Helping People Achieve Clear Skin Since 2007

Helping People Achieve Clear Skin Since 2007

Stridex Cleansing Pads – Do They Work?

By Dr. Jaggi Rao, MD, FRCPC, Double board-certified dermatologist

Stridex promises single-step acne control without the discomfort caused by treating the skin with isopropyl alcohol. But does Stridex really work?

Sridex Pads for acne
Stidex pads contain salicylic acid, which can help heal both blackheads and pimples, without added alcohol.


  • Stridex pads provide salicylic acid in a concentration that helps heal both blackheads and pimples without added alcohol.
  • Stridex Dual Solutions Intensive Acne Repair is nearly the perfect product for people who have both blackheads and pimples, although it won’t repair scars or skin pigmentation.
  • The ingredients in Stridex are not natural, but they are safe.
  • If you can only afford one product for treating acne, Stridex is a great choice. If you can afford a system of acne treatment products, Exposed Skin Care is a better choice.

The Ingredients In Stridex

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).

What Makes Stridex Different From Other Acne Pads?

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.

Isopropyl alcohol just dries up skin, resulting in even more skin problems.

Instead of alcohol, Stridex is made with water. Different Stridex pads also contain other helpful ingredients:

  • Stridex Essential contains green tea extract, which reduces sebum production in the skin. The smooth side of the pad can be used for gentle cleansing and the rough side of the pad can be used for deep cleaning. It helps improve cell regeneration with the use of Vitamin A and boosts the production of collagen with Vitamin C. It also includes Vitamin E, which helps keeps the skin moisturized.
  • Stridex Sensitive are comparable to Stridex Essential, But are better suited for sensitive skin due to the extra ingredient that are included to help avoid possible skin irritation, such as aloe. It does include salicylic acid, but a lower percentage (0.5%).
  • Stridex Dual Solutions Intensive Acne Repair contains salicylic acid for breaking up blackheads and a small amount of benzoyl peroxide for disinfecting pimples. The 2.5% benzoyl peroxide in the pads is less than “prescription strength” but is not enough to cause skin irritation or drying.
  • Stridex Natural Control formula is alcohol free and contains mostly natural ingredients. Antioxidants are provided in the form of pomegranate and white tea extracts and it contains 1% salicylic acid.
  • Stridex Maximum pads, their strongest pads, contain both 2% salicylic acid and a small amount of simethicone. The purpose of simethicone is stop foaming so that more of the salicylic acid sticks to the skin. While the keratolytic action does help with clogged pores, these pads may not be the best choice for sensitive skin.

Can Anything Go Wrong With Stridex?

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.

Will Stridex Get Rid Of All My Acne?

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)

Recommended Use

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.

Washing Face
Wash debris, makeup and dead skin cells off before using the Stridex pads for best results.

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:

  • Instead of Stridex salicylic acid pads, try Clean & Clear salicylic acid gel. It sticks to your skin longer and removes more “glue” from your skin.
  • In addition to Stridex pads to break up the sticky skin clogging your pores, try a retinol cream to open up the skin around your pores. Or you might try tretinoin topical. Just be sure to rinse any residual tretinoin topical from your skin before using the Stridex pads.
  • Don’t use both benzoyl peroxide “spot treatments” and Stridex Dual Solutions Intensive Acne Treatment. Instead, use tea tree oil creams to “get the red out” as the benzoyl peroxide disinfects your skin.
  • If you notice you get whiteheads and blackheads on the sides of your face and along your jawline, try a moisturizer in addition to using Stridex. You’ll need an oil-free moisturizer such as Johnson & Johnson Clean & Clear Advantage Acne Control Moisturizer Oil-Free (don’t use it if you have an allergy to cinnamon) or Kiss My Face Face Factor Face + Neck SPF-30 if you spend time outdoors. The Kiss My Face product contains zinc oxide which not only blocks UV rays but also reduces the intensity of breakouts on acne-prone skin.
  • Get rid of brown spots and small acne scars with microdermabrasion. You can use a polyethylene cloth to rub raised scars and brown-pigmented skin. A microdermabrasion cloth is an extremely inexpensive way to get rid of the reminders of acne that has healed. Or you can get faster results with microdermabrasion creams containing aluminum oxide crystals (which can be irritating) or corundum crystals (which usually are not).

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.

Comments 7
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Gale Reply

What removes age spots if used with Stridex?

March 15, 2012 at 8:29 pm Reply
Martin Reply

Hi Gale, I recommend you speak with your personal physician and/or a dermatologist about removing age spots.

March 22, 2012 at 8:14 am Reply
Cheryl Sheets Reply

I get rashes bad because of stress and inherited skin problems. When I was younger I laid in the sun way too much. Between that and taking after my grandpa and the age spots I almost looked like I had freckles. In fact he called most of them an freckles. Earlier I stated he told me about CeraVe skin moisturizer. Amazingly it has helped to cut down on a lot of the brown spots and even on the arms which is the hardest. They have scrubs, anti-itching, and healing lotions also. A little expensive but a little goes a long way. I swear by it

January 31, 2018 at 4:32 am Reply
T L G Reply

Stridex worked amazingly for me. Most of the pores I've seen since I was 10(I'm 24 now) are almost totally gone. My forehead is clearing up, my nose is better, my chin is better. First acne thing that's worked for me so far.

May 31, 2014 at 5:14 pm Reply
Cat Reply

I've been using them for half a year and now I'm almost immune to them any other suggestions?

April 14, 2015 at 2:31 am Reply
Sydney Reply

Hi I use stridex pads for my forehead and I between my eye brows that where I get acne the most on my face. Idkif it's from eating chocolate or wearing makeup but Idk if I should keep using stridex pads or rub alichole on my forehead and t-zone what should I do.I WAMT NO MORE ACNE

August 29, 2015 at 2:28 am Reply
Cheryl Sheets Reply

I have used stridex for years and I have always taken a wash rag and hot water and washed first then used the strides pad. I have skin problems because psoriasis runs in my family and my dermatologist has started me using CeraVe. It works quite well except I have occasional problems with bumps on my chin. I've never used a facial brush but was wondering if it could help. Anyone have any advice or suggestions it would be nice

January 31, 2018 at 4:25 am Reply