Last Updated on January 6th, 2020
Stridex promises single-step acne control without the discomfort caused by treating the skin with isopropyl alcohol. But does Stridex really work?
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Stridex pads include up to 2% salicylic acid. Despite what the advertising may say, this really is not the highest concentration of salicylic acid permitted in acne products that sold without a prescription, but a 2% concentration of salicylic acid is definitely enough to have a beneficial effect on blemish-prone skin.
The way salicylic acid works is by breaking down the proteins that serve as “glue” in the skin. If you apply salicylic acid to healthy skin, it loosens the topmost, oldest layer of cells in the skin, making it easier for younger, healthier skin cells to emerge to the surface. If you apply salicylic acid to blemished skin, it breaks down the adhesive that causes dead skin to stick to the linings of pores. It also breaks down hardened sebum and kills acne bacteria.
Salicylic acid isn’t really a natural ingredient. It is made by compressing phenol with carbon dioxide under intense pressure. This creates sodium salicylate, which is transformed into salicylic acid by the addition of sulfuric acid into the mix. Salicylic acid is not found in willow bark, although there are tiny amounts of the chemical’s derivatives in the herb meadowsweet (also known by its botanical name Filipendula).
The distinctive feature of Stridex pads is what they don’t contain, namely isopropyl alcohol. Many competing products contain 24% to 55% alcohol. The alcohol cools and refreshes the skin, but it also dries it out. Ironically, adding alcohol to salicylic acid irritates the skin, forces it to produce more sebum, and ensures that customers will keep buying the product because it causes new blemishes at the same time it clears up old blemishes.
Instead of alcohol, Stridex is made with water. Different Stridex pads also contain other helpful ingredients:
Stridex pads are an unusually safe way to treat acne. They won’t normally dry out your skin, and they won’t cause pigmentation of your skin. In a tiny number of people who already have cold sores, they can help the virus “breakout” of the skin, but the way to avoid this problem, if you have cold sores, is to keep the product away from your lips, especially if you feel any kind of itching or tingling or any time you have an active cold sore.
It’s reasonable to expect about 30% of your blemishes to disappear the first week you use Stridex, and about 75% of your blemishes to disappear during the first month. Neither Stridex nor any other acne treatment will get rid of 100% of your blemishes—ever. About the very best result any single treatment gets is 80% of blemishes in one month, but treatments that work this completely usually cause serious side effects.
(Note: Again, in the video he says 2% salicylic acid is the highest you can get in an OTC product, but that’s no longer correct. According to the Mayo Clinic, up to 5% can be included in OTC acne treatments)
Before using Stridex pads, it’s best to do a quick wash with a gentle cleanser to help get rid of any dirt, makeup or other particles that could get in the way Stridex being able to do its job. If there’s a layer of gunk on the skin, it potentially could prevent the ingredients in the pads of getting in to the skin where it needs to be in order to work. If it’s just not possible to do this, the pads could still be helpful, but may not be as effective as they could be.
When you use the pads, simply wipe them across your skin (gently). To avoid possible irritation or drying, start with one application per day and work your way up to a maximum of three times per day if there’s no adverse reactions. If you notice irritation, dryness or peeling, try to reduce applications to every other day. It’s not recommended to use more than three times daily.
If your objective is to get rid of all your blemishes though, you will need to use combination treatments. Here are some suggestions:
If you can only afford one product for treating acne, Stridex is a good choice. If you buy Stridex on Amazon, you might be able to find a month’s supply of pads for as little as US $5. But if you can afford a little more, you can get a good deal with on collections of products from Exposed Skin Care.