Dr. Pimple Popper (AKA dermatologist Sandra Lee, MD) once told me that salicylic acid was her favorite skin-care ingredient. So the first thing I did was go out and buy a salicylic acid cleanser—not unlike the time that Regina George wore cargo pants and flip flops, so I wore cargo pants and flip flops. Well, recently, Dr. Pimple Popper doubled down with an entirely new way to use this powerful cleanser: by turning it into a peel.
While using a salicylic acid cleanser the old-fashioned, lather-and-rinse way is great, Dr. Pimple Popper’s easy hack makes it even more effective, especially if you’re looking to quash breakouts. “The trick with salicylic acid is that you can actually leave it on your face for a couple of minutes if you want it to, and that can help increase the penetrance of it,” she says in a new video for Harper’s Bazaar that features her nighttime skin routine. Letting it sit for a little while on your face gives the actives a chance to really get down and dirty into your pores, allowing for a full excavation of dirt and grime when you finally do decide to wash it off.
For a refresher, salicylic acid is “really great because it’s an exfoliant, so it’s going to get rid of those dry, dull dead skin cells on the surface of your skin so that your skin is more radiant,” she explains. “It’s going settle down within your pores, and help prevent new acne or blackheads from forming.” It works by crystalizing down to a super small size that allows it to get deep down into your pores and clean them from the inside out, which ultimately helps to keep zits from forming. Plus, as Dr. Pimple Popper has told us, “It’s a chemical peel acid, so it helps to exfoliate the skin and even helps to speed the lightening of brown spots that may have been created from previous acne breakouts.” Hence why her leave-on method is super smart.
For best results, prep your skin first by removing makeup with a cleansing oil or makeup removing wipe, then apply a layer of salicylic acid cleanser to your skin and leave it on for a few minutes. When you’re ready, rinse it with lukewarm water (“you don’t want to go really hot or really cold, because you don’t want to shock your skin,” she says), and dab off the excess product. To avoid over-exfoliating, Dr. Pimple Popper suggests alternating your salicylic acid cleanser with a more hydrating one every other day. Past, present, and future pimples don’t stand a chance.