Review: The Ordinary Salicylic Acid 2% Solution

There’s no doubt in my mind that salicylic acid is effective against acne; when I was a teenager I had really bad active acne and the only thing that worked for me were Noxzema Pads. I know those had at least 2% salicylic acid in them back in the 90s and I know they were chock full of alcohol – two things my acne apparently hated. I used them for years after that, even when that awful phase passed. The Ordinary Salicylic Acid 2% sparked my interest because of this and my good experience with Noxzema Pads. There is a 15ml version and a 30ml version. I purchased the 15ml version.

The Ordinary Salicylic Acid 2% Solution |
The Ordinary Salicylic Acid 2% Solution |

My skin type

Although my persistent acne phase is over, my skin is still pretty oily. It lets up a bit in the winter and I always get hormonal acne. I’ve got acne scars on my cheeks and chin as well.

What it’s supposed to do

From the brand: Salicylic Acid is a beta hydroxyl acid that exfoliates the skin. This 2% treatment solution helps exfoliate the inside walls of pores to fight the appearance of blemishes and for better visible skin clarity with continued use. 


Aqua (Water), Hamamelis Virginiana Leaf Water, Cocamidopropyl Dimethylamine, Salicylic Acid, Dimethyl Isosorbide, Trisodium Ethylenediamine Disuccinate, Citric Acid, Polysorbate 20, Hydroxyethylcellulose, Ethoxydiglycol, Potassium Sorbate, Sodium Benzoate, 1,2-hexanediol, Caprylyl Glycol.

pH= 3.2-3.5

How I use it

I’ve tried using this as a spot treatment and less frequently for preventative measures for acne. I never applied this all over my face for exfoliation, but instead attempted to use it solely for acne purposes. The solution is thicker than I imagined; it’s probably best to use use your fingers if you’re more comfortable with that. I almost always used my fingers to apply. An alternative is to use with a thin cotton swab and pat on areas of interest.

How long I used it

I bought this back in March and have been using it on and off ever since.

What I like about it

I like the simplish ingredients, but it’s a double-edged sword as you’ll see below. However, it allows you to get more creative with the solution if it’s just kind of bleh for you. And as always with The Ordinary, I like the price. The 15 ml bottle was only $4.90.

What could be better

Like many of The Ordinary’s products, it just doesn’t grab my attention; I’m thinking of using the remainder of this with sheet masks to make it more exciting and also to test how salicylic acid’s preventative measures work out on my skin as an exfoliant (I really enjoyed using Paula’s Choice BHA, for example). While I can appreciate baseline ingredients, I also think that a big part of why the Noxzema Pads worked for me was the alcohol, believe it or not. I applied this salicylic acid to a few of my hormonal zits, and they just laughed at the stuff. I’ve been using Sunday Riley’s Saturn Sulfur Mask as a more effective spot treatment.

Joy Factor

Where to indulge

The Ordinary


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