Salicylic Acid vs Benzoyl Peroxide: Which One to Choose for Acne Treatment

Salicylic Acid vs Benzoyl Peroxide: Which One to Choose for Acne Treatment

Published by Jil Goorman on Sep 18th 2020

When it comes to acne-fighting ingredients, two of the most common ones you will find are salicylic acid and benzoyl peroxide. Both are available in various formulations depending on your skincare needs. So how do you decide which one is the best option to help reduce and fight breakouts? It starts with a better understanding of each, and how they fight acne.

Salicylic Acid

Salicylic acid is one of the beta hydroxy acids (BHAs). In chemical terms, that means it has two carbon atoms (instead of just one, which is the case for alpha hydroxy acids, or AHAs). The structure of salicylic acid allows it to easily penetrate the pores of your skin because it is oil-soluble rather than water-soluble. It penetrates deeper into the skin to remove dead skin cells, unclogging pores and exfoliating skin. That makes it an ideal ingredient for fighting acne, especially whiteheads and blackheads that are the result of clogged pores.

However, it may not be the best option for other forms of acne like cystic acne or acne caused by excessive oils and P. acnes bacteria. It can also cause skin irritation and dryness, so people with sensitive skin might not want to use it. The concentration of salicylic acid in your cleaners and other skincare products can affect how much dryness, peeling, irritation, and redness it causes, and switching to a different concentration can help.

Benzoyl Peroxide (BPO)

Benzoyl peroxide is another topical medication (you apply it to your skin) to fight acne and breakouts. It is available in a wide range of concentrations from 2.5% to 10% without a prescription, and can be found in:

  • Cleansers
  • Toners
  • Moisturizers
  • Serums

It is an anti-microbial product, so it helps fight acne that is the result of bacteria on your skin. It is an exfoliator that removes dead skin cells that clog pores and lead to breakouts.

The most common side effective of benzoyl peroxide is dryness and irritation. You can usually reduce irritation by slowly incorporating benzoyl peroxide skincare products into your routine. Start by using it every other day for a week or two, then increase until you can use it every day, or twice a day (morning and night) if necessary. Adding a moisturizer can also counteract dryness, but make sure the moisturizer is formulated with the right ingredients to fight acne.

Benzoyl peroxide may bleach your hair, clothing, towels, and sheets, especially if you are sweating throughout the day or night, which can transfer it to your clothes. Some people are also allergic to BPO and should avoid it.

Choosing the Right One

Choosing the right ingredient requires understanding what type of acne you have, and your skin type. Salicylic acid tends to work better on sensitive skin, blackheads, and whiteheads. Benzoyl peroxide works better on acne caused by bacteria. Other types of acne, like cystic acne, might require both ingredients. If you’re not sure which to use, seek the help of a skincare professional through our virtual consultations to decide.

Shop Today

Check out Jil Goorman Beauty for specially formulated skincare products with salicylic acid and benzoyl peroxide to fight your acne today. 

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