If you’ve struggled or are currently struggling with acne you’ve probably heard of salicylic acid and benzoyl peroxide; they’re the most common ingredients in over-the-counter acne medications.
Both can help fight the battle against pesky pimples but they do it in very different ways. To be honest I hadn’t thought of their distinction for quite some time since through trial and error I’ve long concluded my skin reacts better to benzoyl peroxide. But about a few weeks ago I was asked the difference between these two acne-fighting ingredients and realized my answer consisted more of which products I preferred rather than the actual ingredients themselves.
This got me thinking about you guys and how revisiting and defining these popular ingredients can perhaps help guide you the next time you’re aimlessly searching the drugstore aisles.
If you haven’t figured out which topical agent works best for you, keep reading for a simple breakdown on the leading breakout fighters.
Salicylic acid is a Beta Hydroxy Acid (BHA) which means it will exfoliate the surface of your skin as well as penetrate your pores to exfoliate dead skin cell build up from clogged hair follicles that later cause blemishes. As a topical exfoliating agent it encourages cell turnover so it’s going to help keep your pores from getting congested and aid in hindering future breakouts. Its exfoliating ability is also why you’ll often find this ingredient in anti-aging products.
Salicylic acid works at breaking away mild to moderate blackheads and whiteheads, as well as inflammation because of its chemical connection to aspirin (hence why you’ve probably heard of applying aspirin paste to breakouts). This factor makes it a more calming choice among acne treatments.
One of the most important things to look at when searching for a salicylic acid-based medication is the pH level; it should be about 3 or 4.
Benzoyl peroxide is an extremely powerful and fast-acting agent with bactericidal properties that are going to enter your pores and kill any gunk and bacteria that can later turn into a blemish, especially whiteheads. Because it’s such a powerful ingredient it is known to dry and peel skin and will also bleach fabric (so think about switching your nice pillow cases when using any acne medications that are benzoyl peroxide-based).
Most medications will consist of 2.5% benzoyl peroxide which has been said is just as effective as 10%, the largest dosage available over-the-counter. Sensitive skin should always consider testing benzoyl peroxide in low percentages first.
The best way to figure out which ingredient will banish your blemish best is by knowing how they work! Large and inflamed? Maybe treat it with salicylic acid. Whitehead ruining your day? Opt for benzoyl peroxide (dosage depending on your skin’s sensitivity). Just remember with both ingredients you must continue using even after blemishes are gone as a preventative measure.
Which ingredient do you find helps fight your type of acne best? Leave your skin type, skin issues and preference below!