Salicylic Acid Cleansers: Your Secret Weapon Against Acne and Clogged Pores

In the ever-evolving world of skincare, certain ingredients have stood the test of time. Salicylic acid is one that dermatologists and beauty therapists swear by for its benefits for the skin. 

Salicylic acid is a well-known ingredient that helps to reduce the appearance of breakouts - it effectively targets all types of acne. It’s perfect for all skin types to address the appearance of acne, but has the most benefits for oily and combination skin

But what makes a salicylic acid cleanser a must-have in your skincare routine? Dive in to uncover the secrets behind this powerful ingredient.

What is Salicylic Acid?

Salicylic acid is an exfoliating ingredient in the family of Beta-Hydroxy Acids (BHAs). It’s a unique ingredient that is originally derived from White Willow Bark Extract. That’s why it’s called Salicylic Acid - the scientific name for this plant is Salix Alba

This skincare ingredient is most commonly used in exfoliating peels, both professional strength and at-home peels. However, it can also benefit the skin by being formulated in other types of products too - one of our favourites is a salicylic acid cleanser. 

How Does Salicylic Acid Work?

This BHA benefits the skin in many ways. It’s a skincare ingredient that improves the appearance of skin to ultimately reveal baby butt-smooth, glassy skin - no matter your skin type!

Acne-Fighting Properties

One of the biggest benefits of salicylic acid is its ability to reduce the appearance of breakouts. 

Salicylic acid is a beta-hydroxy acid that is renowned for its acne-fighting capabilities. It works by exfoliating the skin and clearing away dead skin cells. 

By doing so, it helps to prevent the clogging of pores, which often leads to acne breakouts. Moreover, it can penetrate deep into the pores, cleaning out accumulated dirt, sebum, and other impurities. This means no more popping pimples

Reduction in Inflammation and Redness

One of the significant benefits of salicylic acid products are their anti-inflammatory properties. This molecule is actually related to aspirin (acetylsalicylic acid), which is well known for reducing inflammation. 

This means a facial cleanser containing salicylic acid can help minimise redness and inflammation associated with acne, making blemishes less noticeable and promoting a more even skin tone.

Unclogs Pores & Prevents Blackheads

The deep exfoliating properties of salicylic acid make it a potent weapon against blackheads and whiteheads. 

By loosening up the cells that clog pores, salicylic acid allows for the easy expulsion of impurities. Its ability to keep the pores clear not only helps in reducing current blemishes but also in preventing future blackheads and acne from forming. That’s what makes a salicylic acid cleanser among the best cleansers for acne!

Skin-Smoothing Effects

As salicylic acid sloughs off dead skin cells, it promotes a smoother skin surface. Salicylic acid benefits skin by minimising the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles and promoting collagen production. Furthermore, its exfoliating effect can lead to a brighter complexion, shedding dull skin and allowing the fresh, new skin underneath to shine through.

Benefits of Salicylic Acid Cleansers Chart

Choosing the Right Salicylic Acid Cleanser for Your Skin Type

While it’s true that salicylic acid benefits oily skin and combination skin the most, there’s no reason why other skin types can’t benefit from its acne-clearing prowess. That’s why a salicylic acid cleanser is one of our team’s favourite ways to benefit from it on skin! 

It’s a unique type of cleanser that might be your new favourite skincare step. 


The perks of using a cleanser mean that your skin can get the benefits of salicylic acid, but avoid over-exfoliation - getting you on your way to your best skin ever!

Oily Skin

Our pick for oily skin is the Medik8 Pore Cleanse Gel Intense. This cleanser harnesses the power of Salicylic Acid and other exfoliating acids to address the appearance of large pores and regulate skin sebum levels for mattified, smooth skin. Oily skin tolerates gel-based cleansers the best, leaving skin feeling fresh and cleansed - yet not stripped of hydration.


Medik8 Pore Cleanse Gel Intense
Medik8 Pore Cleanse Gel Intense
Say hello to your new best friend, Medik8 Pore Cleanse Gel Intense. This magical pore-refining gel is packed with active ingredients like salicylic acid and L-mandelic acid that work together to deeply cleanse and purify your pores. 


Dry Skin

Dry skin doesn’t have to miss out on the benefits of salicylic acid for skin. Formulated to moisturise and exfoliate, Murad Clarifying Cream Cleanser helps to gently clear away blockages in pores and balance skin. 

The creamy formula helps to lock moisture into skin, avoiding that tight feeling after cleansing, making this cleanser ideal for dry skin.


Murad Clarifying Cream Cleanser
Murad Clarifying Cream Cleanser
This gentle, yet clarifying cleanser from Murad is ideal for helping to reduce the look of breakouts with an effective complex of skin-clearing ingredients. 


Sensitive Skin

A gentle cleanser that respects your skin’s natural pH balance is just what sensitive skin needs. 

Medik8 Clarifying Foam is a gentle cleanser that smooths away dead skin cells to reveal fresh, glowing skin underneath. It has lower amounts of the active ingredients to minimise redness or irritation.


Medik8 Clarifying Foam
Medik8 Clarifying Foam
Cleanse and clarify with the super-fun and seriously effective Medik8 Clarifying Foam. This refreshing and bubbly facial cleanser has been formulated with potent ingredients that work together to banish excess oil, dirt and impurities, without stripping your skin of its natural moisture.


Combination Skin

This skin type has a unique set of needs as some parts lean on the dry side, while others overproduce oil. The Medik8 Surface Radiance Cleanse perfectly balances these needs to balance the oilier parts of your face, while making sure that the other areas don’t feel dry or tight.


Medik8 Surface Radiance Cleanse
Medik8 Surface Radiance Cleanse
Say goodbye to dullness, and hello to a fresh, youthful glow! Perfect for those who want to jump-start their skincare routine with a deep cleanse. And the best part? This luxurious formula is packed with natural antioxidants that protect your skin from environmental stressors. 


Breakout-Prone Skin

Kiehl’s Blue Herbal Acne Cleanser tackles the appearance of breakouts naturally, thanks to a blend of Salicylic Acid and Witch Hazel. The salicylic acid cleanser helps to reduce the appearance of breakouts, unclogging pores and regulating the skin’s oil levels.


Kiehl's Blue Herbal Acne Cleanser
Kiehl's Blue Herbal Acne Cleanser
Clear breakouts and prevent new ones from forming with Kiehl's Blue Herbal Acne Cleanser Treatment. It’s fortified with Salicylic Acid, one of the best natural ingredients to tackle acne. 

Teenage Skin

There’s a reason why salicylic acid products are so highly recommended for teen skin - they’re seriously good at reducing the look of acne! The Dermalogica Clear Start Breakout Clearing Foaming Wash is specially formulated for young skin to clear away breakouts and pimples with the power of Salicylic Acid.


Dermalogica Clear Start Breakout Clearing Foaming Wash
Dermalogica Clear Start Breakout Clearing Foaming Wash
Clear away dead skin cells and reduce existing acne with this effective treatment cleanser from Dermalogica. Formulated with two ingredients that zap breakouts - Salicylic Acid and Tea Tree Oil - this gel cleanser gently encourages acne to heal and prevents more from forming.


How to Incorporate Salicylic Acid Cleansers into Your Skincare Routine

A salicylic acid cleanser should be alternated with a regular cleanser a few times a week. Using this kind of exfoliating cleanser twice a day, every day could lead to irritation and redness - the literal opposite of what we’re trying to go for here! It could dry out your skin’s natural acid mantle. This leads to stinging, redness, and excessive sensitivity.

A range suggested by our skincare experts is from twice a week to seven days a week (that means once a day, seven days a week)! Since it’s an ‘active’ cleanser, we suggest having a regular, gentle cleanser to fall back on.

They’re ideal for use at nighttime as part of a double-cleansing routine - this method means that you remove makeup using an oil cleanser, then follow up with a non-oil based cleanser to fully clean and purify skin. 

Key Points

A salicylic acid cleanser is a valuable anti-acne skincare product to add to your skincare routine. It’s the perfect way to get the benefits of this exfoliating acid and reach your skin goals! Simply use it as you would a regular cleanser in the shower or at the sink to sweep away impurities and reveal smooth, clear skin. Alternate with a regular cleanser to avoid over-exfoliation and keep your moisture barrier intact!

Alexis Adrienne

Alexis Adrienne

Alexis Adrienne is a passionate beauty writer with over 10 years of experience. She’s incredibly keen on all things skincare, makeup and cosmetics, with a fingertip on the pulse of the latest global beauty trends at all times.

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