These Acne-Clearing Pads Are Biodegradable, Affordable, & Actually Work

Photo: Courtesy of Karina Hoshikawa
Welcome to Acne Week, a five-day stretch where we get real about pimples, zits, cysts, and every bump or blemish in between. From skin-soothing products R29 editors swear by to exclusive deals on the most breakout-friendly beauty brands, we’re kissing the concept of “bad skin” goodbye and exploring why acne is so much more than skin deep.

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From a five-month cycle of Accutane to banning moisturizer from my skincare routine (eek), I've tried just about everything in my journey to achieving pimple-free skin. While I'm mostly in the clear nowadays, breakouts have been a part of my skin routine for over half of my life, and I've had many years to figure out what works (less is more) and more importantly, what doesn't (blasting your face with harsh ingredients). The latest MVP in the long game to keep my skin healthy: Tula's Breakout Breakthrough acne salicylic acid pads, which launched this month and is already garnering rave reviews. “I've been fortunate enough to have been using [these toner pads] for the past month and my skin has been left looking glowy, smooth, and acne-free,” wrote Ava F. on Tula’s website. “These pads are not drying, but rather hydrating for the skin.”

After years of attacking my face with maximum-strength Stridex pads (which for the record, I actually still like for body breakouts) and realizing that aggressive ingredients delivered in concentrate were not the path to happy skin, I never thought a serum-soaked round would approach my face again — that is, until I got the chance to test out Tula's new drop. In many ways, this is the 2.0 (3.0?) of the acne-clearing toner pad — for starters, it's made from a biodegradable fiber. It does have salicylic acid as its active ingredient (like some of its harsher competitors), but didn't make my skin feel dry nor irritated one bit — in no small part thanks to ingredients like skin-soothing willow herb and pomegranate water, plus a proprietary prebiotic and probiotic complex to leave your dermis balanced, not angry.

The brand was founded by NYC-based gastroenterologist Dr. Roshini Raj, MD, who has been studying probiotics for 20 years and discovered an early link between a healthy flora and glowing complexion. In 2014, Tula was born, with the goal of using her medical expertise to create confidence-boosting, empowering beauty products rooted in skin health.
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Salicylic acid — the pads’ active ingredient and a common addition to acne-fighting products — has historically left me red and chapped if I'm not careful. And you name it, I've tried it: Cleansers, spot treatments, prescription topicals, and more. It's really hard to find acne products that actually clear your skin without aggravating breakouts. However, Tula's serum-soaked pads didn't just gently reduce my active breakouts, but they helped ward off future acne flareups thanks to the addition of azelaic acid and niacinamide, two ingredients that brighten skin, reduce the damage of previous blemishes, and keep pores clear. At $30 for a jar of 30 pads, they're not your drugstore price point, but aren't too much of a splurge that you can't use them on the regular, as I do on most mornings.

My skin has been left looking glowy, smooth, and acne-free. These pads are not drying, but rather hydrating for the skin.

tula reviewer
Tula superfans will likely know that the brand name is a translation of the Sanskrit word for "balance" — something that anyone with acne is constantly craving. For years, I struggled with a face full of cystic acne that wouldn't go away. And while raging teenage hormones surely play a role, the biggest lesson I've learned is to meet your skin where it's at that day and treat it with kindness — and a gentle, effective routine.
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