Salicylic Acid vs Glycolic Acid For Unclogging Pores

Salicylic acid vs Glycolic acid? Which one do you use if you have blackheads?

Both are good for unclogging pores. Here’s why:


This is the only acid that can penetrate oil. (Because it is oil-soluble. All other acids are water soluble.)

Thanks to this property, it can reach *inside* a pore and exfoliate the lining of the pore wall. This loosens and allows the contents of the pore to flow out more freely. So if you have a lot of oil, the oil will flow out more freely.

You are less likely to get hardened blackheads – you know those! The stubborn ones that are lodged inside the pore and won’t come out.




This is the strongest AHA of the acids. (Because it has the smallest molecular size, it travels into the skin deeper and faster than other AHAs).

Glycolic acid won’t go inside a pore, but it will exfoliate the skin on the surface of the skin. So it can help “unroof” the openings of pores and decrease the amount of dead skin that can get trapped inside the pore.

I like to use glycolic on my nose or a breakout because it gives me the best results in the shortest time possible. But it is also the most irritating acid.

Glycolic in a serum, exfoliant, or peel is usually too strong for me. (I have thin, non-oily skin.) But in a cleanser, which doesn’ts stay on skin long, my skin tolerates it well.

If you have thin and not too sensitive skin and still want the benefits of glycolic, I recommend you get it through a cleanser.


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By |2017-04-17T18:51:41+00:00July 3, 2015|Acne, Ingredients, Skin Basics|


  1. Bianca April 8, 2016 at 12:19 am

    Hi Rita,

    I have been using glycolic acid in a lotion form and am really enjoying it. Problem is that I just bought a new essence and serum and am not sure where it would go in the process. Would it go between the two for after the serum and before the emulsion.

    Thanks I love your blog!

    • Rita Lee April 8, 2016 at 6:54 pm

      Hi Bianca,

      I would apply the essence first, then the serum, and then the glycolic lotion. I hope I understood the glycolic product correctly. You mentioned “emulsion” at the end of your sentence, and I’m not certain what that refers to.

      Thank you for reading the blog!

  2. Janet May 6, 2016 at 2:51 pm

    I have acne prone, oily, scarred and sun spots, terrible blackheads and hyperpigmentation around my chin and upper lip (from ingrown hair) I’ve been thinking about trying a chemical peel but have no idea which to buy. Can you suggest or recommend The best option for me.
    A million thanks.

    • Rita Lee May 6, 2016 at 10:30 pm

      I can understand the challenges of finding the right peel to treat those concerns. Unfortunately, I do not provide personal product or procedure recommendations on this site. This is the kind of question that requires an evaluation of your skin and skin history, which takes time for a quality recommendation. But I do offer this as a service in a private consultation. You can contact me here if you’re interested.

  3. Judy May 23, 2016 at 11:08 pm

    Hi Rita,

    I’ve been using the Pixi Glow Tonic toner which has 5% glycol acid. I just recently bought Dr. Dennis Gross Ferulic Acid + Retinol Brightening Solution. I read somewhere that you should’t mix AHA with retinol. Do you think it would be best if I use a hydrating toner with the retinol serum?

    Thank you for you help 🙂

    • Rita Lee May 24, 2016 at 2:18 pm

      Hi Judy, you can actually use a product that contains both AHA and retinol. It can be aggressive though (because both are acidic), which is why certain skin types don’t tolerate it. It just depends on how much of each is in it and your skin type. There’s no harm using a hydrating serum with retinol. Skin can always benefit from a hydrating serum, and and it can help enhance delivery of other products.

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