Most cases of acne vulgaris are either mild or moderate in severity and well-suited for treatment with nonprescription agents that are safe, effective, and convenient to use. A review of four clinical studies and a comedolytic assay attests to the efficacy and safety of 0.5% and 2% solutions of salicylic acid for the treatment of acne vulgaris. In three placebo-controlled studies and a comedolytic assay, salicylic acid pads reduced the number of primary lesions and thereby the number and severity of all lesions associated with acne. Comparative studies of salicylic acid have shown it to be superior to benzoyl peroxide in reducing the total number of acne lesions. Adverse reactions to salicylic acid are generally limited to mild, local irritation occurring in a minority of patients.