How to Improve Acne: The Ordinary Salicylic Acid Review

Salicylic acid is one of the most popular ingredients in the skin care industry and with very good reason! It’s a miracle ingredient for acne-prone skin as it acts as an exfoliator and mild acne treatment. It’s commonly found in face cleansers, moisturizers or as separate serums.

The Ordinary Salicylic Acid 2% Solution is a great source of salicylic acid as it helps to gently exfoliate the inside walls of pores to fight the appearance of blemishes and give better visible skin clarity with continued use. It helps to treat acne, pimples, blackheads and other skin-related issues.

I’ve been using it for over two months and right now, it’s basically my Holy Grail skin care product!

the ordinary salicylic acid 2% solution review
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How Does Salicylic Acid Work?

Acne occurs when hair follicles on the skin become plugged with oil (sebum) and dead skin cells. Salicylic acid treats acne by penetrating into the skin, reducing sebum production, unclogging the pores and dissolving skin flakes thus exfoliating the skin.

Basically, there are two major types of acids in skin care namely: alpha-hydroxy acids AHAs and beta-hydroxy acids BHAs (such as salicylic acid)

What’s the Difference between AHAs and BHAs?

AHAs (like glycolic, lactic, malic acids) work by breaking the bonds holding skin cells together thus exfoliating the upper layer of the skin while BHAs (such as salicylic acid) dissolve the mix of sebum and dead skin that causes acne.

AHAs are hydrophilic (water-loving) so they dissolve easily in water making them amazing products for dry skin. They’re also very good for sensitive skin because they work on the surface of the skin. BHAs are oil-soluble, penetrate deeper and are great for acne-prone skin since they penetrate more.

Salicylic acid is an incredible ingredient which helps to reduce acne, blackheads and whiteheads and at the same time, help other acne-fighting ingredients penetrate the skin better.

I chose The Ordinary Salicylic Acid 2% solution because it offers a concentration which is very effective but not so high that it causes my skin (normal, acne-prone) to breakouts.

Related: Top 8 Skincare Tips for Smooth, Healthy Skin

Product Description

The Ordinary Salicylic Acid is a chemical exfoliant which is intended to treat acne and blemishes and enhance skin clarity and texture.

It comes in a simple white package typical of The Ordinary’s products. The bottle itself is 30ml (there is also a 15 ml size), small and transparent with a dropper cap. The liquid is transparent and little amounts cover a large surface area. When rubbed in, it lathers and becomes white. If used sparingly once a day, the 30ml solution can last as long as 2 months.

the ordinary salicylic acid 2% solution review

How to apply The Ordinary Salicylic Acid

  • Wash face thoroughly with a cleanser and dry with a clean cloth
  • Wait 10 minutes to ensure that your face dries well. Do not touch any surfaces during that wait time
  • Drop 2 or 3 drops on fingers and pat gently on your face. Alternatively, drop directly on the spots. Do not rub. This is a strong acid.
  • Wait for it to sink in before applying other products.

The Ordinary Salicylic Acid Review for Acne

My skin has being suffering from intense acne problems for years. It seems that the instant I hit puberty, my skin became really bad and it worsened as I grew older. I was badly in need of something to clear my face and when The Ordinary’s salicylic acid was recommended to me, I was so happy to start using it!

I’ve being using the acid nearly every day for about two months and I have really seen a difference. The blackheads that plagued my face for so long are nearly gone and my face has a more even tone now. Also, the bumps and pimples have really reduced and my face is much smoother. I avoid touching my face as much as possible (dirt and all) but I love what I feel when I do touch it!

However, my face is still suffering badly from really tiny spots and they seem like they’re never leaving. My pores are also big and make my face appear rougher than it actually is when examined more closely. Since salicylic acid isn’t intended to reduce pore size, I’m okay with that but I wish it was working on the tiny spots.

the ordinary salicylic acid 2% solution review

Points to Note About the Exfoliant

  • Try test patches first! I mentioned this in my post on top skincare tips for smooth skin and it’s very important. This is a 2% acid and it may be too strong for your skin. Test it on your arm first.
  • Don’t use too much. In the directions for use I listed above, I mentioned using 2-3 drops for the entire face. This is really important. Apply this acid sparingly
  • Don’t use more than twice a day and even better, don’t use more than once in a day.
  • Don’t use on peeling skin.
  • If you want to add this product to your routine, incorporate it gradually.

Pros of using The Ordinary Salicylic Acid 2% Solution

  • The acid is great for acne-prone skin to reduce blemishes and spots
  • It’s an amazing product for those with oily skin because it dries out the skin a bit.
  • Using it in your skincare routine before applying makeup will help your makeup (especially the foundation) stay on.

the ordinary salicylic acid 2% solution review

Cons of Using the Acid

  • The acid dries out the skin which is great for oily skin but bad for dry skin. I won’t recommend it so much if you have dry or combination skin. It may lead to your skin flaking
  • It’s also not the best option for very sensitive skin. Trust me on this. I’ve read quite a few horror stories involving burns and breakouts.
  • According to the manufacturers, it can increase your skin’s sensitivity to the sun. Don’t forget your sunscreen when you use it!
  • You may experience some purging at first when pimples come to the surface and it looks like you’ve broken out. Wait 2 weeks and if the problem persists, discontinue use.

Do I Recommend…?

Salicylic acid for dry skin: 7/10 recommend. This is a drying product so it can cause your skin to produce more oil to compensate, thus increasing sebum and producing more acne creating a vicious cycle. You can avoid this by ensuring you moisturise your skin regularly (day and night) to compensate for the loss of moisture.

Salicylic acid for oily or acne-prone skin: 9/10 recommend. Well… duh!

Salicylic acid for sensitive skin: 5/10 recommend. For very sensitive skin, The Ordinary Salicylic Acid 2% Solution may irritate the skin and cause burns and even worse breakouts. If you have sensitive skin, you would probably be better off with a lower concentration of the acid or a less penetrating product like the AHAs for example, glycolic acid. The effect of this acid depends on the sensitivity of your skin.

The Ordinary Salicylic Acid 2% solution is a really great exfoliator to use if you have acne-prone or blemish-prone skin. It works really well to clear your skin and if you have oily skin, it’s the perfect product for you!

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Have you used this product before? What do you think of it? What do you use to treat your acne (if you have)?

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15 thoughts on “How to Improve Acne: The Ordinary Salicylic Acid Review

  1. bookishowlette says:


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    Liked by 1 person

  2. f00dventures says:

    This was a great review! You literally answered just about any question I would have had about this product. I do wonder if it works on areas? My face has actually calmed down a lot with breakouts which I am thankful for but my shoulders break out like crazy. It makes me really self conscious and embarrassed to wear tanks in the summertime. I’m even nervous about wearing my wedding dress because it is sleeveless. May be worth trying in my shoulders just to see what it would do.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Taiwo says:

      Thank you so much Kirsten! I’m glad you like this post ❤ Yes, it works well for areas. Some people even advise to apply it only on affected areas. You need to know what type of skin you have and decide if it will work for you. Also, it takes some time to see results. Congrats on your engagement!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. f00dventures says:

        ok great, i will def consider looking into this then! and thank you! i’ve actually been engaged for almost 8 years, dating for 13. prob not getting married anytime soon which i’m actually grateful for because it gives me time to figure out how to get rid of these breakouts on my shoulders lol

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Sophie Coombs says:

    I may have to pick this up and use it on my chin! I bought the lactic acid from The Ordinary last week and I’ve already noticed a difference in the general texture of my skin. Beauty Bay has a great A-Z guideline of what products do what from The Ordinary, so maybe you could find something there to help with your other issues!

    Love, Soph x


  4. KB Gamblin says:

    What a great review. I’ve been looking for a new salicylic acid to use (the one I used for years was discontinued *sobs*), so I’ll definitely give The Ordinary a try!
    KB | Her Life in Ruins

    Liked by 1 person

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