There may be thousands of products swearing to zap your zits, but there's one ingredient at the heart of many that's actually doing the work: salicylic acid. Your first encounter with the ingredient was probably around age 13; now it's a mainstay in your medicine cabinet. But what does it actually do? Do you need 0.5% or 2%? How often can you use it? We checked with an expert, dermatologist Dr. Murad, to get the answers and picked out a few of our favorite salicylic acid-based formulas, below.
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Philosophy Clear Days Ahead Fast-Acting Salicylic Acid Acne Spot Treatment ($18)Dab this product on the affected area to knock out a pimple fast--it kills bacteria and packs a maximum strength amount: 2% salicylic acid.
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Neutrogena Rapid Clear On-the-Go Acne Treatment Pen ($10)A portable solution to use at the first sign of a zit, this pen packs 0.5% salicylic acid, so it's good for multiple applications.
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Murad Acne Treatment Concealer ($21)In an ideal world a zit would only appear at night, and thus, be treated in private. But when a blemish appears during the day, try layering a medicated concealer over affected areas. This one has 2% salicylic acid and doesn't get dry or cake-y.
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Benefit Cosmetics Boo Boo Zap! Medicated Acne Treatment ($16)Thanks to its low amount of salicylic acid (0.5%), this can be used on ultra-sensitive skin. It reduces redness and swelling around the pimple and can actually help it heal, too.
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Clean & Clear Advantage Acne Spot Treatment ($8)A tried-and-true staple in the fight against zits is Clean & Clear, and for a good reason. This is a no-frills, 2% formula that will reduce blemish size quickly and effectively.