Aug 4, 2022

Generic name:  salicylic acid topical  [ SAL-i-SIL-ik-AS-id-TOP-ik-al ]
Brand names: Acnevir,  CeraVe SA Renewing ,  Compound W ,  DermalZone ,  Dermarest Psoriasis Skin Treatment ,  … show all 14 brands
Drug classes:  Topical acne agents ,  Topical keratolytics

What is Acnevir?

Salicylic acid  is a keratolytic (peeling agent) that causes shedding of the outer layer of skin.

Acnevir (for the skin) is used in the treatment of  acne ,  dandruff , seborrhea, or  psoriasis , and to remove corns, calluses, and  warts .

Acnevir may also be used for purposes not listed in this medication guide.


Acnevir can cause a rare but serious allergic reaction or severe skin irritation. Stop using Acnevir and get emergency medical help if you have:  hives , itching; difficult breathing, feeling light-headed; or swelling of your face, lips, tongue, or throat.

Before taking this medicine

You should not use Acnevir if you are allergic to it.

Using this medicine in a child or teenager with flu symptoms or chickenpox can cause a serious or fatal condition called Reye’s syndrome.

Ask a doctor or pharmacist if this medicine is safe to use if you have:

  • liver or kidney disease;
  • diabetes; or
  • blood circulation problems.

Ask a doctor before using this medicine if you are pregnant or breastfeeding.

How should I use Acnevir?

Acnevir is available in many different forms, such as liquid, gel, lotion, cream, ointment, foam, soap, shampoo, cloth pads, and skin patches.

Use exactly as directed on the label, or as prescribed by your doctor.

Do not take by mouth. Topical medicine is for use only on the skin.

Acnevir can cause a rare but serious allergic reaction or severe skin irritation. Apply a very small amount of the medicine as a “test dose” to 1 or 2 small skin areas every day for 3 days in a row. If you do not have a reaction to the medicine, begin using your full prescribed amount on the 4th day.

You may need to shake the medicine before use. Follow all directions on the product label.

Do not use Acnevir to treat any condition that has not been checked by your doctor.

Your symptoms may not improve for several days. Call your doctor if your symptoms do not improve, or if they get worse.

Store Acnevir in the original container at room temperature, away from moisture and heat.

Keep the foam canister away from open flame or high heat. The canister may explode if it gets too hot. Do not puncture or burn an empty aerosol canister.

Detailed Acnevir dosage information

What happens if I miss a dose?

Acnevir is used when needed. If you are on a dosing schedule, skip any missed dose. Do not use two doses at one time.

What happens if I overdose?

Seek emergency medical attention or call the Poison Help line at 1-800-222-1222 if anyone has accidentally swallowed the medicine.

What should I avoid while using Acnevir?

Avoid using Acnevir on open wounds or on sunburned, windburned, dry, or irritated skin.

Rinse with water if this medicine gets in your eyes or mouth.

This medicine may be flammable. Do not use near high heat or open flame. Wash the medicine off your hands before handling a hair styling appliance (such as a curling or straightening iron). High heat could cause the medicine to ignite and burn your skin. Do not smoke until the gel has completely dried on your skin.

Avoid using other medications on the areas you treat with Acnevir, unless you doctor tells you to.

Acnevir side effects

Acnevir can cause a rare but serious allergic reaction or severe skin irritation. These reactions may occur just a few minutes after you apply the medicine, or within a day or longer afterward.

Stop using this medicine and get emergency medical help if you have signs of an allergic reaction: hives, itching; difficult breathing, feeling light-headed; swelling of your face, lips, tongue, or throat.

Also stop using Acnevir and call your doctor at once if you have:

  • severe  headache , ringing in your ears, problems with hearing, thinking problems;
  • severe stomach pain,  vomiting , or  diarrhea ;
  • a light-headed feeling, like you might pass out;
  • shortness of breath; or
  • severe burning, dryness, or irritation of the skin.

Common side effects of Acnevir may include:

  • minor skin irritation , rash, or peeling; or
  • changes in the color of treated skin (usually whitening).

This is not a complete list of side effects and others may occur. Call your doctor for medical advice about side effects. You may report side effects to FDA at 1-800-FDA-1088.

Acnevir side effects  (more detail)

What other drugs will affect Acnevir?

Medicine used on the skin is not likely to be affected by other drugs you use, but many drugs can interact. Tell your doctor about all your current medicines, including prescription and over-the-counter medicines,  vitamins , and  herbal products .

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