skinceuticals blemish + age defense review

Wait, what?! Didn’t getting older meant swapping acne for wrinkles? Why are you getting both now?!

And just when you thought you had your skincare routine nailed down. If only there were one product that can tackle both acne and wrinkles at the same time, so you don’t have to revamp your skincare routine from scratch…

Skinceuticals Blemish + Age Defense promises to do just that. Does it deliver? I’ve put it to the test to find out:

What’s In Skinceuticals Blemish + Age Defense?


Salicylic acid is an exfoliant on steroids. It helps treat acne in three ways:

  1. Surface exfoliation: Salicylic acid dissolves the glue that holds skin cells together so they can slough off. Once they’re off your skin, they won’t accidentally fall into your pores and clog them up.
  2. Pore exfoliation: Salicylic acid is oil-soluble, so it easily penetrates the skin’s lipid barrier and gets inside the pores, removing all the gunk that’s clogging them up and giving you blackheads and pimples.
  3. Soothing: Salicylic Acid has anti-inflammatory properties that reduce the redness that always comes along with pimples.

Related: Why Salicylic Acid Is Key To Spot-Free Skin


Glycolic acid is the smallest member of the Alpha Hydroxy Acids (AHAs) family, a group of exfoliants that dissolves the glue that holds on skin cells together, so they can slough off your skin faster. Here’s how this benefits skin:

  • Smoothens texture: Removing rough skin cells makes your skin texture softer and smoother. Wrinkles look smaller too.
  • Fades away dark spots: When you remove the most damaged, darkest cells on the top of your skin, you unveil the newer, lighter ones that were hiding underneath. Repeat this enough times and dark spots disappear.
  • Hydrates skin: It has humectant properties that attract and bind water to the skin.
  • Prevents acne: If dead cells are off your skin, they can’t clog pores and give you breakouts.

Its small size is its strength: Glycolic Acid penetrates deeper than other AHAs, so it works better and faster. The catch? That also makes it more irritating.

Related: Glycolic Acid VS Lactic Acid: Which One Should You Use?


Alcohol Denat is one of the most misunderstood ingredients in skincare. Word on the street is that it’s terribly drying and irritating.

To an extent, that’s true. The reason you feel so bad after you gulp down one too many cocktails is that alcohol is drying out every cell in your body, giving you a bad case of dehydration.

Does the same thing apply to skin when you slather alcohol on it? It depends. If alcohol’s all you’re slathering on, then yes, it will dry out your skin.

But if you use alcohol together with moisturizing ingredients, they’ll counteract its drying effects. Science confirms this. Recent studies show that alcohol isn’t as drying as we once thought.

Having said this, everyone’s skin is different. If your skin is particularly sensitive to alcohol denat and doesn’t tolerate it well, this serum isn’t for you.

But what does alcohol do here? It’s a volatile carrier that helps create a thinner solution and texture.

Related: The Truth About Alcohol-Free Skincare: What Does It Really Mean? (Hint: It’s Not What You Think)


Diocic acid is short for Octadecenedioic acid. Similar in structure to azelaic acid, this acid has anti-inflammatory and skin-lightening properties.

Although we don’t know the exact mechanism of action yet, it does reduce the excessive production of melanin, the leading cause of dark spots.

The catch? We don’t know how much Diocic acid you need to deliver these benefits. Skinceuticals Blemish + Age Defense has 2%. Not the highest, not the smallest. Could be high enough to work.

Related: The Battle Of The Skin-Lighteners: Which Is The Best Alternative To Hydroquinone

Struggling to put together a skincare routine that banishes shine, pimples, and blackheads? Download your FREE “Best Skincare Routine For Oily Skin” cheatsheet to get started (it features product recommendations + right application order):


Liquid and runny.


It’s fragrance-free. But it does smell of alcohol.

How To Use It

Every other night, after cleansing but before other serums and moisturiser.

Performance & Personal Opinion

The first thing I noticed about Skinceuticals Blemish + Age Defense is how gentle it is. Despite the alcohol content, it doesn’t sting skin nor dry it out. In fact, I find the formula slightly hydrating (always a plus).

When you first start using it, you may experience some purging. My skin isn’t that prone to breakouts, so I didn’t. But I do get a pimple or two during that time of the month (oh, the joys of being a woman!).

As I’m getting older, that angry zit leaves a red mark behind after he dies. It disappears on its own, but I like to give it a helping hand to speed up the process. Skinceuticals Blemish + Age Defense does the job.

Not too slowly, either. I saw a reduction in the red mark after a couple of weeks. My skin by now was also smoother and softer. If you’re prone to acne, give it two more weeks and it’ll get rid of that too.

Instead, it didn’t do much for my fine lines and wrinkles. They’re still there, as deep as before. I recommend you alternate this serum with retinol to make a dent in them too.

Related: The Complete Guide To Retinol: What It Is, What It Does, And How To Use It

skinceuticals blemish + age defense

Who Is It For?

  • Oily skin
  • Acne-prone skin
  • Mature skin who has both acne and dark spots

Who Is This NOT For?

If you’re not dealing with acne/blemishes, this isn’t for you.


A dark brown glass bottle with a pipette dispenser. Elegant and easy-to-use.

Does Skinceuticals Blemish + Age Defense Live Up To Its Claims?

An oil-free face serum that reduces the formation of adult acne, and improves visible signs of aging. It does improve acne, but it doesn’t help much with anti-aging.
Reduces excess sebum production. It does it a little.
Improves the appearance of blotchiness, blemishes, and uneven skin tone. True.
Decongests clogged pores. True.
Diminishes visible signs of aging. It helps to fade away dark spots, not wrinkles.

Price & Availability

$92.00/£90.00 at Blue Mercury and Dermstore

Do You Need It?

If you have acne, and can afford the splurge, this is a good option to consider.

Dupes & Alternatives


alcohol denat., water, methylpropanediol, glycolic acid, diisopropyl adipate, octadecenedioic acid, hydroxyethylpiperazine ethane sulfonic acid, citric acid, capryloyl salicylic acid, sodium hydroxide, polyquaternium-10