Have you ever cruised through Reddit’s /r/skincareaddiction?
If you have, you’ve probably noticed one product that stands above the rest.
Yep, I’m talking about Stridex—the one in the red box.
Read the rest of the article to find out what happened when I started using this stuff.
Spoiler alert: Stridex isn’t my thing.
What It’s Supposed To Do
The box says it:
- Treats acne
- Reduces breakouts and blackheads
- Prevents breakouts from forming
Because it contains salicylic acid at a hefty 2%, it can also soften skin, dissolve oils, exfoliate, and even-out skin tone.
How It’s Used
Its application is both simple and convenient:
- Wash your face.
- Glide the pad (gently!) across the affected areas.
- Let it sit for 10-30 minutes. If you’re short on time, let it sit until it dries.
- Go through the rest of your routine.
- Don’t forget to moisturize liberally.
Oh and it’s not face-specific.
Some people use it as a body treatment—you know, to stave off ingrown hairs after shaving/waxing. Or, better yet, to treat keratosis pilaris.
And it doesn’t stop there.
Since I still have a tub and a half left—thanks to a buy-one-get-one offer—I’m using it on the soles of my hobbit-feet to soften-up my calluses.
How Often Should You Use It?
If you’re new to the acid game, it’s important to start slow.
That means, starting with one application every few days. If your skin likes it, feel free to gradually increase use. On the other hand, if your skin starts feeling dry and tight, you should probably slow your roll.
Personally, I worked my way up to a 1-per-day regimen. And even that was too much for my skin to handle.
Just because the box tells you to apply it 1-3 times a day, doesn’t mean you have to listen to it.
Salicylic Acid 2.0% (Read about the pros and cons of salicylic acid here.)
Ammonium Lauryl Sulfate, Ammonium Xylenesulfonate, Citric Acid, DMDM Hydantoin, Fragrance, Menthol, PPG-5-Ceteth-20, Purified Water, Simethicone, Sodium Borate, Tetrasodium EDTA.
Stridex used to contain alcohol—a lot of alcohol. Well, a little while ago, they changed their ways. And I’m glad to report that Stridex Pads are now alcohol-free!
Salicylic Acid: As a pseudo-BHA, salicylic acid is one of the best acne treatments/chemical exfoliants on the market. That being said, it’s VERY drying. So, please don’t skimp on moisturizer/sunscreen while using this product.
DMDM Hydantoin: Every shelf-stable product needs a good preservative. This particular preservative kills bacteria by releasing formaldehyde. The CIR (Cosmetic Ingredient Review) says it’s safe. The EWG (Environmental Working Group) says it’s not. And I don’t know who to believe.
Fragrance: Fragrances are notorious for inducing allergic reactions.
Menthol: After applying this product, you may notice a tingling sensation. No, that doesn’t mean that the product is working. It means that the product contains menthol. Which can be both sensitizing and irritating.
What’s The pH?
Unfortunately, I don’t own any fancy doodads like litmus test strips or digital pH meters, so I emailed Stridex to get the pH scoop.
Their reply was short and sweet. Here’s what they said:
In response to your inquiry, the pH for the Maximum Strength Pads is 3.0 – 4.5
Are you thinking what I’m thinking?
That’s a pretty wide range.
Salicylic acid is effective at a pH of 3-4.
And virtually ineffective when the pH crosses the 4 threshold.
You see, when the pH is right, salicylic acid is able to dig deep in your pores (and unclog them). When the pH is wrong (like when it’s too high), SA isn’t able to penetrate as deep. In which case, your clogged pores aren’t going anywhere.
Did It Work?
At first, it worked beautifully. It was like all my skin dreams were coming true.
My blackheads were smaller and, overall, my skin was smoother.
All I could think was, “Why didn’t I start using this sooner?”
Well, my love affair came to a screeching halt after about a month of daily use.
You see, my skin became too smooth–it felt like a soft, aluminum phone case.
In other words, I was over-exfoliated (check out this link to find out more about the sign and symptoms of over-exfoliated skin).
So, I thought I would cut down to 1 pad every 2 days. And everything would fall back into place.
Boy, was I wrong.
I started flaking, especially around my nose and chin. It looked like I stepped out of a Puffs Tissue commercial.
On top of that, my face was so, so red. It looked like I had some kind of illness.
And I ultimately stopped using it on my face altogether.
All in all, it took about a month and a half for my skin to go back to normal. It was brutal.
What I Liked
Even though Stridex and I didn’t work out, there are still a few high points worth mentioning.
- It’s freakin’ cheap. And it lasts forever.
- The convenience of use.
- Diminished blackheads.
- Softens the soles of my feet—no pumice stones required.
What I Didn’t Like
The cons outweigh the pros.
- Menthol—I don’t appreciate its tingling sensation.
- Dealing with over-exfoliated/dehydrated skin is a major bummer.
Who Shouldn’t Use Them
It’s a “Maximum Strength” product, so it’s generally not suitable for sensitive skin types.
Rosacea sufferers should take a hard pass on this one—the combination of salicylic acid, surfactants, and menthols make this product way too drying for you guys.
And, anyone like me, who’s prone to dehydrated skin might also want to skip it.
There’s another thing I should mention.
According to an article published on Clinical, Cosmetic and Investigational Dermatology, Hispanic people are more prone to SA-induced flakiness than other groups. A whopping 83% of Hispanic participants, in the study, reported this occurrence (compared to 44.4% of black participants and 28.6% of Asian participants).
Where to Purchase
If this scathing review didn’t scare you off, you can conveniently purchase Stridex Pads here on Amazon.
Stridex Maximum Strength Pads: An Overview
It seems like the combination of salicylic acid, surfactants (ammonium lauryl sulfate), fragrances, and menthols make this product incredibly drying. And I won’t be repurchasing it any time soon. Especially since I don’t care for over-exfoliated skin.
If you do decide to purchase it, I recommend that you leave it on your face for 5-20 minutes and then rinse it off. That way, you might be able to save yourself from some of its irritating effects.
Since cleansers are usually the gentlest way to incorporate SA into your routine, check out the article I wrote about salicylic acid face washes here.