Salicylic Acid vs Benzoyl Peroxide

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Whether you’re looking for the best all-natural deodorant or seeking an effective spot treatment, it’s important to know products’ ingredients and understand how they work. When it comes to anti-acne treatments, there are two main active components: salicylic acid and benzoyl peroxide. (See also: How to Treat Acne Scars)

What Is Salicylic Acid?

As the name suggests, salicylic acid is a type of acid. It clears away dead skin that may clog pores and cause breakouts while also providing a soothing effect. Acne products typically contain 2% or less of this ingredient, which is enough to be effective without causing side effects.


Due to its pore-cleaning nature, salicylic acid works wonders on whiteheads and blackheads. It’s ideal for preventative treatment, as it keeps comedones from forming in the first place.

Side Effects

As with most products, there is a risk of side effects:

  1. Dry skin
  2. Peeling
  3. Tingling or stinging
  4. Itching
  5. Hives

These can occur from over-use or if you have an allergy.

What Is Benzoyl Peroxide?

Benzoyl peroxide is the strongest anti-acne medication you can get without a prescription. Like salicylic acid, it’s applied topically and removes oil and dead skin. However, it’s also antibacterial, which means it kills bacteria that cause acne. Benzoyl peroxide is generally available in higher concentrations than salicylic acid, including 2.5%, 5%, and 10%.


Since it kills bacteria, benzoyl peroxide is very effective on full-fledged breakouts, even after long-term use. This is because it prevents bacterial resistance, which is a major concern with many antibacterial products. It also works much faster than salicylic acid; you can see signs of improvement within days with benzoyl peroxide, rather than the several weeks required for salicylic acid.

Side Effects

Using benzoyl peroxide may result in these side effects:

  1. Dark spots
  2. Peeling
  3. Dryness
  4. Redness

If you’re experiencing any of these, you may want to try a lower concentration. You’ll also want to avoid getting products containing benzoyl peroxide on your clothes, as it can bleach the fabric.

Which Should You Use?

Whether you’re asking after the best feminine product subscription service or the best skin care regimen, the answer is the same: Use whatever addresses your needs. If you struggle with blackheads and whiteheads, salicylic acid is probably the way to go. If you frequently have red, painful pimples, benzoyl peroxide is likely your best bet.

That said, there’s no reason you can’t incorporate both into your skincare regimen. You can alternate products or simply use them as needed. However, you should make sure to moisturize regularly, as both chemicals are drying.

What Products Contain These Ingredients?

There are many different skincare products that contain either salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide:

  1. Scrubs and Exfoliants: These help remove dead skin and dirt, and maybe chemical or abrasive. They should only be used once or twice a week.
  2. Facial Washes: Washes are a great preventative measure to fight acne. You should wash your face once in the morning, once at night and after you exercise.
  3. Spot Treatments: If you have localized acne, these treatments can help speed recovery without drying out the rest of your face.

The major benefits of organic skincare include helping you feel good and look good. When you shop for personal care products, make sure you’re checking ingredients.

About The Author:

Stacey Smith is a freelance health writer. She is passionate to write about women’s health, dental health, diabetes, endocrinology and nutrition and provides in-depth features on the latest in health news for medical clinics and health magazines.

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