Spots Don't Stand a Chance Against This Powerful Skincare Ingredient

Zara Kenyon

Tristan Fewings/BFC/Getty Images

While there’s no “one-size-fits-all” cure when it comes to remedying acne, anyone who deals with persistent blemishes knows that there are some fail-safe treatments. That’s where salicylic acid comes in—it’s one of the most common spot-busting ingredients out there, and while it sounds mildly frightening (acids = redness, right?), it’s also one of the least irritating.

Now, that’s not to say you can layer it on and expect to see zero flaky skin. But compare it with the backlash that you get from certain other blemish-busters and salicylic acid often comes out on top. Makes sense, then, that you’ll find it in all manner of scrubs, face masks and moisturisers, leading to many of us rubbing it into our faces daily without actually knowing how it works. Let’s change that.

Keep scrolling to discover the benefits of salicylic acid and nine products that contain this pore-clearing powerhouse.


First, you need to know how blackheads and whiteheads form. It’s quite simple, really; when dead cells get stuck together, they clog your pores and cause congestion. Salicylic acid dissolves the glue that bonds those cells together and (because it’s oil-soluble) can penetrate deep to exfoliate inside the pore—not just the surface. It also promotes cell turnover for a firmer, plumper complexion and controls the overproduction of sebum. No wonder it’s such a popular spot remedy.


While salicylic acid is an exfoliant, benzoyl peroxide is an antibacterial ingredient that kills the acne-causing bacteria inside the pore. BP is also less suitable for sensitive skin than salicylic acid, as its drying properties can lead to flakiness, irritation and that nails-on-a-chalkboard tightening sensation.


On facial skin, you should go for a concentration of 0.5% to 2%, while the rest of your body may respond well to 3% salicylic acid. If you’re still unsure, consult a dermatologist, who will be able to recommend the right level for you.

Click through to shop the best salicylic acid products.

Explore: Acne

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