How do I Choose the Best Salicylic Acid Gel?

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  • Written By: Erin J. Hill
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 05 September 2019
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Salicylic acid gel is used primarily in the treatment of acne, and most varieties are relatively similar. Strengths may vary from product to product by one or two percent, but you won’t be able to buy a pharmaceutical grade product without a prescription in most locations. To determine which options are best for you, it’s a good idea to use an over the counter product to see how effective it is at treating your acne. If you have no luck, talk to a dermatologist for more options.

Most pharmacies and department stores have multiple salicylic acid gel products available. The majority of them are the same. Most commonly they are used in the treatment of acne pimples, but sometimes they are used in the treatment of other skin conditions. Choosing one variety over another is often a moot point when deciding between over the counter gels because they usually have the same amount of active ingredient.

Some options may be combined with additional ingredients. Aside from salicylic acid gel, the most common acne medication found over the counter is benzoyl peroxide. Some gels may have both of these ingredients in the same product, so if salicylic acid gel alone isn’t working, use a combination product or acne system instead.


You should remember that both salicylic acid and benzoyl peroxide can cause dryness of the skin. Using a combination of both ingredients can intensify this effect. If you experience any peeling, irritation, or soreness, discontinue use of products containing either ingredient and contact your doctor.

If you have used all available over the counter salicylic acid gel products and related items, you should consult with a dermatologist to determine the best course of action to take. You may need a stronger potency gel or you may need a different medication entirely. A trained medical professional will be able to help you pinpoint exactly what is going on with your skin so that you can find the best product.

Choosing the ideal acne medication is a trial and error process. You may not find the best product on the first try. Use each product for at least a week or two to ensure you give it proper time to work correctly. In some cases another condition aside from acne may cause bumps on the skin.


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