Salicylic acid is generally better than benzoyl peroxide for most people.
Both active ingredients are suitable for treating acne, and they can both cause side effects like dryness and irritation.
However, salicylic acid is typically considered more gentle than benzoyl peroxide and is more suitable for people with sensitive skin.
That being said, if you have moderate to severe acne, you should try benzoyl peroxide products before moving on to prescription acne medications.
This article will explain everything you need to know about salicylic acid, benzoyl peroxide, and which one is right for you.
What’s salicylic acid?
Salicylic acid is an exfoliating acid and popular active ingredient commonly found in skincare products.
Also known as a beta hydroxy acid, topical salicylic acid exfoliates dead skin cells and can help control excess oil. It’s a great treatment for acne prone skin.
In general, salicylic acid is considered better suited for people with sensitive skin than other acne treatments like benzoyl peroxide.
Typically, you’ll find salicylic acid in exfoliating cleansers and leave-on treatments.
What’s benzoyl peroxide?
Benzoyl peroxide is one of the best affordable ingredients for treating acne.
Ideal for oily skin types, benzoyl peroxide works by killing off acne causing bacteria.
In fact, I found that benzoyl peroxide worked just as well for fighting inflammatory acne as prescription acne medications.
It is generally considered to be a stronger acne treatment than salicylic acid and might not be suitable for people with sensitive skin.
You can add benzoyl peroxide into your skincare routine in the form a cleanser or a leave-on gel.
Benzoyl Peroxide vs Salicylic Acid for Acne
Both benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acids provide exfoliation properties, but they work differently! One might be better for you than the other depending on your skin type and sensitivity.
Salicylic acid has benefits like fighting clogged pores and dissolving dead skin cells to treat blackheads.
At the same time, benzoyl peroxide benefits include killing acne causing bacteria that otherwise clog pores and treating breakouts.
While both ingredients are great to treat acne, salicylic acid is more versatile.
Typically, benzoyl peroxide is considered stronger than salicylic acid.
Therefore, it is not as suitable for people with sensitive skin as salicylic acid.
On the other hand, if you have oily or acne prone skin type, salicylic acid will be more effective.
Both ingredients are effective, but they have different strengths and weaknesses when it comes to treating skin conditions.
Skin Concerns: Salicylic Acid
Salicylic acid removes dead skin cells and is effective at treating skin concerns like:
Excess oil production
It’s a versatile ingredient, but some people may not find it as effective as benzoyl peroxide.
Skin Concerns: Benzoyl Peroxide
Alternatively, benzoyl peroxide is simply effective at treating mild to moderate acne.
While it is not as versatile as salicylic acid, benzoyl peroxide is one of the best over the counter products you can find to help treat your acne.
Both salicylic acid and benzoyl peroxide can cause similar side effects like:
Because benzoyl peroxide is stronger, it is more likely to cause side effects than salicylic acid.
That being said, using a hydrating serum or moisturizer after benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid can mitigate many of these side effects.
Should I use salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide?
If you have sensitive skin, you’re better off with using salicylic acid.
Further, if you have conditions like blackheads or sebhorreic dermatitis, salicylic acid is a better choice for you.
On the other hand, if you have more severe acne, you should try using a benzoyl peroxide product like PanOxyl 4% or 10%.
Which is better, benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid?
Both benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid are good topical treatments for acne.
Generally, benzoyl peroxide is better for more severe, stubborn forms of acne.
On the other hand, salicylic acid is better for people with sensitive skin and those prone to redness and irritation.
Can I use salicylic acid and benzoyl peroxide together?
No, you should not use salicylic acid and benzoyl peroxide at the same time due to the risk of irritation.
When you combine benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid together, you run the risk of developing side effects like:
Therefore, if you want to use both ingredients, consider using them at different times of day or alternating nights.
When to Use Benzoyl Peroxide vs Salicylic Acid
Both benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid are suitable for use during your morning and evening acne routines.
If you want to use both ingredients in your skincare routine, I suggest doing the following:
Morning: Apply a leave on salicylic acid treatment between your cleanser and moisturizer
Evening: Use a benzoyl peroxide cleanser before your serum and moisturizer
That’s it, simple!
Can you use salicylic acid with benzoyl peroxide?
No, you should avoid layering benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid on top of each other.
Even though both ingredients are great for treating acne, they can also cause side effects like dryness and irritation.
Therefore, if you want to incorporate both into your skincare routine, consider using a wash-off benzoyl peroxide cleanser and following up with salicylic acid serum.
Alternatively, you can just use them at different times in your day or on separate days altogether.
Summary: Benzoyl Peroxide vs Salicylic Acid
Acne products like benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid are effective, affordable treatments.
Typically, benzoyl peroxide is considered better for people with more severe acne.
On the other hand, salicylic acid is a better treatment with mild acne and people with sensitive skin.
If you’re new to skincare, I suggest starting out with salicylic acid products to see if they work for you.
If not, you can always try something stronger like benzoyl peroxide afterwards.