At-Home Salicylic Acid Peel -
The Ultimate Guide

A salicylic acid peel is unbeatable as a treatment for acne, blackheads, large pores and pimples. A course of frequent light peels is even better, and if done properly and safely, can clear up those issues for good! Find out exactly how to do one on this page.

Salicylic acid peel

If you want to do your own salicylic acid peels at home, this page is intended as a guide in learning how to get the best results.*

What makes a salicylic peel so good for acne? How to prepare and apply step by step? The best frequency for your home regime, expectations, and maintenance? All on this page!

Do not use if allergic to Aspirin or pregnant!

Why Is A Salicylic Acid Peel So Beneficial For Acne?

Derived from Willow bark, it is the sole star of the Beta Hydroxy Acid group (BHA). Also a main constitute of Aspirin.

It's fat soluble so is attracted to and dissolves fats. Effectively, it breaks down lipids and oils/sebum. It can get right into pores - which is why it's so good for acne:

  • clears and prevents blackheads, pimples/whiteheads and cysts
  • also very beneficial in reducing acne scars
  • degreases skin and helps to balance oil production
  • dissolves the fatty glue between cells, exfoliating skin and opening pores 
  • the acid then neutralizes the bacteria inside, which reduces inflammation (straight away - very good for active, red pimples) and helps prevent further breakouts
  • helps with large pores by reducing/rebalancing oil production, and improving skin texture

What Concentration Of Salicylic Acid To Use

Start with a percentage of 15%*

Anything higher is too strong in the beginning and can be very irritating. Plus, there really is no need to go straight into a stronger dose, as the effectiveness of peels depends on where you skin is at.

In other words - the effective of using 15% in the beginning is the same as using 30% after a few months of usage. Skin gets used to it, and gets stronger, so can handle (some would say needs) higher concentrations. 

It's worth repeating - don't be tempted to go straight into using a concentration any higher than 15%. Frequent light peels are fair more effective, not to mention safer.

(Or, start with a daily application of a high quality lower dose - same benefits without the risk. Plus, the consistency of daily application is better at preventing acne and blackheads. Find out more here.)

Where To Start - Treatment Plan

Aim to perform a 15% salicylic acid peel every 2 weeks, for 2 or 3 months.

The first peel will be for 1 minute.

Notice how your skin reacts and increase in 1 minute intervals each time for a maximum of 5 minutes.

This time frame of 2-3months will show great results - often after the very first treatment. It will allow the benefits to be cumulative, and for a lot of people this is all they need to see vast improvements in acne and other skin conditions.

Maintain results with a monthly application of 15 - 20%.

If you still have blockages, scars or concerns, repeat the treatment plan with a concentration of 20%. Build slowly.

What You Will Need

  • Normal cleanser
  • Rubbing alcohol (OTC 70%) or prep solution - this removes fats and oils from skin allowing the peel to work optimally
  • Small glass bowl and a fan brush/gauze pad to apply
  • 1/2cup baking soda in 2cups water (use your sink) - this is your neutralizing solution which is very important. You can buy specific neutralizers>>> but baking soda works perfectly. Have a soft cloth or cotton pads ready
  • Vaseline - apply to eyebrows, lip area and nostrils, you don't want the acid touching those!
  • A gentle, emollient rich moisturizer to apply after (coconut oil is perfect as it also contains anti bacterial properties)
  • A timer/clock 

How To Do A Salicylic Acid Peel At Home

  • Cleanse skin normally and pat dry
  • Apply the rubbing alcohol all over, this is important to degrease skin which allows the acid to work
  • Put a small amount of salicylic into the glass bowl and using the fan brush apply evenly to skin
  • Another option is to use a gauze pad, soak it in the solution and apply like a toner. If you choose this method wear gloves!
  • Be careful to avoid getting it in your eyes! Squeeze the brush/pad out on the side of the dish to avoid drips
  • Apply in even strokes all over face - best to start on the t-zone and work out to cheeks, as this area tends to be oiliest
  • Avoid the eye, lip and neck areas
  • Start timing as soon as you apply that first stroke 
  • Watch your skin in the mirror as you leave it on for 1 minute

What to expect:

  • Salicylic acid crystalizes on skin so expect some 'frosting' - this looks like a light dusting of skin, don't be alarmed it's normal
  • Skin can become quite hot, a small fan can help with discomfort but if it's too much or burning remove
  • It will tingle or sting a bit - this is normal and a sign it's working
  • The tingling/stinging may subside after 30secs - however it's still working after this so stick to the timeframe. However if it gets worse, remove

Removing The Salicylic Acid Peel

  • Once your minute is up, apply the baking soda solution all over skin to neutralize the acid by splashing your face for at least one minute - the sting can increase for the first few seconds, keep going and it will subside
  • Continue to splash your face for at least 1minute. Then wipe throughly all over with the soft cloth, repeating at least 3 times
  • Your face may still feel quite hot, if so splash with plenty of cold water until it calms down. Or, apply a cold wash cloth to skin and leave it on
  • Pat dry and apply a calming, hydrating moisturizer or oil

Expectations And Aftercare:

  • This treatment can open whiteheads and milia
  • These can then be very gently extracted by squeezing with a tissue. Very gently. It is, of course, preferable to leave them alone - the salicylic acid would have worked on the bacteria inside which will dry them out very quickly
  • Slight redness, dryness and a little irritation is normal for a few days. Keep applying moisturizer
  • Sunscreen is vital. Shade is preferable for the first days after
  • Don't use any other exfoliation scrubs or procedures
  • Sometimes there can be slight flaking of the skin from salicylic acid, don't pick this. Just keep applying moisturizer or Vaseline and it will heal in a few days

Results Of Your AT-Home Salicylic Acid Peel

You can see great improvements after the first treatment. It will take a few weeks to see vast differences.

Some people no longer have a problem with blackheads - they completely disappear, and breakouts are greatly reduced.

Fine lines, pigmentation and acne scars are also helped by using this peel frequently. Results are cumulative, so keep up your treatment plan.

Once you've achieved your wanted results, a peel every month or two is enough to maintain these benefits.

At Home Salicylic Acid Peel Recommendations

Not sure about using a heavier peel? Get the same - if not better - results with consistent use of a 2% application. It's easier, safer and will keep your skin clear.

A 15% concentration, with no other active ingredients that will get in the way of the best results. 

A small bottle is enough as you don't need to use a lot, and may want to increase the concentration to 20% after you've finished it - this is an easy way to build up.

Salicylic Acid Peel 15%

This is a 30ml bottle, great size for starting and a good price.

This range also has 20% and 30%, if you are looking at increasing. 

The blue bottle is important - keep it out of sunlight!

I've given this guide based on my knowledge and experience of performing these peels. Be sure to read the instructions of the specific product, whichever one you choose :) 

Using salicylic acid peels as an acne solution can be remarkable.

Often it is the one thing that can help clear up skin, once and for all.

It's similar to glycolic acid in that the exfoliation action also stimulates cell renewal - which means healthier, stronger skin in the long term

This is much more beneficial than using benzol peroxide, which works by drying up blemishes and oil, and can be effective. However it can be severely drying and completely unbalance skin, making the problem worse in the long run.

Used with knowledge and caution, home chemical peels are a great, easy way to take care of your skin. Try them, and you won't look back!


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*Disclaimer - This information is intended as a resource for your own research and knowledge about performing a salicylic facial peel at home. It is not intended to be complete or exhaustive, but is based solely on my experience and opinions. You know your skin best, please see a professional if you have any doubts, concerns or simply aren't sure. The owner and author expressly disclaim responsibility for any adverse effects arising from the use or application of the information expressed here and the related pages. 

*The owner of this website is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon properties including, but not limited to,,,,, or Only products I believe in are recommended. Enjoy great skin!