10 Best Salicylic Acid Peels in 2019

Last updated: April 27, 2019
Published 12:20 am

Skin Laboratory
Salicylic Acid
20% Gel Peel

Perfect Image
Salicylic Acid
20% Gel Peel

Paula’s Choice Skin
Perfecting 2% BHA Liquid
Salicylic Acid Exfoliant

Published 12:20 am

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Why do I still have acne?

I used to ask myself this question all the time. I never thought it would last into my 30s. I was always embarrassed, and it didn’t seem to matter how much makeup I used. You could still see the bumps and blemishes covering my face.

So when my friend told me about the benefits of getting a salicylic acid peel, I was instantly curious about the results I could expect. I set out to do some research and try a few different peels.

But because of how much I ended up loving the treatment process, along with the amazing salicylic acid peel benefits I was experiencing, I ended up trying quite a few.

If you want to learn all about salicylic acid peel results, keep reading. You’ll be ready to complete your first treatment in no time!

The Best Salicylic Acid Peels

This gel provides you with enough acid for 15 full peels. It’s perfect for acne and works to unclog pores and minimize their appearance. It’s also great for treating sun damage.

I was really impressed with this brand, especially for the price. I’ve had a few blackheads that just never seem to go away, even after trips to the dermatologist.

But this peel took care of them, along with other acne I had. I didn’t have any irritation, and the results were fast.

Key Features:

  • Has high concentration and potent antioxidant
  • Ideal for skin of all types
  • Created for multi-purpose correction


Skin Laboratory
Salicylic Acid 20% Gel Peel
4.8 ounces
  • Works great for acne-prone skin, hyperpigmentation, and redness
  • Eliminates pores on the first days of applying
  • Your skin may sting after application
  • May feel uncomfortable

This salicylic acid gel pretty much handles it all. It tackles breakouts, blackheads, hyperpigmentation, enlarged pores, whiteheads, sun damage, and oily skin. You’ll receive enough for up to 20 full facials.

Every once in a while, my skin gets a bit oily. I always know this is only going to lead to more breakouts down the road.

This gel salicylic peel seemed to handle my oily skin better than most others. It’s the first I reach for now when I see oil starting to build up, and I’m sure it’s saved me from quite a few bad breakouts.

Key Features:

  • Ideal for breakouts, blackheads, whiteheads, hyperpigmentation
  • Great for those with enlarged pores, sun-damaged skin, and oily skin types


Perfect Image
Salicylic Acid 20% Gel Peel
  • Controls your skin breakouts
  • Makes the appearance of your skin tone even
  • May cause possible allergic reaction

It can be tricky to spread salicylic acid gel evenly. If you’re having trouble, try this liquid version. It’s easy to use and helps to hydrate, brighten, and smooth skin.

This one is perfect for all skin types, and because this isn’t a full peel, you can use it up to twice each day. If you find that it makes your skin a bit oily, cut down to once per day.

I count on this exfoliant to give me the boost I need when my acne looks like it wants to make a full comeback. It always gets the situation under control.

Key Features:

  • Non-abrasive leave-on exfoliator
  • Hydrates and brightens fine lines
  • Light weight liquid that is quickly absorbed by the skin


Paula’s Choice
Skin Perfecting 2% BHA Liquid Salicylic Acid Exfoliant
4 fl. oz.
  • Works great for dry skin
  • Can improve enlarged pores, appearance of fine lines, and blackheads
  • May leave a sticky or greasy film over the skin
  • Can cause pimples

Here’s another product that isn’t quite a peel but just as effective. Adding salicylic acid to a cleanser is the best way to enjoy the acid’s benefits without the harshness of a peel, especially if your skin is on the sensitive side.

This cleanser really helps clear out pores, thanks to the exfoliating properties and of course, the salicylic acid.

I loved that it included tea tree oil and green tea extracts, which help to kill bacteria and leave behind glowing skin. I would recommend this cleanser for teens because it’s much easier to use than a peel.

Key Features:

  • Helps unclog pores
  • Contains tea tree oil that is effective in killing acne bacteria
  • Outstanding deep cleanser


Perfect Image
Salicylic Deep Gel Exfoliating Cleanser
  • Works for sensitive and oily skin
  • Can be used when having skin breakouts and by anyone with ageing skin
  • Pricey

If you’re ready for a higher concentration of salicylic acid, this salicylic peel is perfect. It helps to loosen and remove aging cells, excess oil, and debris.

Because the active ingredient is oil-soluble, it won’t have any problems pushing through sebum and cleaning out clogged pores.

I saw almost instant results with this peel. The day after using it, I noticed that a lot of my red blemishes had shrunk in size and the rest of my skin seemed to have a youthful glow. If you’re using a salicylic acid peel for acne scars from previous bouts of acne, this is the perfect peel to try.

Key Features:

  • Helps remove your skin’s outer layer
  • Great for cleaning the pores and reducing the oil on your face
  • Reduces the inflammation of your acne and your scars


Skin Beauty
Solutions Salicylic Acid 30% Skin Chemical Peel
1 fl. oz.
  • No chemical scent or smell
  • Does not break out sensitive skin
  • Works well on brown spots
  • Droppers makes it difficult to apply to a brush

I love salicylic acid peels for acne that include a few extra soothing ingredients, and Planet Eden’s version does just that.

It includes tea tree oil to combat bacteria, lactic acid to improve skin, and green tea extract to help soothe and heal.

This peel comes with a fan brush for simple and even application. The bottle contains enough product for at least 15 applications.

When using a peel with this high of a concentration, make sure that you use a skin neutralizer to stop the skin peel process or you’ll definitely end up with red and irritated skin, which is the opposite of what you want.

Key Features:

  • 30% Salicylic Acid
  • Contains Lactic Acid, Green tea extract, Tea Tree Oil
  • For Sun damaged skin, wrinkles, acne, hyperpigmentation, and rosacea


Planet Eden
30% Salicylic Acid Skin Peel with Tea Tree Oil & Green Tea Extract
1 ounce
  • Makes skin feel smooth after application
  • Takes care of cysts or excess sebum filaments
  • Effective for menopausal acne
  • Dries out pimples very nicely
  • Has a strong tingle

If you struggle with even application, this roll-on is another perfect option for you. It can help out skin tone in addition to eliminating acne and blemishes.

I recommended this product to a friend who’s always been unhappy with the large appearance of her pores. After two applications, her pores shrank dramatically. She says she has her confidence back and never misses a treatment.

Key Features:

  • Great for acne
  • Contains salicylic acid, glycolic acid, lactic acid, BHA+ and HQ+


Skin Laboratory
Salicylic Acid 20% Gel Peel, Roll-on (Professional)
1.6 ounces
  • Works for acne scars, large pores and blackheads, oily skin, razor bumps and warts, dark circles under eyes, dermatitis and eczema
  • Works fast that other products
  • Those with sensitive skin need to be cautious
  • The oil mixed in it may make white spots on skin worse
  • Not recommended to leave on skin for long

If you’re looking for a peel that you can rely on for months to come, this is it. Even as your face adjusts to the medication, you’ll still be experiencing fabulous results.

The peel literally dried up my acne overnight, and after my blemishes healed, there wasn’t a sudden wave of new ones popping up.

Again, it’s important to use a neutralizer when using this peel. I was out for one of my treatments and figured I could go without it. But the stinging sensation is uncomfortable if you don’t stop the process.

It’s a good idea to keep an ice pack nearby when doing a peel, just in case your skin reacts strongly with the treatment.

Key Features:

  • Exfoliant for healthy and radiant skin
  • Clears out skin blemishes and prevents pimples
  • Anti-aging, multi-purpose skin product


ASDM Beverly Hills
20% Salicylic Acid Peel
1 Ounce
  • Cleans pores and works great for cystic acne
  • Great for reducing oily skin
  • It’s a safe at-home peel for newbies
  • Great value for your money perfect for a spot treatment, or all-over once a week
  • May feel like putting oil on skin

Want to shave a little bit of time off your treatment process? These pre-soaked pads are perfect for those pressed for time.

Just grab a pad and apply the solution to problem areas, taking care to avoid the more delicate areas of your face.

You’ll love how soothing the process is, thanks to the added botanical extracts. There are plenty of antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, and enzymes to completely transform your skin.

Not only will your acne clear up, but your skin will be touchably smooth and glowing.

Key Features:

  • Recommended for wide range of skin conditions
  • Has natural botanical extracts
  • Contains Salicylic 15% and Mandelic Acid 5%


Perfect Image
Tri-Clarity Peel Pads Enhanced with Salicylic
6.4 ounces
  • Great at-home peel for newbies
  • Amazing product for regular and experienced acid users
  • Leaves your skin feeling youthful and beautiful
  • Contains an alpha hydroxy acid (aha) that could increase your skin’s sensitivity to the sun
  • You may get sunburn easily

If you want to take it easy with your peels, this is the perfect treatment for you. It’s a completely organic option and only includes alcohol, water, and salicylic acid.

It’s easy to use. Just add a couple of drops to a cotton pad during your nightly skin routine. Gently apply the solution to your face and neck and let the solution sit on your face for 1-3 minutes, depending on how long you’ve been administering peels. Neutralize the solution and wash your face.

Because the percentage is so low, you shouldn’t have to worry about redness or peeling. But you will notice clearer skin. This treatment is also great for other skin conditions, like eczema, rosacea, and hyperkeratosis.

Key Features:

  • Daily Gentle Treatment for Acne Spots
  • Organic, naturally derived botanicals
  • Easy to use, organic, and gentle on the skin


Refresh Skin Therapy
Salicylic Acid Peel 2% for Acne Treatment
  • Repairs sun damage
  • Reduces oil production
  • Minimizes large pores
  • Kills acne causing bacteria
  • Prevents acne from forming
  • Very gentle on the skin
  • Makes your face feel super soft and smooth
  • May sting a little

What Does a Salicylic Acid Peel Do?

I know, anything with the words acid and peel sounds a bit terrifying. But you don’t need to be scared of this type of peel. These are great for treating clogged pores and acne.

Most other peels, like those that contain glycolic acid, are geared towards evening or lightening skin tone. But one with salicylic acid is made to give you blemish-free skin that shines.

There are even some versions that can help with hyperpigmentation. Most will also help fade acne scars and shrink the appearance of large pores.

If you have acne-prone skin, these types of peels are made just for you.

What Are the Benefits?

Administering a peel with salicylic acid will do several things for your skin.

First, it will help to unclog pores. If your skin is overly oily, it can also help to balance out your skin’s sebum production. And finally, it can help tackle all types of acne.

Whether you suffer from large pimples or blackheads and whiteheads, a peel with salicylic acid can help clear your skin for good. While they’re not made to even out skin tone, some are able to give you a more uniform appearance that’s easier to apply makeup to.

How Effective Is a Salicylic Acid Peel for Acne Prone Skin?

These types of peels are ideal for acne prone skin. If you suffer from acne that doesn’t seem to get better, even if you’ve tried all sorts of topical treatments and medications, it’s time to try a peel. They’re very successful, affordable, and simple to administer.

Ingredients of a Salicylic Acid Peel

Every brand is a bit different, but there is one common ingredient, which is, of course, salicylic acid. Many contain propylene glycol, denatured alcohol, and polyacrylamide.

I always like to keep it simple, so I look for peels that have the least number of ingredients. This seems to be working well for me.

Are There Any Side Effects of Using a Salicylic Acid Peel?

Unlike many other types of peels or treatments, side effects are fairly rare, and if they do occur, they’re minimal. You may experience a bit of redness or flaking skin.

But salicylic acid peel recovery is short and your skin should look healthy and normal again in only a few days.

It’s advised to schedule a peel with enough time before important events to allow for healing. Also, if you’ve never had one before, don’t schedule it before a big date or family event, just to be safe.

If you do experience salicylic acid peel side effects, try using a lower concentration for your next treatment.

Precautions to Take When Using a Salicylic Acid Peel

After your peel, make sure that you stay out of the sun. The peel will make your skin more sensitive to the sun’s harmful rays.

If you have to spend time outside, make sure that you use a good sunscreen.

It should also be noted that you might experience a flare-up of acne right after your peel. This is normal as your skin works to eliminate excess oil and dirt.

You should begin to see results shortly after this increase in acne.

Salicylic Acid Peel vs Glycolic Acid Peel

A glycolic acid peel is made to reverse the signs of aging or fade hyperpigmentation, or uneven skin tones. It will not help with acne. On the other hand, a peel with salicylic acid will help treat your acne but won’t help with other skin conditions like unevenness or wrinkles and fine lines.

What Concentration of Salicylic Acid Should I Use?

You should always start at 15%. You don’t want to start with anything too strong as there will be a higher chance of skin irritation. Once you get used to the peels, you can start working your way towards a 30% concentration of salicylic acid.

I really can’t stress this enough. Do yourself and your skin a favor and start with 15%. You’ll have plenty of time to move up, if and when you need a stronger concentration.

Treatment Plan When Using a Salicylic Acid Peel

You do need some sort of treatment plan before starting your peels. The goal is to slowly increase the time of the peel over a course of several months.

You’ll want to perform a peel about every other week. Your first peel should last only one minute.

As you do more peels, slowly increase the time by 30-second increments. Never leave the peel on for longer than five minutes.

After doing a peel every other week for a few months, you can safely switch to doing a peel just once a month. You can increase the percentage at this time if you feel it’s necessary.

If you are trying to treat scars, which is possible with this type of peel, keep your concentration at a lower percentage. I like to use either glycolic acid lotion or lactic acid lotion on the weeks I’m not administering a peel to keep my skin looking as youthful and flawless as possible.

How to Do a Salicylic Acid Peel at Home

Did you know it’s pretty easy to whip up a DIY salicylic acid peel? Follow these instructions and after a few treatments, you’ll be a pro:

Ingredients and Tools

  • Gentle facial cleanser
  • Rubbing alcohol
  • Salicylic Acid Peel, 15%
  • Small glass bowl
  • Gauze pad
  •  ½ cup baking soda mixed with 2 cups of water
  • Vaseline
  • Moisturizer
  • Timer


1. Cleanse your skin and pat dry.

2. Apply the rubbing alcohol over your entire face to degrease skin.

3. Apply Vaseline to your eyebrows, lips, and nostrils.

4. Carefully apply the acid peel to your face. Pour it into the glass bowl and apply it with the gauze pad.

5. Spread it a little at a time to prevent the peel from getting in your eyes. Use small strokes and start with the worst areas of your face.

6. Begin timing as soon as you start applying the peel.

7. Leave the peel on for one minute. Make sure to monitor your face in the mirror though, looking for any signs of an allergic reaction.

8. To stop the peel, rinse it off using the baking soda mixture. You can buy a skin neutralizing product, but baking soda is also an affordable and effective option.

9. Finish up with a bit of moisturizer.

That’s it! Your skin should be looking great in no time.

How Long Can I Leave on a Salicylic Acid Peel?

When first conducting salicylic acid peels for acne, you should only leave them on for a minute. You can slowly increase the duration of your peels over time, but never leave them on for more than five minutes.

How to Tell if You’re Allergic to a Salicylic Acid Peel

If your skin begins to look irritated, red, or blotchy, you might be allergic to the active ingredients in the peel. Remove the peel immediately, especially if your skin begins to burn.

It should be noted that if you suffer from an aspirin allergy, you should never use a peel with salicylic acid.

If you do suffer an allergic reaction, which is rare, closely monitor your skin. If the discomfort becomes worse or you notice excessive swelling, seek medical attention.

I can’t believe I went so long without knowing about salicylic acid peels. They’ve worked wonders for my skin, and I’m more confident than I’ve ever been.

I like to switch up my peels, so some I have done at the salon and some I do at home. Either way, my results are always great.

If you’ve suffered with acne for far too long, it’s time to take the plunge and try a peel. You won’t regret it!