Acne is a common skin problem that affects most teens but the struggle with breakouts doesn’t always end when you grow up. Acne is difficult to cure, and if you use the wrong products you’ll only make this condition worse. But choosing the right ones for you amid the many on the market that promise to banish breakouts and clear up your skin isn’t an easy task. The two most used ingredients used in these types of products are Benzoyl Peroxide and Salicylic Acid, both of which are effective at treating mild and moderate acne, but what are the differences between the two? And which one should you use?
Benzoyl Peroxide is one of the most effective acne treatments available in over-the-counter products. It works thanks to its peeling action: it exfoliates skin, getting rid of the dead cells on the surface, dirt and sebum that clog pores and inflame follicles causing bumps. Because it can penetrate deeply into the pores, Benzoyl Peroxide can not only clean them up but also reach the bacteria the causes acne, called P.Acnes, and kill it. And unlike antibiotics, it doesn’t pose the risk of bacterial resistance. In addition, this ingredient can also dry up existing blemishes.
Benzoyl Peroxide can be used in products in amounts up to 10%. However, scientific studies have shown that 2.5% concentrations are not only just as effective, but also less irritating. If you’re planning to start using Benzoyl Peroxide, opt for products that only contain small amounts of this ingredient at the beginning. You can always choose products with higher concentrations later on if the bacteria on your skin are particularly stubborn and lower amounts don’t work too well with them.
In addition, when you first start using Benzoyl Peroxide, you might experience irritation and dryness. These symptoms usually go away after a couple of weeks which is the time your skin needs to adjust to this strong antiseptic. For this reason, it is recommended you only use products with Benzoyl Peroxide on alternate days at the beginning. If after a couple of weeks your skin is still dry and irritating or you also experience itching, peeling, burning or swelling, stop using this product immediately. If it makes your skin too dry, your acne will only get worse, not better.
If you have sensitive skin that doesn’t tolerate Benzoyl Peroxide well, Salicylic Acid may be a better option for you. Salicylic Acid is a BHA (Beta Hydroxy Acid) derived from the bark of the willow tree. Like Benzoyl Peroxide, Salicylic Acid is a peeling agent too: it has the ability to penetrate the pores, exfoliating them from the inside, while exfoliating the suface of the skin as well, thus removing dirt, sebum and dead cells that cause inflammation. By clearing up skin, it also reduces blackheads, whiteheads and blemishes.
In products designed to treat acne, Salicylic Acid is used in concentrations ranging from 0.5% to 2%. Although a lot milder than Benzoyl Peroxide, it can still cause some mild dryness, which can be healed by applying an oil-free moisturizer, and slight irritation. In this case, use the product less often and if irritation persists, stop using it.
The Bottom Line: which one is better?
Both Benzoyl Peroxide and Salicylic Acid are peeling agents that exfoliate skin to unclog pores and reduce inflammation, but the first ingredient also has antiseptic properties that make it stronger but more irritating as well. Although both of them work well in mild to moderate acne cases, we all have different skin and we all react to these ingredients differently. So, only you can decided which one is best for you based on what works better for you and what your skin can better tolerate. Those with sensitive skin could probably benefit more from Salicylic Acid though which is gentler and less likely to cause irritations.
Do you use products with Benzoyl Peroxide or Salicylic Acid? Which one works best for you?