Stridex Pads Review: Stop Being Afraid to Use Them! They’re Awesome

by | Last updated Apr 18, 2020 | 40 comments

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Today I’m tackling the beloved (and often dreaded) stridex pads a.k.a. stridex in the red box.

Stridex Maximum Strength Pads

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This is yet another product I avoided for a very long because of the negative testimonials I read online (e.g. Paula’s Choice). However, when I finally took the plunge and used it I was pleasantly surprised.

Let’s talk what I do and don’t like about Stridex, and why I think every skincare addict should have a tub of this in their arsenal.

Ingredients and Benefits.

stridex pads ingredients

Here’s the full ingredient list.

Active Ingredient: Salicylic acid 2.0%

Inactive Ingredients: *Ammonium lauryl sulfate, ammonium xylenesulfonate, citric acid, DMDM hydantoin, *fragrance, *menthol, PPG-5-Ceteth-20, purified water, simethicone, sodium borate, tetrasodium EDTA.

Right off the bat we can see why these acne pads are initially met with disdain.

  • Ammonium lauryl sulfate

A surfactant often derived from coconut. It acts mostly as a detergent or cleansing agent. Surfactants aren’t the greatest ingredients to leave on skin because they can be drying.

  • Fragrance

Makes stuff smell good. Yeah… step aside ingredient connoisseurs. I’m clearly on another level. :p

Joking aside, fragrance is another ingredient that could be irritating to the skin. Especially for those that have eczema or compromised epidermal barriers.

Read more about fragrance in skincare here.

  • Menthol

What gives Stridex the “cooling” sensation. Menthol is derived from peppermint, is an analgesic (i.e. painkiller), and used as an antibacterial in dental care. However, this is yet ANOTHER ingredient that isn’t great for skin.

By now you’re probably thinking… “well, what the hell? Stridex just plain ole’ sucks! It sounds like nothing but a trip down irritation avenue.”

Not so fast though! Let’s talk about the star ingredient here:

  • Salicylic Acid

A beta hydroxy acid (BHA) and chemical exfoliant. Salicylic acid is oil-soluble meaning it gets inside the crooks and crannies of pores to break up the debris and gunk that causes pimples.

Multiple clinical trials have shown that 0.5% to 2.0% salicylic acid pads (like stridex) reduce acne to a significant degree. Sometimes even more effectively than benzoyl peroxide. (1)

Salicylic acid is a very effective acne treatment because it has anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial, and keratolytic properties meaning it addresses all the major causes of acne. (2)

What makes it especially appealing is that it doesn’t cause sun-induced erythema. In other words, salicylic acid does not increase the skin’s sensitivity to sun exposure like many other acne medications. In fact, it actually has photo protective properties! (3, 4)

With that said, let’s talk about why I (a very sensitive-acne prone individual) am a fan of Stridex. Hopefully I can convince you that these pads are your friend not foe!

Why I like Stridex.

Easy: it works. And it works incredibly well. If your other BHAs aren’t cutting it, consider using Stridex. It’s something I think everybody should have on hand in case they need go nuclear.

As you may know, salicylic acid requires a pH of 4.0 to work its magic. Anything above this sweet spot and it becomes less effective. If you want to learn more about pH go here.

For whatever reason, I’ve had problems in the past with popular BHAs like Paula’s Choice being more alkaline than advertised (i.e. pH > 4). Recently, a similar controversy arose with COSRX. Stridex however, never disappoints in this regard!

I’ve yet to hear of a single person complain that Stridex doesn’t have the right pH. Just writing that sentence made me giggle, cause trust me….  you’ll know this stuff works because it doesn’t tingle, it straight TANGLES.

There is a reason Stridex is often recommended on r/skincareaddiction. It has a proven tract record spanning over 50 years. That alone is a testament to its efficacy and reliability. For sh*ts and giggles, here’s a cheesy a commercial from the 70s.

Few skincare products have stuck around for this long. Wanna know why? Because many don’t stand the test of time — they get weeded out throughout the years for being ineffective. If something stays on the market it’s either for two reason: it works, or there’s demand for it (sometimes both).

Stridex is like that trusty brand your grandma recommends. And sometimes, grammies just know best. 🙂

And not the most scientific reasoning here, but have you ever noticed that Stridex is the highest rated BHA product on Amazon? For reference, Paula’s Choice and COSRX both have 4 stars — Stridex, 4 and a HALF! :p

Tips for Using Stridex on Sensitive Skin.

Like we discussed in the ingredient section, it’s no secret that Stridex can irritate the skin. This will be particularly true if you er on the sensitive side of skin types like myself.

However, you can reduce the irritation of Stridex by doing one simple trick — rinsing if off after 20-30 minutes.

This works for two reason:

  1. It takes about 30 minutes for your skin’s pH to neutralize salicylic acid. After that point, it is technically done exfoliating. Note: leaving it on for longer does provide additional anti-inflammatory benefits.
  2. Rinsing off Stridex after 30 minutes means you won’t have to leave on the irritating surfactants and menthol overnight/during the day.

By using this method, I’ve been able to use Stridex once daily without experiencing excessive irritation or dryness. And I’m still reaping the benefits of chemical exfoliation! The result: smaller and cleaner looking pores. 😀

Just a little trick to consider utilizing if you decide to give the good ole’ Stridex a shot.

UPDATE: I spoke too soon, and my skin got irritated. Sigh, why I must I be so impulsive? I ended up only using it twice a week without rinsing it off, and this seemed to work very well for me.

And for the heck of it, here’s another little tip: after you’re done shaving, wipe down the area with a Stridex pad. It’s a great way to reduce ingrown hairs.

How to Use Stridex Pads.

Because this is a pH dependent product, the order of it in your skincare routine matters. Here’s a cheat sheet to help you out. Adjust this accordingly depending on what skincare products you’re using.

  1. Oil Cleanse (OCM) or Oil Cleanser.
  2. Normal Cleanser.
  3. Low pH serums like ascorbic acid (vitamin C). Wait 20-30 minutes.
  4. Use Stridex Pads here! Simply wipe your face with them and wait 20-30 minutes.
  5. AHAs like glycolic or lactic acid. Wait 20-30 minutes.
  6. Retinoids like Differin.
  7. Other acne treatments like azelaic acid or benzoyl peroxide.
  8. Moisturizer.
  9. Occlusives like vaseline.

Note: Asian Beauty routines can have additional steps not listed here.


  • Ingredients: 2/5

Alright, it ain’t the sexiest ingredient list because of the surfactants and menthol…. But remember you can reduce the irritation of these with the tips I gave above!

  • Benefits: 5/5

Very effective acne treatment, refines pores, and prevents blackheads.

  • Application: 5/5

Convenient pads that you simply wipe across skin. They leave no residue.

  • Packaging: 5/5

Comes in an awesome tub with a twisty cap.

  • Value: 5/5

Dirt cheap.

Overall: 4.4/5 — Recommend!

stridex pads

Check on Amazon

Alrighty folks, I think that does it for our discussion on Stridex in a red box. I hope you’ve enjoyed it. Give it a shot! It might end up a holy grail. And if it doesn’t, you only wasted about 5 bucks. :p