The 10 Best Salicylic Acid Acne Products

You’ve probably heard beauty therapists and skincare experts talk about Salicylic Acid products.

You also might’ve seen it pop up in various skincare ingredient lists, but you may have no idea what it does.

If this is the case, you might be wondering, What is Salicylic Acid, and who ought to apply it?

Salicylic Acid is a type of beta-hydroxy Acid (BHA) derived from salicin. This acid is known for its exfoliating properties and is mainly found in chemical exfoliators and acne products. It’s kind of like a scrubbing brush for the pores!

When formulated in the right product, due to its chemical structure, Salicylic Acid products can stimulate natural exfoliation on the skin’s surface and within pores, where bacteria and dirt accumulate.

Watch Jo explain exactly what Salicylic Acid is and how it helps your skin in the YouTube video below...

What are the Benefits of Salicylic Acid?

Due to its exfoliating properties, this ingredient is great for anyone who needs good, consistent exfoliation. If you suffer from oily skin, acne, congestion, and uneven skin tone, Salicylic Acid products could help soothe your problems.

A Salicylic Acid cleanser could help clear up acne and give skin a smoother, more even-looking appearance. Acne products containing Salicylic Acid work to gently remove impurities and keep your skin looking clear.

Other Names that Salicylic Acid Might go by in Ingredients Lists

The most common names that Salicylic Acid might go by in ingredient lists are:

  • BHA. Although Salicylic Acid is just one type of BHA, in the beauty world, if it says ‘BHA’, it’s pretty much guaranteed to be Salicylic Acid.

  • Salicin, as this is what Salicylic Acid is derived from.

  • Salicylates. This is an umbrella term for salicin, Salicylic Acid, etc.

  • Willowbark. Salicylic Acid is naturally found in this plant.

Are Salicylic Acid Products Good for Cystic Acne?

While a pimple can seem like the most frustrating skin issue, cysts and cystic acne can linger under the skin’s surface, causing trouble for days. The little, hard areas under the skin can grow over time, becoming unsightly and uncomfortable.

Unlike whiteheads and blackheads, cystic acne is hard to pop. And if you do pop a cyst, you could be left with a nasty scar. Unfortunately, you don’t just get cystic acne on your face. It can pop up anywhere on the body.

There are treatments out there that can help. Salicylic Acid for skin will help clear congestion and get to the heart of your cyst issue.

We’ve found a great Salicylic Acid cream that will really help clear up your skin, so we’ve listed it below for you!

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Can Salicylic Acid Get Rid of Acne Scars?

Salicylic Acid is a naturally forming compound that’s great at helping clear up your skin. Acne products containing Salicylic Acid will help clear away debris and reduce any swelling that might occur in the area. Great at helping reduce the appearance of scarring, a good Salicylic Acid face wash or acne pads with Salicylic Acid will help improve the general appearance of your skin.

What Percentage of Salicylic Acid is Good for Acne?

Salicylic Acid is the perfect ingredient for mild acne. It will help clear away any whiteheads or blackhead on the skin and prevent future breakouts. But how much Salicylic Acid for acne is needed? Well, it all depends on the kind of solution you use. A Salicylic Acid toner or solution needs approximately 0.5% to 2% of the ingredient included to work. A Salicylic Acid body wash or soap needs approximately 0.5% to 5% to be effective.

Can I use Salicylic Acid if I am Pregnant or Breastfeeding?

There’s evidence that suggests that ingested forms of salicin could cause harm to a foetus, although it’s unclear whether the ingested form passes into breast milk. Topical use of Salicylic Acid hasn’t been proven to cause harm during pregnancy or breastfeeding. But most companies will err on the side of caution and recommend clients to not use skincare with this ingredient when with child or nursing.

If you want to use Salicylic Acid pregnancy products (as a lot of new or expectant mothers experience breakouts), check out the ingredients list of the product you’re looking at, and consult a doctor first.

If you’re sick and tired of bad skin and want to experience the Salicylic Acid benefits that everyone raves about, we’ve picked out the products to get you started. Plus, renowned skin expert Tegan Mac from TEGANMAC.SKIN has recommended her Salicylic Acid favourites for you!

Tegan Mac says, 'Ideal for oily, congested, blackhead prone skin. I love Cosmedix Purity Balance Exfoliating Prep because it breaks through oily skin to clean up the pores from excess oil and blockages. You don’t need to use it daily, just as required, as overuse can cause dryness. You only need to apply to the areas of the face where you get your congestion and blackheads.’

Hot tip: This is amazing for spraying on hard-to-reach areas on the back to treat bacne!

Cosmedix Purity Balance Exfoliating Prep is designed to correct problem pores and blackhead-prone skin. Cosmedix Purity Balance Exfoliating Prep is a nourishing and stimulating tonic that helps reduce large pores and oily patches. Mildly exfoliating Lactic Acid softens and hydrates, and Niacinamide repairs the skin’s barrier. Salicylic Acid helps mattify and rid the skin of unwanted debris.

‘Ideal for oily, sensitive, break out prone skin. This oil-free, lightweight moisturiser is perfect for breakout-prone skin that doesn’t like the feel of traditional, heavy moisturisers. This moisturiser contains probiotics, Vitamin E and Aloe Vera to help calm inflamed, irritated skin, while Salicylic helps keep pores clear and pimple-free.’ - Tegan Mac

Acne-prone skin needs a little extra love, and Société Clarity-Bac Complex will complement a targeted skincare routine. The gentle formula defends the skin and keeps moisture locked in. This antibacterial acne treatment leaves a satiny-matte finish without drying the skin out. Formulated to keep the skin silky-smooth, this lightweight formula with Salicylic Acid reduces any inflammation caused by breakouts.

Société Clarity-Bac Complex is lightweight but effective and helps clear blackheads before they occur. It’s one of the best Salicylic Acid acne products. The formula is oil-free to prevent further irritation. Mirabilis Jalapa Extract helps heal any wounds or scarring. Apply a thin layer to your skin before you moisturise.

‘Ideal for sensitive, acne-prone skin. This cleanser is unique in that despite being a Salicylic foam cleanser, it won’t dry your skin out, making it ideal for even sensitive, dry skins types. This cleanser contains probiotics to help rebalance and strengthen the skin, while the anti-inflammatory effects of the Salicylic Acid help clear up breakouts.’ - Tegan Mac

If you’re looking for a Salicylic Acid body wash for back acne, this gentle foaming cleanser can be used on your face and body. The water-based formula lathers to a super-light texture, helping eliminate any excess oil. Cosmedix Clarify Foaming Cleanser helps maintain the natural oils in the skin instead of stripping it dry. The wrong Salicylic Acid face wash for acne will leave skin feeling dry and tight. Instead, this nourishing formula battles blemishes while softening, hydrating, and conditioning your skin.

Salicylic Acid helps fight blemishes; Aloe Vera and D-Panthenol soothe redness and irritated skin; and healthy probiotics help resurface the skin. Cosmedix Clarify Foaming Cleanser offers a unique formula. Suitable for any skin type that’s experiencing a breakout, it makes your pores look clearer and your skin brighter.

If you love wearing makeup but struggle with acne-prone skin, this formula will help keep your pores clear. Priori LCA fx110 Gentle Cleanser is a rich, complex formula that cleanses away any dirt or debris that can clog the pores. Gentle exfoliation leaves your skin smoother, softer, dewier, and more radiant! With a skin-healing blend of Lactic Acid, Vitamins A, C, and E, and Pro-Vitamin A, this cleanser keeps the skin hydrated while encouraging skin-cell renewal.

Offering the skin antioxidant protection, the Anti-Irritant Complex soothes inflamed skin, keeping it nourished and protected. Priori LCA fx110 Gentle Cleanser is a cruelty-free formula that’s as kind to your skin as it is to the environment. Allantoin, Glycyrrhetinic Acid, Bisabolol, and Sucrose Cocoate calm irritation and keep the skin feeling comfortable. Mix 1 to 2 pumps with a small amount of water in your palms and massage into the face and neck area. Remove with warm water and a clean cloth.

If open pores and a slew of blackheads are getting you down, this Salicylic Acid acne spot treatment will help clear up your problem areas. Medik8 Blemish SOS Rapid Action Target Gel zaps breakouts fast and helps reduce inflammation caused by blemishes. Made with maximum strength Salicylic Acid to clear pores and Niacinamide to soothe the skin, this treatment makes your skin look clearer and you feel a little more confident. Vegan and cruelty-free, this powerhouse spot treatment reduces your spots in record time.

Medik8 Blemish SOS Rapid Action Target Gel 15ml is a clear, quick-drying gel formula with Salicylic Acid for acne marks. It reduces the appearance of blemishes in under 24 hours. You can even keep the gel on and wear it under your morning makeup. To use, cleanse your skin thoroughly and apply a small drop of gel directly onto each blemish. Your skin will soon look clearer, smoother, and less inflamed.

If you want to target fine lines, sun damage, and blemishes, this Salicylic Acid peel will help unveil brighter, healthier-looking skin. EmerginC Triple-Threat Peel has been designed to rapidly renew your complexion and give it a new lease of life. Though it’s specifically designed for dry, mature skin, this caring exfoliating formula is gentle enough for all skin types except the very sensitive. The potent, natural blend of Salicylic Acids, Fruit Acids, Retinol, Vitamin C, antioxidant Green Tea, and Fig Extract makes your skin look softer, brighter, and livelier.

Perfect at tackling acne scarring, breakouts, large pores, and blackheads, this peel works to improve the look and texture of skin overall. Tackling head-on the triple threat of pigmentation, age spots, and fine lines, EmerginC Triple-Threat Peel improves skin’s luminosity and removes dead skin cells. It’s just perfect for brightening up a dull complexion. Soak a cotton pad with a thin layer and sweep over the face. Leave on for 2 to 3 minutes. Then rinse thoroughly with cool water. Use once a week and follow with a serum or cream.

It’s not fair: acne, breakouts, and blackheads should stop in your teens. Period! And while we wish that were true, it’s not always the case. Adult acne can last all the way up to middle age, so it’s important you find a formula that helps without causing any harm. SkinCeuticals LHA Cleansing Gel has been designed for ageing skin that’s prone to breakouts. Combining cleansing agents with a potent blend of Lipohydroxy Acid (LHA), Glycolic Acid, and Salicylic Acid to decongest pores, brighten the skin and smooth over irregularities, this cleanser will have your skin looking fresher than ever!

A contender for the best Salicylic Acid face wash for acne, SkinCeuticals LHA Cleansing Gel gently exfoliates to unclog pores and tackle discolouration of the skin. Fine lines and wrinkles are smoothed, and the skin’s texture and tone are improved. Suitable for oily to combination skin, this formula removes makeup and any annoying excess oil. Wash your face twice daily with this sudsy cleanser to enjoy better-looking skin sooner.

This Kaolin Clay face mask is your new Sunday night self-care favourite. Perfect for oily, congested, problematic skin, Aspect Exfoliating Clay Mask draws out impurities from the skin with ease. This treatment mask exfoliates the skin gently with Salicylic Acid and Lactic Acid, so pores look clearer and the skin looks smoother. This formula is enriched with mattifying and super-absorbent Bentonite and Kaolin. These natural clays work together to rebalance and detoxify the skin.

Aspect Exfoliating Clay Mask also features Niacinamide and Canadian Willowherb, which deeply hydrate and help calm the skin. Antioxidants Vitamin C and E help protect the skin and keep it nice and bright. Perfect for acne-prone skin, this clay-based treatment will give skin the hydration it needs and won’t dry you out. Good for ageing and prepubescent skin, cleanse the skin thoroughly before smoothing on a pea-sized amount. Leave it on the skin for up to 15 minutes, rinse, and apply a moisturiser after.

If you’re looking to treat your acne-prone skin to something hydrating and exfoliating in a flash, Dermalogica Daily Resurfacer is your perfect pick-up. Made to smooth the skin with the power of a professional daily peel, the pads work to resurface the skin gently. If you suffer from enlarged pores and blackheads, these pads are great for you to use between pro treatments ... or on their own. Fortified with soothing ingredients to minimise irritation, this is a great option for sensitive skin.

Dermalogica Daily Resurfacer is gentle enough for daily use, offering the skin spa-like results. Plant extracts keep the skin calm, while Hyaluronic Acid keeps the skin hydrated. Salicylic Acid and Glycolic Acid work together to loosen and sweep away dead skin cells from the skin’s surface. To use, cleanse the skin thoroughly and pat dry. Hold the pouch between your thumb and forefinger to evenly disperse the product. Massage in a circular motion and let the skin dry before applying creams, toners, or serums.

Acne breakouts can be super-demotivating. When your skin feels congested and full of blemishes, it’s best to take action fast. EmerginC Tinted Blemish Control is a gentle drying treatment for acne. While Salicylic Acid gets to the root of the problem, Zinc Oxide and Sulphur work to soothe and reduce the size of a blemish. The tinted formula also helps with any discolouration you might be suffering from.

EmerginC Tinted Blemish Control helps you achieve the clear complexion you’ve been craving. The potent trio of active ingredients gets to work as soon as you apply the formula, helping to reduce the appearance of your blemishes. Breakouts dry out, and the formula helps the skin look smoother for longer. Apply to your blemishes 1 to 2 times per day and watch your skin improve!

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If congested, troubled skin is making you feel insecure, a product with Salicylic Acid will help you get your skin back on track. From face washes to targeted gels to treatment creams, there are plenty of formulas for you to try so you can get the skin you want.

Brand and product inclusions are at the sole discretion of Adore Beauty’s highly trained Customer Service team. We do not seek or accept payment from brands or individuals listed in our guides.

Now, Let's recap! What are the Best Salicylic Acid Acne Products?

  1. Cosmedix Purity Balance Exfoliating Prep

  2. Société Clarity-Bac Complex

  3. Cosmedix Clarify Foaming Cleanser

  4. Priori LCA fx110 Gentle Cleanser

  5. Medik8 Blemish SOS Rapid Action Target Gel 15ml

  6. EmerginC Triple-Threat Peel

  7. SkinCeuticals LHA Cleansing Gel

  8. Aspect Exfoliating Clay Mask

  9. Dermalogica Daily Resurfacer

  10. EmerginC Tinted Blemish Control

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