Acne is a skin condition that affects millions of people and while there are many products available for acne treatment, two of the most popular options are benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid. Both of these active ingredients are commonly used in over-the-counter skincare, as well as part of the prescription treatments offered at Pandia Health. However, they work in different ways! In this blog, we will explore the differences between benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid to help you determine which option may be best for your needs.
What is benzoyl peroxide?
Benzoyl peroxide is a topical medication that is available over-the-counter. It works by killing the bacteria that cause acne, reducing inflammation, and unclogging pores. Benzoyl peroxide comes in various forms like cleanser, cream, gel, lotion, or wash. People use benzoyl peroxide for acne and also rosacea. Benzoyl peroxide is a good treatment for mild to moderate acne, but it can be used along with other prescription acne treatments for more severe cases. It’s important to note that it can also cause dryness, peeling, and irritation, so use it as directed and start first with a lower concentration if you have sensitive skin.
What is salicylic acid?
Salicylic acid is a beta-hydroxy acid (BHA) found in many over-the-counter products used to treat acne-prone skin. It works by penetrating the pores and breaking down bonds between dead skin cells, which can clog pores and cause breakouts. Salicylic acid comes in various forms like cream, cleanser, serum, or face wash. When applied to the skin, it exfoliates and removes dead skin cells, leaving the skin smoother and clearer. Salicylic acid is used for treating mild to moderate acne and preventing future acne breakouts. It is generally easy on the skin, but can cause dryness and irritation if used too frequently or in high concentrations. It’s important to follow the instructions carefully and start with a lower concentration if you have sensitive skin.
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Benzoyl peroxide benefits
One of the main benefits of benzoyl peroxide is its efficacy in killing the bacteria that cause acne. Additionally, benzoyl peroxide unclogs pores and reduces inflammation, which can help to prevent pimples. Benzoyl peroxide is easy to incorporate into your daily routine because it is available in several different forms, including creams, gels, and washes. Benzoyl peroxide also has a low risk of causing side effects. Overall, using benzoyl peroxide for acne is safe and effective for those suffering from mild to moderate acne.
Salicylic acid benefits
One main benefit of salicylic acid is its exfoliating properties, which means it helps remove dead skin cells. Also, salicylic acid is oil-soluble, meaning it penetrates into the pores and breaks down excess acne-causing oil and sebum. Salicylic acid is available in various forms, including cleansers, toners, serums, and spot treatments, making it easy to incorporate into a skincare routine. Overall, salicylic acid is a safe and effective treatment option for those with oily, acne-prone skin types.
Benzoyl peroxide side effects and warnings
The most common side effects of benzoyl peroxide are dryness, redness, itching, and peeling of the skin. These side effects can usually be avoided by using a lower concentration of benzoyl peroxide or using it less frequently. In rare cases (1/1000), benzoyl peroxide can cause severe allergic reactions, with symptoms like swelling and/or blisters. If you experience any of these severe reactions seek immediate medical attention. Avoid using benzoyl peroxide on sunburned, broken, or irritated skin. Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding should talk to their healthcare provider before using benzoyl peroxide. The other minor side effect is that it bleaches clothing. So change to white pillow cases, towels, t-shirts after you use benzoyl peroxide.
Salicylic acid side effects and warnings
The most common side effects of salicylic acid are dryness, redness, and mild stinging or burning of the skin which is usually mild and goes away on its own after a few uses. In rare cases, salicylic acid can cause severe allergic reactions, like hives, swelling, and difficulty breathing. If you experience any of these severe reactions seek immediate medical attention. Avoid using salicylic acid on sunburned, broken, or irritated skin. Salicylic acid can increase sensitivity to sunlight, so it is important to use sunscreen and limit sun exposure when using salicylic acid. Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding should talk to their healthcare provider before using salicylic acid though generally it’s ok as long as you are using 2% or lower strength.
How to use
Curious how to use each of these ingredients to treat acne? Let’s dive into it.
How to use benzoyl peroxide
Generally, there isn’t really a complicated science behind using benzoyl peroxide. Simply apply a small amount of benzoyl peroxide to the affected area and gently massage the product into skin. Depending on the type of product (like cream or lotion) let it fully absorb into skin before applying other products. Use sunscreen after use during the day, because benzoyl peroxide increases the skin’s sensitivity to sunlight. Be sure to use the product consistently if you want to see results, but avoid excessive use.
How to use salicylic acid
Salicylic acid isn’t difficult to use, however it’s important to follow these tips to use it effectively. Cleanse your face before use, and start with a low concentration of 0.5% or 1% to see how your skin reacts. Use no more than twice a day, and always follow the instructions on the product label. Use sunscreen after use during the day, because salicylic acid can increase the skin’s sensitivity to sunlight. And finally, avoid using salicylic acid with exfoliants such as glycolic acid, because too much exfoliation (acid + acid) will irritate your skin.
What is the difference between benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid?
When looking at these two products it’s important to understand the differences in benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid for acne treatment./span>
Benzoyl peroxide works by killing the bacteria that cause acne, reducing inflammation, exfoliating the skin, and helping to unclog pores. It’s usually left on the skin in the form of creams, gels, but not with washes and soaps. Benzoyl peroxide is used for treating all acne from: mild to moderate and/or hormonal acne to severe acne. Salicylic acid also works by exfoliating the skin and unclogging pores. It is a beta-hydroxy acid (BHA) that is found in products such as toners, cleansers, and spot treatments. Salicylic acid is gentler on the skin than benzoyl peroxide and is often recommended for people with sensitive or dry skin. Do NOT use tretinoin and benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid or other acid at the EXACT same time because the acid/peroxide kills the action of the tretinoin. However, you can use the peroxide/acid in the morning and Tretinoin at night.
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Which one is best for acne?
That depends! Benzoyl peroxide is recommended for people with any acne because it kills the bacteria that causes acne,reduces inflammation, exfoliates, and unclogs pores.
Salicylic acid, on the other hand, is often recommended for people with mild to moderate acne because it only exfoliates the skin and unclogs pores and is gentler on the skin than benzoyl peroxide.
In general, benzoyl peroxide is more effective at treating inflamed pimples and pustules, while salicylic acid is more effective at treating blackheads and whiteheads.
In conclusion, both benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid are effective treatments for acne, but benzoyl peroxide is stronger than salicylic acid. Salicylic acid is gentler and better for whiteheads and blackheads. If you find that most over-the-counter products are not working for you, it may be a good idea to consider prescription acne treatment. At Pandia Health, our board-certified expert doctors provide online acne prescriptions that are carefully matched to your specific skin needs. Get the best treatment from the comfort of your home and enjoy our FREE delivery service for your medication with free goodies! Sign up today!
Disclaimer: This article is for general informational purposes only and is NOT a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your healthcare provider before starting or changing acne treatment.