The occasional occurrence of pimples on your skin can be minimized with various methods of treatment. These treatments include salicylic acid and benzoyl peroxide, which are both available over the counter (OTC).
The best treatments inhibit sebum production, encourage exfoliation (either chemical or physical) to avoid pores clogging, and limit bacterial growth. Since most therapies have manageable side effects, it will be sensible for anyone with acne to use products with caution.
Difference Between Salicylic Acid Versus Benzoyl Peroxide
The two most common ingredients for over the counter acne treatments are salicylic acid and benzoyl peroxide. You can find these in varying levels of concentration but whats the difference between the two?
In a nutshell:
Salicylic Acid helps to unclog pores by chemical exfoliation. It does not have any effect on sebum production or kill bacteria.
Benzoyl Peroxide, on the other hand, does kill bacteria (P.Acnes bacteria) and unclogs pores by chemical exfoliation to a slightly lesser extent than salicylic acid.
Additionally, if you have acne, both salicylic acid and benzoyl peroxide take time to work. However, it is possible to use a total cleansing routine with each ingredient. This can provide a sort of “double whammy” effect on your acne and provide the most thorough treatment option.
It’s advisable that you see a dermatologist in order to know which type of treatment works best for your skin type.
Salicylic Acid Pros and Cons
Salicylic Acid is a beta-hydroxy acid (BHA) that is available over the counter with concentrations between 0.5% and 2.0%. Unfortunately, you will need use it continuously on a long term basis as your pores will start to clog and cause a reoccurrence of acne.
- Exfoliates and removes the dead skin cells from pores
- It calms inflammation since it’s derived from willows back.
- Reduces pore size
- Works best on blackheads and whiteheads
- Results may take a while to show (Between 2-4 weeks)
- Higher concentrations of salicylic acid may cause side effects
- Inadequate for treating cystic acne
We’ve done extensive research and found some excellent salicylic acid moisturizers to minimise side effects and maximise acne fighting potential.
Benzoyl Peroxide Pros and Cons
Non-prescription drugs with Benzoyl Peroxide (also known as BPO) are recommended for people with mild to moderate acne. Moreover this compound works by killing acne causing bacteria in pores to stop new blemishes forming. Concentrations of benzoyl peroxide products include 2.5%, 5%, and 10%. If you have a more severe form of acne you can use the more concentrated versions of Benzoyl Peroxide.
Additionally the use of benzoyl Peroxide must be continuous so as to prevent the acne from returning. Like most products, this acne removal product does not affect sebum production or shedding of skin cells. We do recommend exfoliating and having a balanced diet for a combination approach to treating acne.
- It kills acne causing bacteria
- Your can see results of Benzoyl Peroxide as early as 5 days on your skin. However complete results can be also take up to 6 weeks depending on your skin chemistry.
- It prevents antibiotic resistance
- Can help reduce cystic acne symptoms
- At higher concentrations use of benzoyl peroxide may result in peeling, dryness, redness and excessively dry skin
- It can also bleach fabric, so consider wearing a T-shirt after applying to your back or chest overnight
- Sometimes it may cause post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation (dark spots)
If you’re interested in learning more about how benzoyl peroxide works, we’ve written a more detailed post here.
Final Thoughts On Salicylic Acid Versus Benzoyl Peroxide
On face value, both salicylic acid and benzoyl peroxide seem to be equal. However, using the right medication will likely be dependent on the severity of your acne and some trial and error to see what works best. Potentially using them interchangeably will give you better results than opting to only use one of them. However, it will be more appropriate to get directions from your dermatologist
You may possibly be worried about using either salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide and you are looking for a more natural remedy, we recommend exfoliating, using topical probiotics and even looking into essential oils.