Benzoyl Peroxide vs Salicyclic Acid for Acne Treatment: Which is More Effective?

Both benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid are the two most common active ingredients found in acne treatment that are easily available over-the-counter at pharmacies like Guardian and Watsons. Though both are frequently used in acne treatment, they are not interchangeable. Read on to find out which is more effective…


What are they?

Salicylic acid is a BHA (beta hydroxy acid) that is effective at treating acne and blemishes. It exfoliates the skin, removing dead skin cells and prevents pore congestion.

Like salicylic acid, benzoyl peroxide helps to unclog pores by removing dead skin cells. On top of that, this antibacterial does two more things – it penetrates the skin to kill the bacteria that is causing acne and it reduces inflammation.


What are they good for?

Salicylic acid is very effective at clearing mild to moderate acne without drying out the skin too much. It is used as an overall topical treatment to manage acne.

Benzoyl peroxide is great for targeting deep, inflamed acne, such as cystic acne, that is formed under the skin. It penetrates the skin to deliver oxygen to the area, killing the P.acnes bacteria.


How much do I use?

0.5% – 2% salicylic acid is suitable for mild to moderate acne. While most acne cleansers contain salicylic acid, it is also important to apply it topically after cleansing for effective results. This is well-tolerated by most acne skin that is oily and can be applied over the whole face. If your acne skin is dry, use sparingly over the blemish spots.

2.5% – 10% benzoyl peroxide is available over-the-counter in cream, gel and lotion base. As it is a strong ingredient that may irritate the skin, it is recommended to begin low and build up gradually. If this is your first time using benzoyl peroxide, apply on once a day for one week at 2.5% strength, building up to twice a day at 5% strength, or 10% if required across one to two weeks.

Benzoyl peroxide should not be applied over the whole face, instead, only apply it sparingly on deep acne and blemishes. If irritation occurs, especially due to the drying effect, reduce the frequency to only once a day, and if needed reduce strength.


Getting the most from your treatment

Topical application is only one part of managing acne flare ups. To control acne and achieve healthy skin, consistent cleansing, moisturising, masking and topical application of acne gels is all equally important, note the word equally. In fact, did you know that moisturising is also an often overlooked but very important step in managing acne?

Read here for our 10 steps to effectively manage acne. (coming soon)



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