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“You can play a game of connect the dots on your face!”

I was 13 when my best friend said this to me. Thus began my lifelong quest for clear skin—and believe me, I’ve tried pretty much everything short of Accutane to get to a place where I can stop hiding behind my hair.

I credit this gentle exfoliating treatment for helping me get there.

Now I know what you’re thinking: Gentle is not what you want from something that’s supposed to tackle bumps and blackheads. For that you want something that’s slightly more aggressive, right?

Not exactly. What you want—and I learned this the hard way—is balance. To keep your skin in the clear, you need to exfoliate, but you also need to hydrate. This magical liquid does both.

The key ingredient is beta hydroxy acid, which gets rid of dead skin cells and goes beneath the surface to unclog pores. What sets it apart from other acne treatments with BHA is that it also has green tea extracts (to soothe) and sodium hydroxide (to balance the pH of your skin) so that you get the benefits of exfoliation without any of the irritation that often accompanies it.

Once a day, douse a cotton round in the stuff and run it over your face like you would a toner. If you’re using it in the morning, always follow up with SPF. (BHAs can make your skin more sensitive to sunlight.) If you’re using it at night, I’d recommend a layer of moisturizer.

This has been my routine for the past…oh, four years, and bar the occasional hormonal breakout, my skin has stayed consistently clear. Again, I have tried every zit cream and fancy cleansing brush under the sun, and nothing compares to this $29 bottle of liquid magic.

RELATED: The Single Best Exfoliator for Every Skin Type

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