Benzoyl Peroxide Vs Salicylic Acid

The discussion of benzoyl peroxide versus salicylic acid is based on the mode of action, usage and other factors that encompass these two products. Not everyone can use both products because they work differently depending on the type of acne and its manifestations.

Benzoyl Peroxide Vs Salicylic Acid

Benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid vary in so many ways and some of them are discussed below.

Salicylic acid

Salicylic acid belongs to the category of beta-hydroxyl acids (BHA). It works by dislodging dead skin and exfoliating the skin. You can easily get it over the counter in concentrations of less than 2%. In acne, the skin lining the hair follicles multiples rapidly in people suffering from acne and lump together and clog pores. Salicylic acid dissolves the material that holds these lumps together thus unclogging the pores.

Apart from breaking apart the lumps of dead skin, salicylic acid also has a soothing effect on the skin. Unlike most acne treatments that inflame the skin and redden it, salicylic acid does not cause inflammation of the skin. Salicylic acid has a close relationship with aspirin (acetylic acid), a well-known anti-inflammatory drug.

Benefits of salicylic acid:

  • It has both exfoliating effects and eliminates dead skin thus helping to fade scars
  • It reduces inflammation and soothes the skin in acne breakouts
  • It decreases the size of pores
  • When used frequently it can prevent any comedones from developing
  • It is the best to use for conditions like whiteheads and blackheads
  • It is safe to use during pregnancy
  • It can be used at any time, morning, night or even at midday

Disadvantages of salicylic acid

• It takes a long time to see results (at least four weeks)
• It can lead to toxicity if too much of it is applied to the skin (but the good thing is that most products containing salicylic acid do not have high amounts of salicylic acid thus they are safe.)

Precautions to take when using salicylic acid

The user should be careful when applying salicylic acid because it can lead to salicylic acid toxicity when salicylic acid that is highly concentrated is applied in vast amounts in one area. Most products that contain salicylic acid and are sold over the counter have low salicylic acid concentrations that does not lead to toxicity.

Always check the products you are using so that you are not using multiple products that contain salicylic acid. Using multiple products that have salicylic acid will dry up the skin and make the acne worse.

People that are allergic to aspirin should not use salicylic acid.

Side effects

  • Salicylic acid can remove a lot of oil on your face, such that your face could look unusually dry
  • Stinging or tingling

Benzoyl peroxide

Benzoyl peroxide, also called BPO, destroys acne-causing bacteria in the pores. It works mostly as an exfoliating agent by accelerating the formation of new skin and eliminating the mass of dead skin and sebum in the pores. It comes in various concentrations, 2.5% up to 10%, that can be used for people suffering from a moderate case of acne to severe cases. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, it has been proven to be the most effective anti-acne products that does not need a prescription.

It is effective against various acne lesions (like whiteheads, blackheads and red pimples). It works in days (at times after seven days the results will be noticeable). It is a good first line choice when it comes to treating acne in conjunction with antibiotics.

Advantages of benzoyl peroxide

  • It is bactericidal
  • It works very fast (results can be seen in a matter of days)
  • It is effective against large cysts that may be inflamed or pus-filled
  • It is safe to use during pregnancy
  • It is the best treatment for teenage acne because most of it is caused by bacteria and teenage skin is suppler (due to increased production of sebum) thus can tolerate the drying effect of benzoyl peroxide better

Disadvantages of benzoyl peroxide

  • Causes dryness, itching, redness and flaking off of skin
  • It can bleach your fabric
  • It can cause dark spots
  • It is not the best for adult acne because the adult skin does not produce a lot of sebum (thus is less supple) thus its dryness effect is more pronounced

Precautions to take with benzoyl peroxide

Benzoyl peroxide can cause peeling, drying and inflammation of the face if you do not apply the right concentration or have the right ingredients.

When choosing a product that has benzoyl peroxide, the user should choose one that has a 5% concentration. The user can begin applying it in the form of a wash, then a gel when the skin becomes accustomed to the ingredient. If the user does not see results after a month and a half they can increase to 10% concentration.

It is not safe for people that have sensitive skin because it has a more powerful drying effect compared to salicylic acid, thus can cause severe irritation. The user will need to visit the doctor first before they use benzoyl peroxide if they have any of the following conditions: eczema, psoriasis or seborrheic dermatitis.

Always check the ingredients in a product containing benzoyl peroxide even if you have used them before because the manufacturer may have changed the ingredients and included an ingredient that the user reacts to. The user also needs to be wary of products that have almost similar names because they have different ingredients that may be harmful to the person using the product.

The user needs to check if they are allergic to the product if they are using it for the first time. They will need to apply the product to a small part of the skin area affected by acne for three days. If they have an allergic reaction they should stop using the medication immediately and see a doctor.

Benzoyl peroxide bleaches dark fabrics, so you need to be careful when using it.

Which one should you choose?

There are several factors that one needs to consider before choosing either to use salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide.

1. Type of acne

Salicylic acid is effective against the treatment of whiteheads and blackheads, whereas benzoyl peroxide is effective against mild pustules.

2. The severity of acne breakout

Both of these products are designed to treat mild acne breakouts. The effects of salicylic acid is only noticeable after some weeks, but benzoyl peroxide can show some immediate effect as an emergency treatment. It also takes about one week for the effects to show when using benzoyl peroxide.

3. Activity level

If the user sweats a lot during the day, benzoyl peroxide can transfer to one’s clothes and bleach them leading to stains. The best thing would be to use benzoyl peroxide only at night.

4. Overall skin condition

Salicylic acid has a soothing and anti-inflammatory effect compared to benzoyl peroxide, making it is suitable for sensitive skin.

5. Underlying medical issues

Both of these products can be purchased over the counter but this does not mean that they are safe for all people. The user needs to check with their doctor if they have any underlying medical issue that prevents them from using either product. Some of the conditions that should be a cause for concern when purchasing these products include a liver condition, diabetes or liver disease.

Is it safe to use both products together?

It is safe to use to use both at the same time but the user needs to be careful in regard as to how they apply them. The user has to apply each product on different skin areas to avoid issues like too much drying, peeling and redness. The best approach would be to use each product for various kinds of acne. For immediate effects, the benzoyl peroxide is the best product whereas for treating breakouts salicylic acids is the product of choice.