The Under-$5 Acne Treatment You’ve Been Underestimating For Years

By Rachel Krause

No disrespect to the late, great Nora Ephron, but the interpersonal relationships that exist between fictional characters in rom-coms don’t set the most realistic standards for what to expect in the real world. People do not spontaneously serenade one another in public with nearly as much frequency, for one thing, and what’s considered a grand, sweeping romantic gesture on film — climbing a lover’s fire escape uninvited, holding up a boombox outside your ex’s bedroom window — is grounds for a restraining order in real life.

That said, there’s one thing the genre does get right: Sometimes, what you’ve been searching for has been right in front of you the whole time. And sometimes, that thing is not a passionate love that blossoms suddenly out of a platonic friendship, but a practical material object, such as the remote control or a hair tie — or even that one acne treatment you’ve seen on every trip to the drugstore but have never really given the time of day.

Like the nerd you ignored all throughout high school only for him to show up at your reunion with a $40 million net worth and a literal model on his arm, you will rue the day you wrote Stridex off as an unsophisticated thing you have no use for. Learn from the mistakes of the people of the internet who have publicly apologized for underestimating the bottom-shelf standby — it’s what’s inside that counts, and what’s inside is a very high dose of breakout-fighting powerhouse salicylic acid.

“Salicylic acid is the classic beta-hydroxy acid, which is very useful in treating acne,” says dermatologist Joshua Zeichner, MD. “It helps remove oil from the skin while also dissolving the connections between dead cells on the skin’s surface that may contribute to blocking the pores.” Of course, the main complaint that most people have about their acne products is that they’re drying, which is what makes Stridex’s signature alcohol-free formula is so special: You get the benefits of salicylic acid without the irritation.

So who cares if it looks like it belongs under your sink next to the Draino? Stridex is legit, and once you realize the skin-clearing solution of your dreams was not only there all along but also less than $5 at Rite Aid, you’ll kick yourself for being so shallow. Fortunately, there’s another valuable lesson we learned from rom-coms: Everyone deserves a second chance. Maybe skip the boombox, though — owning one of those dinosaurs in this day and age is kind of a red flag.

Stridex Daily Care Maximum-Strength Acne Medication Pads, $4.49, available at Rite Aid.

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