Fight Blackheads and Whiteheads with Salicylic Acid

Whiteheads, also known as closed comedones, are one of the many different types of acne. They’re a non-inflamed collection of debris including dirt, oil, sweat and dead skin that has clogged a pore. If a clogged pore isn’t trapped under the skin and so is exposed to the air, the debris will oxidise and turn grey or black, leading to a blackhead (which despite common belief are not those dark pores on your nose).

These two kinds of acne are the most common and – thankfully – curable. They fall under the ‘non-inflammatory’ acne umbrella, which describes their tendency to be un-inflamed (read: not red) and to also linger for a long time. That’s because your body isn’t recognising them as an infection, so while they aren’t as inflamed, they also fly under the radar and avoid attack from your immune system.

With just one powerhouse ingredient you can tackle both of these annoying types of acne super effectively:

Salicylic Acid for non-inflammatory acne

Salicylic acid, also known as Beta-Hydroxy Acid or BHA for short, is an oil-soluble derivative of willow bark (this is also where aspirin comes from!). It’s often found in percentages up to 2% and is considered a type of chemical exfoliation.

How does it work for acne?

Salicylic acid is highly effective by entering each clogged pore and clearing it by dissolving and dislodging trapped debris. It is also anti-inflammatory, which will help to reduce redness and fight the additional type of acne known as inflammatory acne. Salicylic acid is also excellent for treating keratosis pilaris – those tiny red bumps aka. chicken skin – on the arms.

Great salicylic acid products to try

Salicylic (like most skin care actives) requires a specific pH range to be effective. Below are some tried and tested products that have awesome acne-fighting capabilities thanks to salicylic acid. Purchase them or read about them to educate yourself and find your own to pop into your routine!

Clearasil Ultra Rapid Action Treatment Lotion is a good choice for your first foray into salicylic acid as it’s lightweight, affordable and easy to find.

Similarly, if you’re on a tight budget or go through your product quickly but want a thicker cream, try out the massive CeraVe Renewing SA Cream Salicylic Acid Body Moisturizer for Rough and Bumpy Skin.

If you have sensitive skin or want a bare-bones routine, reach for the plain and simple The Ordinary Salicylic Acid 2% Solution.

This is my personal favourite and current salicylic acid product, straight from Korea and super gentle – Cosrx Bha Blackhead Power Liquid.

Widely regarded as one of the most effective salicylic acid products, this is a classic and reliable place to start and is jam-packed full of other great-for-skin ingredients – Paulas Choice Skin Perfecting 2% BHA Liquid Salicylic Acid Exfoliant.

Now go on, choose the right treatment product to go in your skin care routine and finally beat stubborn blackheads and whiteheads!



  1. […] acid aka. BHA (beta-hydroxy acid) is an ingredient known for its pore cleansing and anti-acne properties. It can dissolve and remove the keratin that makes up our dead skin and hair and is oil soluble too […]

  2. […] benefits of the oil-soluble power-exfoliant salicylic acid (aka. BHA or Beta Hydroxy Acid) of reducing sebaceous filaments and closed comedones were two things I really needed. But I do have a history with dehydration and sensitivity so the […]

  3. […] sebum and blackheads and dead skin cells, but is also anti-inflammatory. In this way it’s a great anti-acne treatment! AHA doesn’t have the same pore-cleansing properties as BHA, but it does a superior job in […]

  4. […] you want to prevent acne or treat mild blackheads and whiteheads, you can’t go wrong with salicylic acid. Salicylic acid (also called ‘BHA’) is an ingredient that can make its way through the […]

  5. […] could talk about active ingredients for eons, but some of my very favourite actives include Salicylic Acid or Niacinamide + Zinc for milder, congestive acne, Benzoyl Peroxide for more severe inflammatory acne, and Mandelic Acid for […]

  6. […] Choose salicylic acid to treat blackheads and whiteheads, oily skin, sensitive skin, or textured ski…. It excels at exfoliating loose all the existing acne and keeping oily skin clog-free. If you’re unsure, go for this option first! […]

  7. […] almost always perform better when used in a leave-on formula. My first routine was packed full of salicylic acid and benzoyl peroxide. They’re great ingredients when used correctly, but in a cleanser they just […]

  8. […] peroxide can of course be combined with the best ingredient for non-inflammatory acne, salicylic acid, as they’re both super effective and together you’ll get even better […]

  9. […] aren’t proven to help acne, rather than the options that are. Instead, you should be focusing on salicylic acid, benzoyl peroxide, and other proven […]

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