely used as a drug for relief of pain and alleviation of fever. It has analgesic, antipyretic, and antiinflammatory properties, and is one of a class of agents called non-steroidal antiinflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). The name was originally a trade name, but has become the preferred name for the substance. It is actually a prodrug, liberating salicylic acid, the ultimate pharmacologically active agent, in the intestines. It is more effective when taken orally than is salicylic acid, because it dissolves more readily.


The acetylated derivative of salicylic acid; used as an analgesic anti-inflammatory drug (trade names Bayer and Empirin) usually taken in tablet form; used as an antipyretic; slows clotting of the blood by poisoning platelets


What form does aspirin come in?

Tablets, capsules, and sometimes liquid form.

Can aspirin prevent heart conditions?

Yes, it's used to prevent heart attacks and strokes.

Can aspirin treat chronic pain?

It's more suitable for minor aches and pains.

Is salicylic acid good for all skin types?

It's effective but can irritate sensitive skin.

What is salicylic acid primarily used for?

Treating acne, exfoliating skin, and unclogging pores.

Can I use salicylic acid daily?

Yes, in moderate amounts, unless skin becomes irritated.

Does salicylic acid have anti-inflammatory properties?

Yes, it has anti-inflammatory effects, especially in skincare.

What is aspirin used for?

Pain relief, reducing fever, and minimizing inflammation.

Is aspirin safe for everyone?

It's not recommended for individuals with certain health conditions.

Does aspirin thin the blood?

Yes, it has blood-thinning properties.

Does salicylic acid dry out skin?

It can, especially if used excessively or on dry skin types.

Can salicylic acid be used on the body?

Yes, it's effective on body acne and certain skin conditions.

What concentrations of salicylic acid are available?

Over-the-counter products typically range from 0.5% to 2%.

Is aspirin an NSAID?

Yes, it's a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug.

Can salicylic acid remove acne scars?

It helps in acne prevention but is less effective on scars.

What are common side effects of aspirin?

Stomach irritation and increased bleeding risk.

Can I drink alcohol with aspirin?

It's not recommended due to increased risk of stomach bleeding.

Is salicylic acid safe for pregnant women?

It's best to consult a doctor before use during pregnancy.

How does salicylic acid affect acne?

It helps to reduce acne by exfoliating and unclogging pores.

How long does it take for aspirin to work?

It usually begins working within 30 minutes to an hour.
About Author
Written by
Janet White
Janet White has been an esteemed writer and blogger for Difference Wiki. Holding a Master's degree in Science and Medical Journalism from the prestigious Boston University, she has consistently demonstrated her expertise and passion for her field. When she's not immersed in her work, Janet relishes her time exercising, delving into a good book, and cherishing moments with friends and family.
Edited by
Aimie Carlson
Aimie Carlson, holding a master's degree in English literature, is a fervent English language enthusiast. She lends her writing talents to Difference Wiki, a prominent website that specializes in comparisons, offering readers insightful analyses that both captivate and inform.

Trending Comparisons

Popular Comparisons

New Comparisons