Salicylic acid, a beta hydroxy acid (BHA), is one of the most popular ingredients in skin care for good reason: it neutralizes breakout-causing bacteria while cleansing pores, reducing inflammation and boosting cell turnover rate to heal skin more quickly. And, believe it or not, despite the fact that it’s a skin care superpower, salicylic acid is gentle on sensitive and compromised skin types, making it a great choice for anyone seeking a clear and clean complexion. It’s most often naturally sourced from willow bark, (just like aspirin), which is the reason behind its amazing anti-inflammatory properties. And it’s not just great for your face, either—salicylic acid is wonderful for cleansing and soothing body blemishes and troublesome ingrown hairs in the delicate bikini and underarm area.
Here are nine of our favorite ways to incorporate this wonder BHA into our skin care regimen:
1. To help repair your skin as you sleep: Drunk Elephant T.L.C. Framboos Glycolic Night Serum
Why we love it: This night serum blends salicylic acid with glycolic acid and green tea extract to clarify and restore the natural defenses of your complexion, allowing the rest of your beauty regimen to work more effectively all night long.
What shoppers say: “I know, I know. You see that price and it’s an instant skip. But believe me, as a student (albeit a skin care junkie) this is 100% worth it. I get bad acne… scarring, red angry deep acne. This helps it so much.” – From Jamul, CA
2. To slough off pore-clogging impurities: Paula’s Choice Skin Perfecting 2% BHA Liquid Exfoliant
Why we love it: Salicylic acid exfoliates dead skin cells and other impurities as it speeds up cell generation. Green tea soothes inflammation and helps protect against further free-radical damage.
What shoppers say: “I have very sensitive skin that is also acne prone. Since starting this product, my pores are already smaller and I swear my overall complexionlooks smoother and less textured.” –From Chapin, SC
3. To address adult acne and wrinkles in one go: SkinCeuticals Blemish + Age Defense
Why we love it: A popular myth about oily skin is that it’s less likely than dry skin types to show fine lines and wrinkles. For those of you who know the truth, this intensive skin care treatment is designed to address and prevent blemishes while rejuvenating the look of your skin. It helps to reduce hyperpigmentation, too!
What shoppers say: “If you have sensitive skin that’s prone to breakouts and is also aging, this is the best product out there. Moisturizes without leaving skin greasy or clogging pores and keeps skin plump and youthful while also clearing imperfections. Someone asked me if I’d had botox!” – From New Your, NY
4. As an all-in-one day cream: Jan Marini Bioglycolic Bioclear Face Cream
Why we love it: This ultra-moisturizing facial cream uses glycolic and salicylic acid to purify your pores while a blend of herbal extracts further reduce inflammation and soothe compromised complexions.
What shoppers say: “Three days later my skin is noticeably more smooth, less red in my cheeks and nose, smaller pores and I have been pimple-free for two days. Not only is my skin currently clear but I feel none of the signs of a zit forming.” – From Granger, IN
Why we love it: These medicated pads are saturated with a high percentage of glycolic and salicylic acid to address even the most problematic skin types. Its powerful formula deeply cleans pores while removing dead skin and debris to prevent future breakouts while soothing plant extracts minimize inflammation.
What shoppers say: “I’ve been using this product for over a year now and have noticed the sustained improvement of my adult-acne-prone skin: fewer outbreaks, fewer cysts, fewer blackheads, tightened pores, more even skin tone, and less pigmentation.” – From New Haven, CT
6. For daily cleansing that reduces redness: Obagi CLENZIderm M.D. Daily Care Foaming Cleanser
Why we love it: This foaming cleanser can be used every day without irritating or drying out sensitive skin types. Its potent blend of BHA clears and balances your complexion while reducing redness caused by environmental stressors and breakouts.
What shoppers say: “I am 60 years old with rosacea and hormonal acne in my chin area. Trying to treat both problems has been difficult. This face wash has made a tremendous difference in my acne, yet my rosacea stays calm.” – From Jenks, OK
7. To brighten complexion and fade dark spots: SkinMedica AHA/BHA Exfoliating Cleanser
Why we love it: Struggling with dark spots? This exfoliating cleanser rids your complexion of excess sebum and debris with salicylic acid while eliminating those pesky age spots with bilberry and licorice.
What shoppers say: “I’ve used this product along with the Lytera and retinol serum and have seen a dramatic decrease in hyperpigmentation. I definitely recommend this product to anyone looking for relief from dark spots and uneven skin tone.” – From Los Fresnos, TX
8. To resurface dry skin: Epionce Lytic Plus Tx
Why we love it: Salicylic acid is great for dry skin, too! This treatment smooths away rough and uneven spots while boosting cell regeneration and healing and delivering intensive moisture.
What shoppers say: “I love this cream! It prevents breakouts and improves discoloration. It has a cooling effect that feels clean. It works well under makeup and is gentle and hydrating, but still prevents acne.” – From Round Rock, TX
9. To tone acne-prone skin: Glytone Acne Clearing Toner
Why we love it: This exfoliating toner helps control excess oil production and re-balance pH—an essential part of any anti-acne regimen!
What shoppers say: “I cannot say enough about this line! My skin is completely clear! I’ve tried about every infomercial out there and nothing came close to working like Glytone. I would recommend the whole line, but this toner itself is amazing!” – From St. George, UT