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Spot Shots: Salicylic Acid is to Zits as Angry Birds are to Greedy Pigs?

Salicylic acid is so high school. I need something more sophisticated to go all Angry Birds on my breakouts. Or do I?
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Angry Birds are to pigs as salicylic acid is to

Salicylic acid is just so... ordinary. Kind of high school. After all, it's the go-to ingredient in teen anti-acne formulas, such as Neutrogena Deep Clean Facial Cleanser. I'm waaaay past my teenage years; I need something much more sophisticated to go all Angry Birds on my occasional breakouts. Except...

Except that salicylic acid seems to work so. darned. well. In addition to helping skin shed stubborn dead cells that won't take the leap, it targets bacteria. A proven zit buster, it isn't just for teens -- it's the key ingredient in Kiehl's Blue Herbal skin care (via for blemish-prone skin, in Clinique Clarifying Lotion (at Shoppers Drug Mart, The Bay and, in Origins Super Spot Remover Gel (at The Bay), and in Olay Professional Pro-X Clear (at drugstores), all of which target uncomplicated adult acne.

Josie-Maran-Blemishes-R-Gone-Argan-Acne-Clearing-Pads_Burts Bees Natural Anti-Blemish Solutions Spot Treatment

In particular Josie Maran Blemishes R Gone Argan Acne-Clearing Pads ($36/60, Sephora) and Burt's Bees Natural Anti Blemish Solutions Targeted Spot Treatment ($14.99, have worked really well for me. Both employ willow-bark extract, a component of which is natural salicylic acid rather than synthetic salicylic acid, which can be harsh. The willow-bark formulas cleared my breakout area (mostly my chin) and kept it clear, without ever drying out my skin. Zero flaky patches -- drying the heck out of zits is so over. (It adds damage to inflammation.)

Clinique Clarifying Lotion

Not that blemish fighters with synthetic sal acid are going to dry your skin out to a flaky mess, at least not these days. For instance, Clinique reformulated their Clarifying Lotion recently, boosting the hydrating hyaluronic-acid content and adding glycerin and trehalose (a naturally occurring sugar that attracts moisture) to soothe and protect skin from irritation. The range includes formulas for very dry to dry, dry combination, combination oily and oily skins. And Origins tempers synthetic salicylic acid in their Super Spot Remover Gel with caffeine and red algae, which counteract inflammation (salicylic acid has anti-inflammatory properties as well).

Angry Bird_stubborn pig

Salicylic acid isn't a zit-clearing wonder for everyone, unfortunately. It's a hit for some and a miss for others -- that's why ingredients such as benzoyl peroxide are still around. In fact, that salicylic acid works for me is a surprise. It didn't used to. I don't know why my skin suddenly likes it now, but I'm going with it.

What's your salicylic acid stand? Have you tried any of the products mentioned above?