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Salicylic acid (SA) is an ingredient in some over-the-counter products, such as peels, gels, creams, and ointments. These may suit people who have acne or frequently clogged pores.

This article discusses SA in more detail and how peels can benefit the skin. It also explores some of the best SA peels in more detail and answers some frequently asked questions.

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SA is a beta-hydroxy acid (BHA) and keratolytic agent which loosens and softens thick, dry skin. Peels are a type of treatment that exfoliate the skin.

The American Academy of Dermatology Association (ADD) states that products containing this acid can help treat different types of acne blemishes, such as papules. SA can also reduce inflammation and unclog skin pores.

An older review found that individuals can safely use SA peels if they have acne, melasma, freckles, or photodamage. It is also safe to use on dark skin, as it does not cause post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation.

However, topical SA can cause skin irritation or a stinging sensation. A person should consult their doctor if these symptoms persist.

A person buying a SA peel product should consider the following:

  • Skin type compatibility: Individuals should choose a product that is compatible with their skin type. Brands usually list this information on the label.
  • Instructions: People should opt for a SA peel that comes with instructions indicating how to add it into a skin care routine.
  • Returns: Some companies offer a money-back guarantee for individuals who are not satisfied with the treatment.

Below are six SA peels that a person may consider purchasing.

Please note that the writer of this article has not tried these products. All information presented is purely research-based and correct at the time of publication.

Medical News Today follows a strict product selection and vetting process. Learn more here.

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Best SA peel for lower budgets: The Ordinary AHA 30% + BHA 2% Peeling Solution

  • Price: $8
  • Volume or count: 30 milliliters (ml)
  • Pro: suitable for oily skin
  • Con: may irritate sensitive skin

The Ordinary offers this peel product that contains SA and alpha-hydroxy acids (AHAs).

According to the company, it is gluten-free, vegan, and the ingredients are not tested on animals.

The company recommends using this peel on the face and neck when the skin is dry and rinsing after 10 minutes.

A person should limit sun exposure while using this peeling solution, as it can increase the skin’s sensitivity to the sun.

Best SA peel for all skin types: Dr Dennis Gross Alpha Beta Universal Daily Peel

  • Price: $88
  • Volume or count: 30 treatments
  • Pro: easy-to-use treatment pads
  • Con: more costly than some products

This peel also contains SA and AHAs.

The company claims that the product produces fast results and improves uneven skin tone and texture. It also states the peel is suitable for all skin types and people using peels for the first time.

It also claims the product is cruelty-free, vegan, and paraben-free.

Best SA peel with tea tree oil: QRxLabs 20% Salicylic Acid Gel Peel

  • Price: $19.95
  • Volume or count: 30 ml
  • Pro: contains essential oil and botanical extracts
  • Con: may not be suitable for all skin types

This 20% SA gel peel contains tea tree oil and green tea extract. It is also alcohol-free.

The manufacturer states that people can use this peel to help reduce breakouts and inflammation.

The company does not specify which skin types are compatible with this peel.

Best SA peel with a money-back guarantee: Skin Beauty Solutions Salicylic Acid Skin Peel 10%

  • Price: from $15
  • Volume or count: from 15 ml
  • Pro: available in different strengths
  • Con: no recent product reviews on its website

This product is formulated for acne-prone skin. The company claims it helps unclog pores, exfoliate the skin, and fade blemishes.

Skin Beauty Solutions recommends this peel for individuals who have oily and sensitive skin.

Best SA high strength peel pads: Perfect Image Tri-Clarity Peel Pads 25%

  • Price: $29.95
  • Volume or count: 30 pads
  • Pro: easy-to-use treatment pads
  • Con: high strength may not be suitable for everyone

This peel contains plant extracts to help reduce acne breakouts and inflammation.

According to Perfect Image, the pads work best on oily and acne-prone skin.

Best SA peel for wrinkles: Murad Replenishing Multi-Acid Peel

  • Price: $68
  • Volume or count: 3.3 fluid ounces (fl oz)
  • Pro: suitable for most skin types
  • Con: more costly than some products

Murad’s multi-acid peel formulation is for balanced, oily, combination, and dry skin types. The company states the peel helps prevent dryness and reduce irritation.

According to the company website, users say their skin is smoother, brighter, and has an even tone.

The table below provides a comparison of the SA peels listed in this article:

The Ordinary AHA 30% + BHA 2% Peeling SolutionDr Dennis Gross Alpha Beta Universal Daily PeelQRxLabs 20% Salicylic Acid Gel PeelSkin Beauty Solutions Salicylic Acid Skin Peel 10%Perfect Image Tri-Clarity Peel Pads 25%Murad Replenishing Multi-Acid Peel
Best featuresuitable for lower budgetssuitable for all skin typescontains tea tree oil 60-day money-back guaranteehigh-strength peel padsreduces the appearance of wrinkles
Volume or count30 ml30 treatments30 mlfrom 1 oz30 pads3.3 fl oz
Price$8$88$19.95from $15$29.95$68

People who are concerned about their skin health should consider speaking with a dermatologist, who can recommend the best treatment option for them. A person should also discuss with their dermatologist about using new products if they are using medication to manage skin conditions.

A person should seek immediate medical help if products cause an allergic reaction, leading to hives, itching, and difficulty breathing.

Below, we answer some common questions about SA peels.

Which salicylic acid peel is the best?

An older study found that a SA concentration of 30% was the most effective in treating acne scars.

However, a doctor can advise on the best product a person can use based on their condition and skin type.

How often can I use 20% salicylic acid peel?

A 2015 study notes that individuals can use a 20% or 30% salicylic acid every 2 or 4 weeks.

However, a person should contact a dermatologist for further guidance.

Do salicylic acid peels work?

Many salicylic acid peel products have positive customer reviews, so many people find them useful.

However, they may not work for some individuals, and they may also cause a burning sensation or an allergic reaction.

A person may consider discussing treatment options with a dermatologist before committing to a purchase.

There are various SA peels available for purchase online, and they do not require a prescription.

They may help reduce signs of acne, unclog pores, and improve the skin’s overall appearance.

A person should ask their dermatologist if they have any questions about a product they are interested in purchasing, especially if they are already using medication for a skin condition.