Blemish + Age Defense Salicylic Acid Acne Treatment
1 fl. oz. for $82
Last Updated:12.19.2014
Jar Packaging:No
Tested on animals:Yes
Review Overview

The claimed goal of this product is to target acne along with signs of aging, including discolorations. Lots of people struggle with wrinkles, uneven skin tone, and breakouts, and all of them are wondering “Why me?” We understand your frustration and are thrilled to tell you which products can truly help. Regrettably, this isn’t one of them.

This does contain the proven acne fighter and anti-aging superstar ingredient salicylic acid, with a decent 1.5% concentration at a pH of 3.4. It also contains a smaller amount of the AHA glycolic acid, which may provide an additional exfoliating boost and help fade discolorations. SkinCeuticals also uses a unique ingredient they label as diocic acid. Please see More Info below for an explanation of this ingredient.

Where things go downhill is with the inclusion of a large amount of alcohol, which is the main ingredient and lends this product a potent medicinal scent. Alcohol causes dryness, free-radical damage, and irritation that hurts skin’s healing process. It also weakens healthy collagen production.

Note: This serum is dispensed via a dropper applicator. Although not the ideal method to dispense a serum that contains light- and air-sensitive ingredients, sometimes this type of packaging is necessary due to formulary requirements. When that’s the case, the goal is to keep the bottle opening as small as possible, the bottle should be opaque or specially coated to protect the contents from light, and you should use the serum up within three months of opening (but we wouldn't recommend trying it with this product).

  • Contains an effective, pH-correct amount of the BHA exfoliant salicylic acid.
  • BHA can improve acne, blackheads, uneven skin tone, and signs of aging.
  • BHA is brilliant for anyone struggling with acne and wrinkles.
  • Needlessly expensive for what is really a basic and poorly formulated product.
  • The amount of alcohol will cause numerous problems, including irritation, which hurts skin’s healing process and causes collagen to break down.
  • Lacks a wide range of beneficial ingredients to improve wrinkles and ensure healthier, more resilient skin.

More Info:

The diocic acid referred to in the claims is listed as octadecenedioic acid. It’s a synthetic or naturally derived wax-like fatty acid. For the science-minded, this ingredient is structurally similar to azelaic acid, which is derived from grains and occasionally used for skin lightening, although most often in combination with the gold standard skin-lightening agent hydroquinone.

According to limited research, octadecenedioic acid has anti-inflammatory properties and works to lighten skin discolorations, but its exact method of action is not fully understood. It seems to function as a cell-communicating ingredient and works to reduce excess melanin production that leads to skin discolorations (Sources: International Journal of Cosmetic Science, August 2006, pages 263–267, and April 2005, pages 123–132). What’s not certain is how much of this ingredient is needed to provide benefit. SkinCeuticals maintains they’re using 2%, but to date, there’s no relevant data to support that amount as being optimal for improving brown skin discolorations.


A targeted, oil-free approach to treat adult acne and signs of aging. This 1st-to-market acid blend combines 2% dioic acid with an optimal alpha- and beta-hydroxy acid formulation designed to prevent the formation of acne, minimize hyperpigmentation, and reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.


Active: Salicylic Acid (1.5%), Other: Alcohol Denat., Water, Methylpropanediol, Glycolic Acid, Diisopropyl Adipate, Octadecenedioic Acid, Hydroxyethylpiperazine, Ethane Sulfonic Acid, Citric Acid, Capryloyl Salicylic Acid, Sodium Hyaluronate, Polyquarternium-10

Brand Overview

SkinCeuticals At-A-Glance

Strengths: Great line to shop if you're looking for well-formulated vitamin C and retinol products; some outstanding sunscreens (including for sensitive skin), and every one provides sufficient UVA protection; one effective AHA product; good self-tanner; several fragrance-free products.

Weaknesses: Mostly problematic cleansers and toners; fruit and sugar extracts trying to substitute for AHA products when the real deal is much better; ineffective BHA products; jar packaging.

With a strong presence in the professional (meaning spa and aesthetics) skin-care market, SkinCeuticals has a mostly well-deserved reputation for producing serious-minded, research-driven products, several of which are centered on L-ascorbic acid. Company founder Dr. Sheldon Pinnell began the line after a falling out with the folks behind Cellex-C, a company for which Dr. Pinnell once served as spokesperson. The falling out had to do with both Cellex-C and Dr. Pinnell holding patents on L-ascorbic acid; Cellex-C held the patent on a formula with L-ascorbic acid (the original Cellex-C serum) while Dr. Pinnell's patent (now conspicuously absent from SkinCeuticals products) was only for the ingredient. The drama continued as, years later, the doctor who joined Pinnell to work on SkinCeuticals' vitamin C products began his own company, also selling products with vitamin C. Who needs Desperate Housewives when we have desperate doctors racing to be the authoritative word on the anti-aging properties of vitamin C?

The good news is that copious research has demonstrated that L-ascorbic acid (despite its stability issues, which, formula-wise, SkinCeuticals products do address) is a good, potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory agent. It has also been shown to provide photoprotective benefits when skin is exposed to UV light and is capable of stimulating collagen production - though don't take that to mean it is a cure for wrinkles (Sources: International Journal of Toxicology, 2005, supplement, pages 51–111; Experimental Dermatology, June 2003, pages 237–244; Dermatologic Surgery, March 2002, pages 231–236; Bioelectrochemistry and Bioenergetics, May 1999, pages 453–461; and International Journal of Radiation Biology, June 1999, pages 747–755). Of course, other forms of vitamin C have equally impressive research, and some forms, such as magnesium ascorbyl phosphate, have better stability profiles (Source: Journal of Pharmaceutical and Biomedical Analysis, March 1997, pages 795–801).

As we've mentioned before, vitamin C is but one of many good antioxidants, and it's not the best approach to select any one or two antioxidants and bank on them alone to provide every conceivable skin-rejuvenating benefit. Instead, go for products that offer a cocktail of antioxidants because you'll get a greater range of benefits. Plus, some antioxidants in combination have a synergistic effect that surpasses what occurs when any of the ingredients are used alone. SkinCeuticals clearly knows this, because their vitamin C products also contain the antioxidant ferulic acid, and some add vitamin E to the mix as well. Above all, remember that as multifunctional as antioxidants are, they cannot stop aging, they won't eliminate wrinkles, and they do not replace the need for daily sun protection.

L'Oreal purchased SkinCeuticals in May 2005, and, for the time being, seems to be letting them stay on their course. That's a good thing, because despite L'Oreal’s considerable financial reserves and global R&D team, the skin-care products their brands produce consistently lag behind what current research indicates are state-of-the-art options. As long as they continue to let SkinCeuticals retain its stature, there are many good reasons to shop this line; however, that said, this line is far from perfect in terms of being able to assemble a complete skin-care routine. Focusing on what they do best (which is serums, sunscreens, and specialty products) will be money well spent for visible results. Those who find the SkinCeuticals price tags to be a deal-breaker need to know that despite several notable products, they're hardly the only game in town; you can find equally superior products for less money, though not all of them follow the impressive concentration protocols of SkinCeuticals.

For more information about SkinCeuticals, call 1-800-771-9489 or visit www.skinceuticals.com.

About the Experts

The new Beautypedia Team proudly and unequivocally maintains the commitment to help you find the best products possible for your skin. We do this by relentlessly pursuing and relying on published scientific research so you will have unbiased information on what works and what doesn't-and the sneaky ways you could be making your skin worse, not better!

The Beautypedia Team reviews all products using the same research, criteria, and objectivity, whether the product being reviewed is from Paula's Choice or another brand.

Member Comments
Summary of Member Comments
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Works really good

I've just been using it for 2 weeks but it works amazing on my acne skin. I have never found a product like this. Although it is very drying my blemishes dissapered within 2 days..even if I squeezed , and had put a bit of this on my pimple, the redness had gone the next day and you cant barely tell I had even touched it. thumps up!

Reviewed by
Nearly instant results

This product gets a poor rating for its alcohol content but i gotta tell ya it really works almost instantly on making blemishes go away. Use only as a spot treatment, Very sparingly. A little goes a long way. Its pretty expensive but ive never seen results like this before so it evens out.

Reviewed by
Crystal S
Good but too expensive

Pros: -Helps diminish acne without drying. It only targets your trouble spots although u spread it thought out your entire face -helps fade red marks -lightweight serum -kills bacteria in trouble spots -works well under make up Cons: -way to expensive for the amount of product you get -doesn't seem to prevent acne from coming bk; it only treats -has questionable ingredients -doesn't really do much with your pores -did not seem any improvement on wrinkles

Reviewed by
Jung h
Thanks for the heads up!

I just got home from a facial, armed with the brochure for this product. The esthetician recommended this product for some minor breakouts I get on my neck (hormonal acne), and I'm glad I didn't make an impulse purchase! I was suspicious of the claims in the brochure; the studies cited contained 28 and 30 subjects, so not exactly a large sample size. I love getting my quarterly facials, but I hate the sales pressure at the end. Next time I'll be armed with some useful information!

Reviewed by
Aimee M.
Expensive product

I was recommended this product for my acne breakouts but it didn't help. Seemed to irritate my skin even more and make it worse.

Reviewed by
Recommended to me to help with my keratosis pilaris rubra faceii, but didn't help.

A good hearted employee at a spa recommended this to me when the discussion during my facial turned to my keratosis pilaris rubra faceii. It was my first attempt to help manage my redness and I can see why she recommended it. The salicylic acid should have helped, but as Paula says in her review, this delivery and forulation won't really work... which would explain why it didn't help me and just kind of dried out my skin while not reducing my redness.

Reviewed by
Lauren C.
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