Benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid are two of the most popular acne-fighting ingredients. You’ll find them in a host of acne creams, cleansers and topical treatments. 

But these are two very different active ingredients. 

In this post, we’ll break down the differences between benzoyl peroxide and salicylic. You’ll learn how they work and when to use them. We’ll also look at the best acne treatments to help you get smooth and clear skin. 

What Is Benzoyl Peroxide?

Benzoyl peroxide is an ingredient with strong antibacterial properties. When applied to the skin, benzoyl peroxide kills bacteria that causes acne. It also helps to reduce pimples and pustules.

You can expect to see an improvement in as little as 5 days as it gets to work killing the acne-causing bacteria. Unlike oral antibiotics, your body doesn’t develop a resistance to benzoyl peroxide, so it will continue to work as part of your regular skincare regime. 

Benzoyl Peroxide Pros:

  • Kills the bacteria that causes acne
  • Works fast
  • Prevents antibiotic resistance

Benzoyl Peroxide Cons:

  • Can cause redness, peeling, and skin dryness
  • Some people experience temporary hyperpigmentation 

What Is Salicylic Acid?

Salicylic acid is a beta-hydroxy acid that treats acne by dissolving the dead skin cells, impurities, and excess oil that result in clogged pores. It provides deep exfoliation to clear the skin’s surface and pores to stop acne from developing.

Salicylic acid does not kill bacteria like benzoyl peroxide, but it can leave the skin clearer, smoother, and more even-toned. You can expect to see results around 4-6 weeks after making salicylic acid part of your skincare routine. 

Salicylic Acid Pros:

  • Exfoliates the skin and removes the acne-causing buildup of impurities
  • Anti-inflammatory properties
  • Helps to break down pustules and pimples

Salicylic Acid Cons:

  • Can take a long time to work
  • Overuse can result in side effects

Benzoyl Peroxide vs Salicylic Acid: How Are They Different?

The main difference between benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid is how they work to treat acne. 

Salicylic acid exfoliates the skin to remove the buildup of impurities that clog the pores and cause acne to develop. Benzoyl peroxide works by killing the bacteria that causes acne. 

Each ingredient tackles a different source of acne. So when should you use these acne-fighting treatments?

When To Use a Benzoyl Peroxide Face Wash

Benzoyl peroxide products are great at killing bacteria, so you should use them when your acne is inflamed and red. If you have many pimples and pustules, benzoyl peroxide can help control the breakout. 

It’s also a good option as a preventive treatment. You can start using it once every 2 days until your skin is used to it. Then, you can make benzoyl peroxide part of your daily routine to keep your skin clear and prevent breakouts. 

When To Use a Salicylic Acid Face Wash

Salicylic acid works by clearing away dead cells, debris, and impurities. If you have lots of blackheads and comedones, salicylic acid can unblock your pores and hair follicles. Bumpy and rough acne-prone skin without many red pimples responds well to salicylic acid. 

Side Effects of Benzoyl Peroxide

While most people don’t experience any side effects, benzoyl peroxide can cause issues similar to other topical treatments.

Common side effects of benzoyl peroxide can include:

  • Skin dryness
  • Redness
  • Peeling
  • Skin irritation

Like salicylic acid, there is also a small risk of an allergic reaction with symptoms including swelling and blisters in the treated area. 

Side Effects of Salicylic Acid

Many people experience a burning sensation when they first start using salicylic acid. This is often accompanied by redness of the skin. While this is normal, you may need to start with a smaller amount of product and use it less frequently until your skin is used to the salicylic acid. 

Common side effects of salicylic acid can include:

  • Inflammation
  • Skin dryness
  • Peeling

Serious side effects from topical salicylic acid are rare, but it’s possible to experience an allergic reaction that includes swelling, itchiness, and skin rashes. 

Is It Safe To Use Salicylic Acid and Benzoyl Peroxide at the Same Time?

Because they target different causes of acne, many people use both salicylic acid and benzoyl peroxide to treat their acne. This allows you to kill the bacteria that causes acne and keep your skin well exfoliated and clear to reduce blocked pores and keep pimples at bay. 

However, using both ingredients at the same time can increase the risk of side effects like redness, dry skin, and peeling. This is most noticeable for people with sensitive skin. 

You can apply each ingredient at different times of the day to reduce the risk of unwanted side effects. Another option is to use the products separately to treat different types of acne.

Salicylic acid can be a good daily treatment to keep your skin clear and prevent future breakouts. If you have an outbreak, you can use benzoyl peroxide as a spot treatment to calm your skin and control the acne. 

Other Acne Treatment Options

Both benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid can be key tools in your acne-fighting skincare regime. But over the counter products are often not enough to keep your skin acne-free. 

Here at b clinic, our board-certified clinicians are experienced at treating acne and acne scarring with a range of proven treatments. 

Here are the best in-clinic treatments for acne and acne scarring. 

Carbon Laser Facial

A carbon laser facial is an effective way to treat all types of acne. The treatment involves a thin layer of carbon paste being applied to your face. The carbon penetrates deep into your pores and bonds to dead skin cells, debris, excess oil, and other acne-causing impurities. 

When the carbon has dried, your practitioner uses a Q-switched laser to direct light energy across your face. The laser energy is attracted to the carbon, destroying the carbon particles and impurities. 

The treatment offers a deep exfoliation while also targeting the bacteria that causes acne. The thermal effect of the laser also helps to minimise pore size and stimulate collagen production. 

A 2011 study showed that a series of 6 carbon laser facial sessions resulted in a 90% reduction of inflammatory acne lesions. 

Medical-Grade Peel

Medical grade peels are one of the best exfoliation treatments for acne-prone skin. The active ingredients in the chemical peel dissolve the dirt and dead skin cells that get trapped in the pores and cause acne to form.

There are many different chemical peel types, including a salicylic acid peel with a stronger concentration than over the counter products. In a 2018 study, freshly prepared salicylic acid peels were shown to reduce the number of comedones by 88.45% over a series of 6 treatment sessions. 

Your practitioner can adjust the strength of the peel to achieve the best results for your skin concerns. Stronger peels can also produce a strong collagen-boosting effect and encourage cell renewal. 

Laser Skin Rejuvenation

One of the most frustrating things about acne is that even after the red pustules have long gone, you can be left with acne scarring. This usually appears as an uneven skin texture with reddish or brown pigmentation. 

Laser skin rejuvenation is one of the most effective treatments for acne scars. It improves the texture and tone of the skin to help you achieve a smoother and brighter complexion. 

The laser energy stimulates collagen production and cell turnover to replace old and damaged cells with healthy new skin. There is a range of laser therapies, and the right one for you will depend on the severity of your acne scarring. 

Get Clean and Clear Skin With b clinic

The journey to acne-free skin starts with your at-home skincare regime. Benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid can help you control your acne and prevent breakouts. They are great treatment options for mild acne. 

If you’re not getting results from these products or you’re experiencing severe acne, more effective in-clinic acne treatments are needed. Our experienced clinicians can help you on your journey to clearer skin. Schedule a free consultation today.

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