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Benzoyl peroxide vs salicylic acid; which is best for your acne? Answering this question requires us to go a bit deeper into what really is acne and more importantly, what causes acne.
What Causes Acne?
4 Components of Acne
- Inflammation – inflammation is usually present in most cases of acne. This is typically seen as redness and/or as painful pimples and bumps.
- Clogged Pores – Problem with skin cells lining the pore, they replicate quite rapidly and are quite sticky which clogs up the pore (this process then leads to blackheads and whiteheads).
- Oil (sebum) – oil is natural and helps keep our skin healthy, but excess oil production can result in acne. People who experience acne in certain areas (such as on the forehead) can have excess oil production in those areas.
- C. acnes – This is the acne causing bacteria that feeds on this excessive oil which results in further inflammation and acne.
Benzoyl Peroxide vs Salicylic Acid – Which Is Better?
Salicylic acid is a naturally occurring ingredient that loves oil (lipophilic) and concentrates within the pore and oily surfaces of the skin. It helps to unstick cells that clog up the pore. Since it concentrates within the pore it does not irritate surrounding skin.
Salicylic acid works better for blackheads and whiteheads because it helps to gently exfoliate the skin as well as remove excess oil.
Benzoyl peroxide is an antibacterial ingredient that kills acne causing bacteria. It helps address the bacterial component of acne. Benzoyl peroxide is much for effective at killing acne causing bacteria compared to salicylic acid.
Salicylic acid is gentler on the skin and can actually be soothing. However, benzoyl peroxide is much more irritating and can sometimes dry out and irritate the skin.
Both benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid are anti-inflammatory. However, benzoyl peroxide is a better anti-inflammatory ingredient when it comes to inflammatory types of acne. Acne that consists of red painful bumps tends to respond better to benzoyl peroxide than salicylic acid.
What Does Benzoyl Peroxide Do?
Benzoyl peroxide kills acne causing bacteria and reduces inflammation which are 2 components of acne.
What Does Salicylic Acid Do?
Salicylic acid penetrates down to the pore and helps remove excess oil and clogged up skin cells which helps fight acne.
Is Benzoyl Peroxide or Salicylic Acid Better for Acne?
Both benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid are wonderful ingredients that helps fight acne but both work on different components of acne.
Salicylic acid is more effective at unclogging pores (blackheads/whiteheads) and removing excess oil. While benzoyl peroxide is a better for reducing inflammation and killing acne causing bacteria. Using both can help address more components of acne.
Can You Use Benzoyl Peroxide and Salicylic Acid Together?
Yes, using benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid together if you skin can tolerate it can be really effective. By using salicylic acid, you help address the clogged up pore and excess oil components of acne while using benzoyl peroxide will help to reduce acne causing bacteria as well as reduce inflammation which are the other 2 components of acne.
Best Benzoyl Peroxide Face Washes
PanOxyl 4% Benzoyl Peroxide Acne Cream Wash
PanOxyl is one of the most recommended benzoyl peroxide washes by dermatologists. It comes in 2 formulations with 4% and 10% benzoyl peroxide. If you are just starting out with benzoyl peroxide or if you just have sensitive skin then consider the 4% since it will lower the risk of irritation and redness.
It has a creamy wash consistency and is pH balanced with 4 humectants and 3 emollients which soothe and moisturize the skin and help prevent irritation.
Differin Daily Deep Benzoyl Peroxide Cleanser
Differin has a fantastic dermatologist developed 5% benzoyl peroxide cleanser. It has a 5% concentration of benzoyl peroxide compared to 10% which is found in most washes. This means means less chances of irritation while still being just as effective in the long run.
The wash is also fragrance free and has soothing and moisturizing ingredients which help to offset the drying characteristics of benzoyl peroxide.
CeraVe 4% Benzoyl Peroxide Acne Foaming Cream Cleanser
If you are a fan of CeraVe, then you’ll be happy to know that they also have a benzoyl peroxide based acne cleanser. With 4% benzoyl peroxide, it is on the milder side and is a great product to use for those with sensitive acne prone skin.
It also contains ceramides and hyaluronic acid which are great for skin hydration preventing any drying or flaking.
Neutrogena 10% Benzoyl Peroxide Rapid Clear Stubborn Acne Cleanser
As the name suggests, this product is for stubborn acne and as such it is formulation with maximum strength 10% benzoyl peroxide. Neutrogena claims you will start seeing results within 1 day of using this product.
This is a great product to use if you have mild to moderate acne with painful bumps and pimples since it will work faster due to the higher 10% benzoyl peroxide concentration.
Best Salicylic Acid Face Washes
Cetaphil Gentle Clear Cream Cleanser
Cetaphil is known for great skin products for those with sensitive skin. This wash contains the dermatologist recommended 2% salicylic acid along with soothing aloe and white tea extract that help moisturize and soothe the skin. This cleanser has a creamy consistency and works well for blackheads and whiteheads as well as acne. This is a great cleanser for those with sensitive acne prone skin.
Aveeno Clear Complexion Cream Cleanser
Aveeno is a well known brand known for their use of colloidal oatmeal in their products. Colloidal oatmeal can help with skin hydration and moisture retention. It is also an anti-inflammatory ingredient which can help with redness and inflammation commonly seen with acne. It contains the recommended 2% salicylic acid for acne as well as soy bean extract which helps improve skin tone. This wash has a creamy consistency which is great for those with dry and sensitive skin.
Every Man Jacket Salicylic Acid Face Scrub
Every Man Jack is a men’s grooming line that has affordable and high quality products. This face scrub has 2% salicylic acid as well as charcoal which works to remove excess oil. This is a great product to use daily or as part of a shaving routine. The salicylic acid will help to remove oil and dirt as well as soften your facial hair for a closer and more comfortable shave.
Neutrogena Oil Free Acne Wash
This salicylic acid wash from Neutrogena is a dermatologist favorite due to it’s effectiveness as well as affordability. This wash comes in different versions with the light orange being the most popular. But all of them share the same active ingredient of 2% salicylic acid so they all work equally well when it comes to fighting acne.
I like this version because it has the added benefits of aloe and chamomile which helps in reducing redness associated with acne. This product has a gel consistency which quickly turns into a light foamy lather. Due to it’s foaming characteristics, this product works well for those with oily and acne prone skin.
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