The Best Salicylic Acid Products for Men

The Best Salicylic Acid Products for Men

The powerhouse ingredient clears skin, fades scars, cures dandruff and more

Best salicylic acid products for men in 2023

If you want clear skin, make no mistake, you need salicylic acid. You've no doubt heard of this multi-tasking ingredient before—it's in a myriad of products and for good reason. It's one of the oldest and most effective ways to exfoliate skin, reduce inflammation and unclog pores. Which is why you can find it in so many products, from drugstore stand-bys to luxe, high-end brands. But, what does salicylic acid do for the skin, and what are the best ways to reap its benefits?

We consulted a few experts—from celebrity makeup artists to board-certified dermatologists to help break down exactly how salicylic acid works on the skin and how you can get the most from this powerhouse ingredient. Put simply, salicylic acid is a beta-hydroxy acid (BHA) that has been used to treat skin conditions like acne, blackheads, dull texture and signs of aging for decades. Studies have proven that regular use is extremely effective at reducing pimples and unclogging pores. That's because most acne is the result of blocked hair follicles that become plugged with oil and dead skin cells, explains dermatologist Dr. Melanie Palm. But, she says, salicylic acid is actually oil soluble—this means that it's able to penetrate the surface of the skin, through the lipid layer and into the pores. That allows it to penetrate down the hair follicle where acne starts.

Another benefit is that it's derived from willow bark, so it's naturally anti-inflammatory, which can decrease redness, swelling and irritation. Unlike other exfoliants, salicylic acid will slough away the top layer of skin cells, while helping to regenerate new, smoother skin—all without leaving you with raw, angry skin. Since it penetrates pores and dissolves dead skin and other gunk while regulating oil production, it's extremely effective against blackheads and whiteheads, as well as other skin conditions like rough texture from psoriasis and seborrheic dermatitis, as well as dandruff. As for how to use it, we've rounded up the best products for any and all your needs, all of which have been tested by our team and go-to experts.


The Best
Salicylic Acids
for Men in 2023

The Cleanser

A salicylic acid cleanser is a must for oily or acne-prone skin. It helps balance oil levels and keeps pores clear. Because you're only using it quickly to wash your face, you don't need a high-grade concentration, but regular use can really help maintain a clear complexion. This one is formulated with allantoin, which soothes skin post-exfoliation to help minimize any irritation.

Glycolic acid toner,
$12.99 by The Inkey List

The Toner

If want a product that you can apply as a preventative—to keep breakouts, dull skin and fine lines at bay—this is it. The alcohol-free dynamic toning solution is packed with naturally derived AHA and BHAs from willowbark extract that gently eradicate dead skin cells and clear away oil buildup while visibly tightening pores, calming redness and hydrating all at once.

Squalane + BHA pore-minimizing toner,
$30 by Biossance

The Serum

This French-made serum targets breakouts and localized blemishes with a salicylic acid and zinc formula enriched with antibacterial actives. Apply this after washing your face and let it soak in before applying moisturizer. It's proven effective in not only exfoliating and clarifying skin, but also minimizing redness and fading past acne scars.

Targeted blemish serum,
$19.70 by Typology

The Moisturizer

This dermatologist-recommended daily face cream does it all. It hydrates and smooths skin, while preventing excess oil buildup. The non-comedogenic formula is lightweight and absorbs into the skin quickly, leaving you with a natural, matte finish and visibly tighter pores.

Effaclar Mat face moisturizer,
$35.99 by La Roche Posay


The Shampoo

If you have a dry, flaky or irritated scalp, you want a shampoo that not only tackles the scalp skin but also is also good for the hair, too. This one uses salicylic acid to exfoliate the scalp and heal the itchiness while fortifying ingredients like lactic acid and wheat protein help nourish hair. There's also menthol and rosemary oil, which are not only anti-inflammatory, but have a soothing, cooling sensation that'll feel fantastic on aggravated skin.

Scalp shampoo,
$32 by Sachajuan

The Body Wash

Target body acne (basically anywhere below the neck) along with rough patches of skin with Naturium's popular body wash, which utilizes salicylic acid as well as botanical, marine-based ingredients to help purify pores and smooth skin without dryness or irritation. It was developed to maintain a skin-friendly pH level, so it's gentle enough to use as a face cleanser in the shower. That means this one-and-done wash will give you a smooth, clear complexion from head to toe.

Perfector skin
smoothing body wash,
$13.99 by Naturium

The Spot Treatment

Kiehl's has developed a liquid “pimple patch” with 2% salicylic acid that's specifically formulated to invisibly cover and treat a pimple to visibly reduce its size and redness. Clinical tests found it could minimize an angry zit in just two hours. The concentrated formula also has niacinamide and licorice root to calm irritation and fade post-acne marks. But this is equally effective at flushing away those pesky blackheads on your nose.

Truly targeted
acne-clearing solution,
$30 by Kiehl's


Salicylic acid is safe to use both morning and night, but you may need to pay attention to the concentration of the acid. Anything more than 2% may require you to build up a tolerance. Despite salicylic acid’s anti-inflammatory properties, it can still cause initial redness or sensitivity in higher concentrations. And while you can use it alongside a retinol at night, the doctor says you may need to watch for extra dryness, especially if you have sensitive skin. Using salicylic acid in the morning, and then retinol at night can be a good way for beginners to avoid irritation.

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