Review of SkinCeuticals Blemish + Age Defense

Skinceuticals Blemish + Age Defense

When I think about the different products I’ve tried over the past year or so, this one stands out as a clear favorite.  This was one of the first products in a long time that grabbed my attention and made me not want to do any other routine that didn’t include this. It is that good. 

*Disclaimer: This product was sent to me via SkinCeuticals PR with no obligation to review. All opinions are my own.

I think this product doesn’t market itself very well because when I saw the bottle label I thought this was a salicylic acid treatment since that was what was so prominent on the package. Basically I thought it was a spot treatment and I wasn’t too interested in it because I usually like to have at least 2% salicylic acid as a spot treatment (and this has 1.5%). But I am really glad I took a closer look at the ingredients and really gave this a try because it is one of my favorite products I’ve tried. And for what its worth, I have never once used it as a spot treatment.

What does it do?

As the name suggests, it is for someone that cares about reducing fine lines and wrinkles as well as preventing blemishes. It is also designed to inhibit excess sebum production (which was key for someone like me that always finds themselves a bit too shiny by midday) and minimize hyperpigmentation.

In a nutshell, it exfoliates skin, decongests pores and refines the skin’s surface. Where I have seen the biggest improvement is in texture on my skin and the regulation of sebum. 

At the end of this post I will go into detail about some empirical research that compared this product to a prescription acne medication and a prescription retinol. Briefly, here are some of the findings. Something to note is that, except for the reduction of pustules which showed improvements by week 1, all other findings took at least 4 weeks with the most effects by week 8. 

I will add that I saw some clearing up of my skin after a week or so, but I really didn’t see any major results until around week 4 or 5 (and I was using it almost daily).

Evidence suggests that Blemish + Age Defense has been effective at:

  • Reducing sebum production
  • Improving fine lines
  • Reducing pustules and papules
  • Reducing acne lesions
  • Improving skin tone (clarity)
  • Improving dullness, blotchiness
  • Improving skin roughness

How did I use it?

When I started using this, I stopped using all other acids and retinol because I was a little concerned that using this plus other potent actives would be too much for my skin. I used it morning and night for about 2 weeks and would apply a couple drops to my entire face after cleansing. And then I followed it up with a hydrating and nourishing routine. After 2 weeks I dropped down to just using this at night and I would sometimes use a BHA toner in the morning (although I found that I didn’t really need it). I was really shocked at how great my skin looked. The texture on my forehead cleared up and I felt less oily, my skin felt smooth and had a more even tone.  I started to rotate this with retinol (using this on the nights that I didn’t use a retinol) and my skin responded nicely.  I personally never felt like it dried me out or sensitized me but I was very cautious to always ensure my routines added back in a lot of moisture.

After using it for 6 weeks I started to drop down to only using this once or twice a week and that has been working perfectly until I just ran out of my bottle.

Who should use it?

People that are concerned with both signs of aging and blemishes/ skin texture. People with dry skin or with allergies to alcohol denat will want to avoid this.

Price: $91, Available at,,, also you can buy it through using the code TALESOFSKINCARE and get 20% off (but I believe you have to email or call in your order). Also, the above retailers also will sometimes have 20% off coupons that work on SkinCeuticals products.

Make sure you also shop through Ebates so that you can save more money. Right now is offering 8% back and Dermstore is offering 4% back. (If you sign up through my link, you will get $10 in your account after your first purchase of $25 or more)
Ebates Coupons and Cash Back

Will I repurchase? YES!


What I think makes this product really unique is the inclusion of 2% dioic acid (which I talk more about below).

Let’s take a look at its key ingredients and what they do….

  • 3.5% Glycolic Acid + 0.5% Citric acid
    • Provides exfoliation to help smooth skin, reduce skin imperfections, and minimize the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.
    • I really like the idea of a slow and steady use of glycolic acid. Since this is the smallest molecule size of the various AHAs, it can sometimes be irritating. But at a lower concentration I did not experience any irritation.
  • 2% Dioic Acid
    • Shown to reduce sebum and acne
    • Prevents hyperpigmentation caused by inflammation or UV exposure
    • It also has anti-inflammatory effects
    • Said to act similarly to azelaic acid as an antimicrobial agent
      • One study found that it may have other benefits as well: “In clinical trials comparing Octadecenedioic acid (2%) with azelaic acid (20%) and benzoyl peroxide (5%), Octadecenedioic acid compared favorably but without the somatosensory negative effects.” (Rawlings et al., 2006)
    • Proposed to have both anti-blemish and anti-ageing results (Wiechers et al., 2005)
  • 0.3% Capryloyl Salicylic Acid AKA Lypo-hydroxy-acid (LHA)
    • This is a derivative of Salicylic acid but with a larger molecule size. Similar to salicylic acid, this decongests pores. This exfoliates in a slightly different way from Salicylic acid, but they are complementary to each other
    • This can also help to diminish surface indicators of age and can stimulate cell turnover.
    • Anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory.
  • 1.5% Salicylic Acid
    • Highly effective at unclogging pores and targeting and treating blemishes.
Complete Ingredients

Active ingredient: 1.5% Salicylic acid

Inactive ingredient: Alcohol Denat.[increases penetration of other ingredients], Water, Methylpropanediol [enhances penetration of salicylic acid], 3.5% Glycolic Acid [exfoliate and help prevent wrinkles], Diisopropyl Adipate [emollient], 2% Octadecenedioic Acid [dioic acid: reduces skin pigmentation and sebum], Hydroxyethylpiperazine Thane Sulfonic Acid [buffering agent], 0.5% Citric Acid, 0.3% Capryloyl Alcicylic Acid [LHA: exfoliant, anti-inflammatory, and antiseptic], Sodium Hydroxide [buffering agent], Polyquaternium-10.

Let’s Talk About the Alcohol

The number one question that I get asked whenever I post about this product is whether I am concerned that alcohol denat is the second ingredient. The short answer is no.

I know that many people follow the “rule of thumb” that alcohol is a “bad alcohol” and should be avoided at all costs. If you follow that rule, that is totally your choice. I personally don’t.

Alcohol denat is included as a penetration enhancer. It will help to solubilize the acids to help the skin better absorb them which make the product function better than it would without it. In fact, without the alcohol the salicylic acid wouldn’t dissolve and would just sit on the skin and basically do nothing.

Alcohol denat can also act as a preservative and antimicrobial agent to prevent the growth of bacteria and mold and extend the shelf life. It can also help make the formula more light-weight and less viscous.

Alcohol temporarily dehydrates the skin increasing the absorption of nutrients and beneficial ingredients in a particular cosmetic so the active nutrients can reach the deep layers of the skin, maximizing its regenerative and nourishing actions. I think the KEY thing is that I never only use this product. I always apply at least a moisturizer on top, and usually a hydrating serum and then a moisturizer. So I counteract any potential drying from the alcohol.

But that isn’t to say that this product might not dry you out or irritate you in this formula. You definitely should spot test and see for yourself. The AHAs/BHAs alone may prove too drying for some. As always, YMMV.

Here is a great video by Liah Yoo about alcohol in skincare products:

Denatured Alcohol report


2 important studies that demonstrates the skin benefits of using SkinCeuticals Blemish and Age Defense Serum

Evidence it helps with Acne

  1. A single-center, split-face, double-blind, 8-week clinical trial of 28 subjects was conducted by a board-certified dermatologist compared Blemish + Age Defense to BenzaClin® (a prescription drug containing 1% clindamycin and 5% benzoyl peroxide)
    • There was no statistically significant difference between the performance of Blemish + Age Defense and BenzaClin at any time. In other words, Blemish + Age Defense was as effective as BenzaClin, for the treatment of acne.
    • As early as day 2, Blemish + Age Defense reduced inflammatory and non-inflammatory lesions.
    • During the 8-week period, Blemish + Age Defense significantly reduced blotchiness and clogged pores.
      • Blackheads reduced by 58%
      • Pustules reduced by 65%
      • Total lesions reduced by 50%
      • Clogged pores reduced by 48%
      • Papules reduced by 45%
        • Baumann, L. S., Oresajo, C., Yatskayer, M., Dahl, A., & Figueras, K. (2013). Comparison of clindamycin 1% and benzoyl peroxide 5% gel to a novel composition containing salicylic acid, capryloyl salicylic acid, HEPES, glycolic acid, citric acid, and dioic acid in the treatment of acne vulgaris. Journal of drugs in dermatology: JDD, 12(3), 266-269
  2. On the SkinCeuticals websites it also states that “In a dermatologist-controlled 8-week study of 50 multi- ethnic subjects ages 25-50, Blemish + Age Defense reduced sebum by 39% and improved fine lines by 28% at week 4.” But I was unable to locate the citation for this study. 

Evidence to Back up Anti-Aging Claims

  1. A single-center, split-face, double-blind, 8-week clinical trial conducted by a board-certified dermatologist of 30 subjects aged 35+ with mild to moderate signs of aging and mild to moderate acne. Participants applied Blemish + Age Defense to one side of the face and prescription Tretinoin (0.025%) to the other side twice daily for 8 weeks. At week 1, 4, and 8 participants had their skin rated in terms of number of acne lesions, skin tone (clarity), blotchiness, roughness, dullness, fine lines, and clogged pores.
    • At no point during the 8 weeks did Tretinoin statistically outperform Blemish + Age Defense.
    • Blemish + Age Defense was statistically better than Tretinoin in improving skin tone (weeks 1, 4, and 8) and blotchiness (weeks 4 and 8) and in reducing total tone improved by 45%
      • fine lines improved by 28%
      • skin roughness improved by 46%
    • At weeks 1 and 8 it was equally effective as Tretinoin at improving all other signs of aging and acne.
      • Kircik, L. H., Dahl, A., Yatskayer, M., Raab, S., & Oresajo, C. (2012). Safety and efficacy of two anti-acne/anti-aging treatments in subjects with photodamaged skin and mild to moderate acne vulgaris. Journal of drugs in dermatology: JDD11(6), 737-740.