Dealing with hormonal acne and blackheads can do a number on your skin’s appearance — and your confidence.
Thanks to the tried-and-true skin-clearing ingredient known as salicylic acid, those pesky bumps, scares and inflamed patches can soon be mitigated.
After all, with so many ingredients specially infused into serums and creams, it can be difficult to find one that works for your skin. Like hyaluronic acid for plumping the skin, niacinamide for helping to reduce pores and retinol to carry over some anti-aging benefits, S.A. will be your next best friend for your acne-prone skin.
That said, we curated an edit of the 14 best salicylic acid skincare products worth your money by turning to two board-certified dermatologists for insight.
From cleansers and serums to moisturizers and masks, keep on scrolling to shop, save and slather on your salicylic acid to soothe the skin.
Click to jump to the best salicylic acid skincare products:
What is salicylic acid?
“Salicylic acid is an excellent pore-clearing ingredient because it exfoliates the surface of the skin and penetrates into pores to remove oil,” Hadley King, MD, a board-certified dermatologist in NYC and clinical instructor of dermatology at Weill Cornell Medical Center, told the New York Post. “It helps to prevent pores from becoming clogged and can help remove clogs that have already formed.”
That said, she recommends it as a “great ingredient for people with oily and acne-prone skin,” particularly for treating and preventing comedonal acne (blackheads and whiteheads).
Since salicylic acid is a beta hydroxy acid, it’s great for sensitive skin, too. “BHAs also have anti-inflammatory, skin-calming properties so they are gentle enough even for sensitive skin prone to redness and/or rosacea,” King adds.
Salicylic acid benefits
When used on acne-prone and oily skin, salicylic acid can help liven up your skin’s appearance.
“By eliminating the outmost layer of cells the hair follicles and sweat glands are less likely to become clogged with dead cells and less likely to form pimples,” Nava Greenfield, MD, a board-certified dermatologist at Schweiger Dermatology Group and clinical instructor at Mount Sinai department of dermatology who specializes in acne, told The Post. “Exfoliating cells also allow fresh new glowing skin cells to appear.”
And yes, if you don’t have acne-prone or oily skin, you can still reap S.A.’s benefits. Products can be used as an exfoliator. Try using it twice a week at first and if tolerated, increase to everyday use if it’s not too harsh on the skin,” Greenfield adds.
Best Salicylic Acid Skincare
1. First Aid Beauty FAB Pharma 2% Salicylic Acid White Clay Acne Treatment Pads, $30
Not only known for its top-of-the-line Ultra Repair Cream ($37), but First Aid Beauty has phenomenal products for sensitive, acne-prone skin like its White Clay Acne Treatment Pads.
“It offers the convenience of a pad — for example, it’s easy to carry in your gym bag for a post workout application,” King said. “It contains 2% salicylic acid as well as tea tree oil, which has antimicrobial properties, and kaolin clay, which can absorb serum.”
2. CeraVe Acne Treatment Salicylic Acid Cleanser, $11 to $16
Oh, how we love CeraVe. From body butters and body lotions to eczema treatments and night creams, the brand is among our most recommended.
“This is an affordable option if you want to test out salicylic acid on your face,” Greenfield adds. “Use it twice a week to start and increase one day a week every week as tolerated to avoid drying out your skin.”
3. Paula’s Choice Skin-Perfecting 2% BHA Salicylic Acid Exfoliant, $30 to $32
Paula’s Choice has some of our favorite toners, and its Salicylic Acid Exfoliant is a fan-favorite product that’s fairly priced. It’s a popular product with great reviews, too.
“This contains 2% salicylic acid as well as green tea extract, which has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties,” King notes. “The formulation is hydrating and exfoliates gently.”
4. The Ordinary Salicylic Acid 2% Masque, $12 to $20
For just $20, how could you go wrong with The Ordinary’s Salicylic Acid 2% Masque? The brand has one of the great niacinamide serums, too.
“Glycerin and squalane hydrate and support the skin barrier while 2% salicylic acid gently exfoliates and clay and charcoal help to absorb sebum,” King explains. “It’s vegan and cruelty-free and [includes no] parabens and phthalates.”
5. Skinfix Acne + 2% BHA + Azaleic Acid + Niacinamide + AHA Cleanser, $35
If you haven’t heard of Skinfix, it’s a brand worth adding to your wishlist. Not only does it make some of the best products for sensitive skin — including a luscious body butter — but its cleanser is chockful of skin-boosting agents.
Not to mention, Greenfield approves of this product for the specific combination of ingredients. “The niacinamide will work to reduce redness and this product can work for rosacea-prone skin as well,” she adds.
6. Caudalie Vinopure Natural Salicylic Acid Pore-Minimizing Serum, $49
We truly want to write Caudalie a love letter, especially for its Instant Detox Mask ($39) that’s all the rage on TikTok. Its Vinopure Natural Salicylic Acid Pore-Minimizing Serum is just as good, especially with its spa-like packaging.
“Serums are a formulation that adds moisture while also gaining the benefit of a beta hydroxy acid,” Greenfield explains. “It’s a good product if you have dry skin but also want the benefits of using salicylic acid.”
7. Sunday Riley U.F.O. Salicylic Acid BHA Acne Treatment Face Oil, $40
From the makers of the Instagram-followed C.E.O. Glow Face Oil ($40), the U.F.O. Salicylic Acid Face Oil is its acne-prone-skin counterpart.
Do note, however, that oils are meant for dry skin types. “This product will provide strong hydration for dry skin while also providing the benefits of salicylic acid on the skin.”
8. Kate Somervile EradiKate Clarifying Acne Gel Cleanser with Salicylic Acid, $44
We’re convinced that Kate Somerville adds a hint of magic to its skincare products, especially with its EradiKate Clarifying Acne Gel Cleanser which, of course, is infused with salicylic acid.
“This is a gentle cleansing product that is less likely to dry out the skin than other over the counter salicylic acid washes,” Greenfield points out. “It can be used before using any medicated acne creams.”
9. Lancome Hydra Zen Oil-Free Moisturizer with Salicylic Acid, $47 to 48
Lancome: home of the Lash-Idole Mascara ($27) and the Artliner Precision Felt-Tip Liquid Eyeliner ($31) we can’t get enough of. But, more fittingly: skincare.
“Adding in salicylic acid as part of a moisturizer can cut down on the number of products you use daily,” Greenfield shares. “Oil-free is perfect for oily acne-prone skin. Remember to follow this with sunscreen.”
10. Clinique Acne Solutions Acne + Line Correcting Serum, $47
This dermatologist-approved formula from Clinique is especially beneficial for mature skin as it helps reduce the appearance of fine lines. Plus, it’s a wonderful, less-than-$50 steal that’s worth the buy.
11. Cetaphil Acne Face Wash with 2% Salicylic Acid, $10
“This is also a great option for an affordable cleanser that’s cream-based so less likely to be drying,” Greenfield said. “I love Cetaphil products in general and find them to be gentle on the skin and non-irritating.”
Plus, it’s $10 — the perfect budget-buy to help treat acne flare-ups.
12. Peace Out Skincare Acne Healing Dots (20-Pack), $19
Looking for a spot treatment? Peace Out Skincare has you covered with its Acne Healing Dots for precise, targeted treatment.
“This is salicylic acid in a spot treatment form that also provides aloe vera and vitamin A to prevent peeling,” Greenfield explains. “Use it on individual pimples while they are in the formation stage to stop the inflammatory process.”
13. The Inkey List Salicylic Acid Acne + Pore Cleanser, $11
“I like this product because it is part of the clean beauty line [at Sephora] where the brand is intentional about the ingredients they chose, only including ingredients that are safe and healthy for your skin,” Greenfield shares.
Plus, for $11, this is one of the most affordable clean beauty products worth snagging.
14. Vichy Normaderm Daily Deep Cleansing Gel, $18
As one of our favorite brands for niacinamide serums, Vichy has a dermatologist-recommended cleanser specially curated for acne-prone skin.
“This product has a unique ingredient of volcanic water along with a gentle formulation of salicylic acid which makes a lovely hydrating, acne-fighting cleanser,” Greenfield highlights.
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