boots ingredients salicylic acid review

Tired of waiting for The Ordinary Salicylic Acid 2% Solution to be in stock again? This baby is so popular, it flies off the shelves so quickly. What’s a girl to do in the meantime? I’ve got another option for you. Boots has recently come up with a dupe, creatively called Ingredients Salicylic Acid. Does it work just as well? Is it even better? Or is just something to use while there are no better options around? So many questions! Short answer: It works, if you can put up with this one “small” thing… Long answer: read on:

Key Ingredients In Boots Ingredients Salicylic Acid: What Makes It Work?


Also called Beta Hydroxy Acid (BHA), 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 reduces the redness that always comes along with pimples.

Forget glycolic acid. If you’re dealing with blackheads, whiteheads or pimples, this is the exfoliant to use.

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


Exfoliation has the potential to be irritating for sensitive skin. To minimise the chances of this happening, Boots has added some soothing agents to the mix.

Related: Allantoin: The Soothing Ingredient You Didn’t Know You Needed

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The Rest Of The Formula & Ingredients

NOTE: The colours indicate the effectiveness of an ingredient. It is ILLEGAL to put toxic and harmful ingredients in skincare products.

  • Green: It’s effective, proven to work, and helps the product do the best possible job for your skin.
  • Yellow: There’s not much proof it works (at least, yet).
  • Red: What is this doing here?!
  • Aqua (Water): The main solvent in the product, it helps dissolve other ingredients.
  • Butylene Glycol: It draws moisture from the air into the skin, leaving it more hydrated. It also enhances the penetration of active ingredients into your skin.
  • Ethoxydiglycol: A solvent that better helps ingredients absorb into your skin.
  • Ppg-26-Butet: It helps oily ingredients and watery ingredients mix together, so the formula doesn’t separate into two layers.
  • Ammonium Acryloyidimethyluate/Vp Copolymer: It thickens the texture of skincare products.
  • Peg-40 Hydrogented Castor Oil: An emollient that makes skin softer and smoother. It also helps oily ingredients and watery ingredients mix together well.
  • Phenoxyetanol: A preservative that inhibits the growth of bacteria in your serum, helping it last longer.
  • Sodium Hydroxide: It helps to adjust the pH of skincare products.
  • Peg-12 Dimethicone: A silicone that improves the texture and feel of cosmetics products. It also makes skin softer and smoother.
  • Chlorphenesin: A preservative that inhibits bacteria contamination and makes skin softer and smoother.
  • Disodium Edta: A chelating agent. In plain English, it neutralises the metal ions naturally found in water that would otherwise spoil the formula.
  • Dipotassium Glycryrhizate: A naturally component of licorice, it has soothing properties for skin.
  • Maltodextin: A stabiliser and skin softener.
  • Glycerin: It attracts and binds water from the air into your skin, increasing it moisture levels, so it stays softer and suppler for longer.
  • Potassium Sorbate: A preservative that kills bacteria and extends the shelf life of your skincare products.
  • Sodium Benzoate: Another preservative that kills bacteria and extends the shelf life of your skincare products.


This serum has a liquidy to the point of runny texture. It absorbs quickly, but you may need a cotton pad to apply it.


In theory, it’s fragrance-free, which I like. Fragrance is the most irritating ingredient found in skincare, so it has no place in it. In practice, it smells strongly of alcohol. It just goes to show how much of it is in the formula. Not a fan of the smell.

How To Use It

Like all salicylic acid exfoliant, use it every other night, straight after cleansing. You can use a cotton pad, if it’s easier for you.


A white and black tube with a pump applicator that dispenses a little too much product every time. It’s a little finicky like that.

Performance & Personal Opinion

For me, using Boots Ingredients Salicylic Acid is like taking medicine: I don’t enjoy it, but it works. What don’t I enjoy it? The smell. OMG the smell. I’ve never come across anything that smells so strongly of alcohol (well, apart from liquor bottles, but that’s expected). It makes me wrinkle my nose every time I put it on. Luckily, the smell of alcohol is pretty flimsy and fades away quickly.

You know what else is flimsy? The packaging. You can tell Boots is skimping on it. If you can put up with that, Boots Ingredients Salicylic Acid works wonders. For starters, it exfoliates the surface of my skin, making it softer, smoother, and a little brighter. It also helps get rid of acne. I’ve noticed the main difference with blackheads. My nose is very prone to them, no matter what I do. But when I use salicylic acid there, they slowly disappear.

While it’s at it, it also helps prevent and treat acne and whiteheads. Just give it time. These blemishes start deep into the pores. Salicylic Acid can get there, but it won’t get rid of them in a day. Consistency is key here. Keep using it – even after they’re gone (unless you want them to come back!).

P.S. Salicylic acid can also regulate oil production. My skin isn’t that oily, so I can’t personally vouch for this.

Related: How To Get Rid Of Blackheads

boots ingredients salicylic acid

How Does Boots Ingredients Salicylic Acid Compare To The Ordinary Salicylic Acid 2% Solution?

The Ordinary Salicylic Acid 2% Solution (£6.10) is one of the most popular Salicylic Acid exfoliants out there. It’s a very basic formula that gets the exfoliating job done. It helps treat blackheads, prevent acne, and brighten the complexion. But it doesn’t have any of the extras, like aloe vera and allantoin, that Boots have. On the other hand, it doesn’t contain as much alcohol and it doesn’t smell as bad. If you don’t mind how basic it is, I prefer it over Boots. You can get a bottle at Boots, Cult Beauty, Look Fantastic, SpaceNK, The Ordinary and Ulta.

ACTIVE INGREDIENTS Salicylic Acid 2% Salicylic Acid
OTHER INGREDIENTS Bisabolol, allantoin, and aloe vera. They all soothe skin. No other ingredients of note.
TEXTURE Lightweight and runny Lightweight and slightly foamy
PACKAGING White bottle with pump applicator that dispenses too much product. White bottle with dropper applicator.
FRAGRANCE Fragrance-free, but smells strongly of alcohol. Fragrance-free.

What I Like About Boots Ingredients Salicylic Acid

  • Lightweight and fast-absorbing
  • Prevents and treats acne and blackheads
  • Exfoliates skin and makes it softer and smoother
  • Gives skin a lovely glow

What I DON’T Like About Boots Ingredients Salicylic Acid

  • Texture is runny
  • Strongly smells like alcohol
  • Finicky packaging

Who Should Use This?

  • Acne-prone skin
  • Combination skin
  • Oily skin
  • Anyone who wants to get rid of pimples, whiteheads, and/or blackheads

Does Boots Ingredients Salicylic Acid Serum Live Up To Its Claims?

With salicylic acid, a BHA, this serum leaves skin looking visibly less oily without skin feeling dry. It helps regulate oil production without drying out skin, but the results aren’t that revolutionary.
Skin feels moisturised. Feels is the keyword here. Boots doesn’t claim this serum moisturises skin (it doesn’t), just that it feels so.

Price & Availability

£7.00 at Boots

The Verdict: Should You Buy It?

Anyone with any form of acne – pimples, blackheads, and whiteheads – needs salicylic acid. That’s not optional. But should you get this one? If you care only about results and can put up with an unpleasant texture and flimsy packaging, this’ll do.

Dupes & Alternatives

  • Paula’s Choice Skin Perfecting 2% BHA Liquid ($29.00): The cult exfoliant from the brand, it unlclogs pores and treats blackheads and acne. The texture’s a little sticky, but if you can take that, this is one of the best salicylic acid exfoliants out there. Available at Cult BeautyDermstoreNet-A-PorterPaula’s ChoiceSephora, and SpaceNK.
  • The Inkey List Beta Hydroxy Acid (£9.99): A simple, no-frills salicylic acid exfoliant for people on a budget. Available at Cult Beauty and Sephora.
  • The Ordinary Salicylic Acid 2% Solution (£6.10): A simple formula that exfoliates skin and treats and prevents acne. It just works. Available at Boots, Cult Beauty, Look Fantastic, SpaceNK, The Ordinary and Ulta.


Aqua (Water), Butylene Glycol, Ethoxydiglycol, Salicylic Acid, Ppg-26-Butet, Ammonium Acryloyidimethyluate/Vp Copolymer, Peg-40 Hydrogented Castor Oil, Phenoxyetanol, Sodium Hydroxide, Peg-12 Dimethicone, Allantoin, Chlorphenesin, Disodium, Edta, Dipotassium Glycryrhizate, Bisabolol, Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Juice, Maltodextin, Glycerin, Potassium Sobate Benzoate