How I Remove My Blackheads

by Gio

the ordinary salicylic acid 2 solution

I don’t know what it is about my nose but blackheads love it.

It’s the only area where they show up (well, that and the skin just around it). All the time. They make my nose look like a dalmata and enlarge my pores so much, I swear you can see them from the moon.

The only thing that gives them the boot and keeps them from coming back is salicylic acid (but I have to be super diligent with it).

I usually get my fix from Paula’s Choice Skin Perfecting 2% BHA Liquid Exfoliant but this year, I’m cheating on it with The Ordinary Salicylic Acid 2% Solution.

Will I switch back to my first love? Mmmm….

Salicylic Acid

Pretty much every exfoliant out there promises to clean your pores and rid them of the crap that’s clogging them up. But unless they use an acid that’s oil-soluble and can get through the skin’s lipid (oil) barrier, they can’t.

Salicylic acid (also called BHA) is one of the few acids that can do the feat. It penetrates the pores and unclogs them from within.

This is essential when you’re dealing with blackheads (and other types of acne). If you just scrub away the black head of the blemish and leave the tail inside the pore, it’s only a matter of time before that little bugger rears its ugly head again.

Salicylic acid also exfoliates the surface of the skin so the dead cells that pile up on its surface can’t fall into the pores and clog them up again. Plus, surface exfoliation make skin softer, smoother and more even-toned.

FYI, this makes exfoliation a regular job. If your skin’s prone to blackheads and pimples, using salicylic acid every day can keep them from coming back in the first place.

One more thing: salicylic acid also has anti-inflammatory properties. It means it can soothe irritations and reduce the redness that always comes along with pimples.

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

Let’s Put It To The Test: Personal Use & Opinion

Ever wondered why The Ordinary is so cheap? They give you all the best active ingredients to target your skin concerns but they compromise on textures.

The Ordinary Salicylic Acid 2% Solution is the perfect example. While Paula’s Choice Skin Perfecting 2% BHA Liquid Exfoliant has a lovely, silky texture, The Ordinary Salicylic 2% Solution is a watery-gel that dries down a little tacky. If you apply a little too much, it also foams a little.

If that’s cool with you, you’ll get the same results from both exfoliants. Within a week, The Ordinary Salicylic Acid 2% Solution made all my blackheads disappear.

Usually, I use salicylic acid at night only on my nose area cos that’s where the little buggers like to take up residence.

But a week before my period is due, when hormones are sending my sebaceous glands into overdrive and forcing them to produce way too much oil than my skin needs, I also apply a couple of drops on my chin area, where I’m prone to hormonal acne.

It usually does the trick but on the rare occasion a pimple does spring up on my chin (because pimples are evil and if they can pop up before a special occasion, they will), I apply a drop of this on the nasty bugger a couple of times a day to make it go away a little faster.

It’s not a magical potion and doesn’t make the pimple disappear overnight. But the next day, the pimple does look smaller and less red. I repeat the process a couple more days and puff, my skin’s clear again.

Keep in mind, though, that salicylic acid works best at prevention than cure. If you have a pimple that’s come to a head, waiting three days for it to disappear completely can feel like an eternity. That’s why, if your skin is prone to them, it’s best to use this stuff regularly to prevent them in the first place.

I didn’t experience any dryness or irritation even though I use it daily on some areas. If your skin’s on the sensitive side, though, you may want to use it a little less often, just in case.

Overall, if you’re looking for a cheap BHA exfoliant and you don’t mind the foaming texture, this is worth checking out.

Available at: $5.30/£4.20 at Beauty Bay, Cult Beauty and Sephora


Ingredients: Aqua (Water), Hamamelis virginiana leaf water, Cocamidopropyl Dimethylamine, Salicylic Acid, Dimethyl Isosorbide, Trisodium Ethylenediamine Disuccinate, Citric Acid, Polysorbate 20, Hydroxyethylcellulose, Triethanolamine, Ethoxydiglycol, Potassium Sorbate, Sodium Benzoate, 1,2-Hexanediol, Caprylyl Glycol

Affiliate links.

Take The Guesswork Out Of Skincare Shopping

Screenshot from 2017 04 30 11 51 35

Get access to the “Pro Skincare Library” for exclusive skincare routine “cheat sheets” and tricks to help you navigate the beauty aisles jungle like a pro and immediately know what to pick off the shelves to achieve the gorgeous skin of your dreams - even when you’re drowning in an endless sea of skincare products.

Powered by ConvertKit



Ana May 2, 2018 - 10:46 am

Gio, in the light of the recent mounting controversies surrounding the brand, what’s your take on ‘voting with your wallet’ – both in their case, and in general?

Gio May 5, 2018 - 9:08 am

Ana, I think that voting with your wallet is like voting in a political election. It’s a deeply personal issue and everyone should be left free to make the choice they think is best for them and their conscience.

For example, I don’t buy from Primark and H&M anymore because I really dislike their fast fashion policies. They hurt the people who make their clothes and the environment. Yet, until a few years ago, fast fashion was all I could afford. I knew that my money was supporting policies I didn’t agree with but when you’re on a tight budget, what can you do?

Or, take the iPhone. From all accounts, Steve Jobs wasn’t a particularly nice person but he revolutionized his industry. I don’t like him but Android is SO bad that I had to bite the bullet and buy a phone I can trust will last me more than a few months before slowing down to a crawl and freezing every 5 seconds. It’d be amazing if all geniuses were nice people but in real life, sometimes, it takes a jerk to make something the world needs.

On the other hand, though, if we all keep buying what’s cheap/convenient without making companies accountable for their policies, workers’ rights, environmental issues and other problems will only get worse. That’s why I don’t think there’s any clear cut answer: each and everyone of us should consider all the factors involved in a purchase and carefully select the product that best fits both our needs and values, knowing that sometimes we’ll have to compromise one or the other.

The Deciem situation is also complicated by the fact that it’s clear something is wrong with Brandon. Yes, you can be a jerk and have a mental illness but I can’t imagine anyone without a mental illness treating a brand account as a personal account and insulting their customers in front of all the world. Even jerks know that’s bad for business. I really hope he gets the help he needs but, having a history of mental health in my family, I know that almost always people don’t realise they need help until they reach rock bottom.

Personally, this whole situation is very difficult for me. I’ve unfollowed Deciem on Instagram and plan to use/review what I have (still quite a lot). If I’ll buy more from them for my personal use, it depends on how this situation unfolds (I don’t judge people and brands on the mistakes they make but on how they fix those mistakes – and unfortunately Brandon doesn’t seem to even acknowledge them *sighs*).

But I also don’t want anyone to feel bad or left out for supporting Deciem cos The Ordinary is all they can afford. I get so many requests from people to feature more drugstore/cheap products and the sad truth is that some of the best ones are from The Ordinary. Most drugstore brands are great at moisturizing but they don’t really feature all the actives The Ordinary has or they have the actives but in concentrations that are too low to work or at a pH that makes them ineffective. 🙁

Hence why I’m talking about their products from a scientific perspective only. I’ll let each of you make up your own minds if you want to keep supporting them or not.

Ana May 21, 2018 - 6:14 pm

A very, very belated thank you for your thoughtful answer, Gio.

Gio May 27, 2018 - 7:09 am

My pleasure, Ana. This is an important issue, thanks for raising it.

Mariana Rodrigues May 2, 2018 - 8:24 pm

Hi Gio, thank you for this review! Maybe this is a silly question, but when it comes to preventing clogged pores and blackheads on normal skin, is this solution comparable to The Ordinary’s Glycolic Acid 7% Toning Solution?
I’m looking for a chemical exfoliant for my 20-something-year-old normal/combo skin and your article made me think if there’s any possible comparison between both product’s purpose, if you know what I mean…

p.s.: I’m a long time reader but this is the first time I comment! I really appreciate the work you put onto beautiful with brains!

Gio May 5, 2018 - 10:11 am

Mariana, thank you so much for all your support. It means the world to me. 🙂 So happy you’re enjoying my little blog and find it helpful.

Glycolic acid and salicylic acid are slightly different. They both remove dead cells on the surface of your skin. This prevents the extra dead cells from ending up in the pores and causing clogs. Salicylic acid goes a step further because it also gets inside the pores and removes all the other crap, like excess oil, that’s already clogging them up.

If your skin isn’t prone to pimples, then glycolic acid is working fine for you. I’d recommend switching to salicylic only if you’re starting to get pimples regularly.

megan May 8, 2018 - 7:37 pm

Hi Gio,
I have been reading your blog a lot and enjoying it immensely. I have found most of your advice spot on and have seen an improvement in my skin with the use of retinoids, vitamin C, niacinamide, and antioxidants. Despite this, I STILL have some stubborn little blackheads and congested pores on my nose and chin, the kind I can squeeze and get teeny tiny satisfying sebum tails out of (I know I should not be picking at my skin, I don’t do it often now). I began using Paula’s Choice BHA formulation about a month ago, twice per day, and have seen literally no difference. I use retinoid at night (tried both the Ordinary Granactive 5% and retinol 5%) and niacin amide in morning. I use vitamin C about an hour before that to avoid reactions. I’ve used AHA masks several times a week. What else can I do?? Thanks!

Gio May 19, 2018 - 11:44 am

Megan, if you’ve had blackheads for quite a long time, you need to go to a derm for extraction. You can also try Cosrx BHA Blackheads Liquid Power. For some people, it works better than Paula’s Choice. You can find a comparison here:


Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.