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The Scoop on Salicylic Acid and Benzoyl Peroxide



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There’s a lot of debate between users of benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid when it comes to acne treatment. Understanding the pros and cons of both will help you choose a treatment that works for you.

Regular Acne Regimens for Clearer Skin

The key to any acne regimen, whether benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid, is to use the products regularly and consistently. Cleaning the skin with a mild cleanser in the morning and evening, following the cleansing process with the application of topical medications, and finishing the routine with the application of a moisturizer are all parts of this regimen. Missing a single part of this regimen can make acne even more severe.

Benzoyl Peroxide

Benzoyl peroxide has long been one of the most popular acne treatment methods. There are pros and cons to this chemical, but many people find success with this chemical after nothing else has proved effective. Benzoyl peroxide adds oxygen to the pores. This oxygen helps to prevent bacteria and infection from forming within the pores. There are, however, some negative side effects associated with this chemical. They include:

  • Excessive dryness of the skin
  • White streaks from medicine that was not fully absorbed by the skin
  • Bleaching of clothes, towels, washcloths, and bedsheets
  • Benzoyl peroxide sensitivity developed over a period of prolonged exposure to the substance

Because of the side effects, benzoyl peroxide may not be a viable option for all who suffer from persistent acne.

Salicylic Acid

Salicylic acid is another common acne treatment that can be purchased over the counter creams, cleansers, and gel treatments. Salicylic acid functions in a completely different way when treating acne. The salicylic acid in these over the counter treatments is both a disinfectant and an exfoliation treatment. Because acne is caused by infections beneath the surface of the skin, exposing the pores to low concentrations of salicylic acid may help to reduce inflammation and treat existing acne. The salicylic acid is also preventative, however, because it sloughs off the outer layer of the skin. Dead skin cells can clog pores and make pimples appear.

When using salicylic acid, it is a good idea to use both a cleanser and a spot treatment for adequate coverage. Choose cleansers and treatment gels that have low concentrations of salicylic acid. Too much salicylic acid can cause redness and irritation of the skin: two conditions that can serve to perpetuate acne. As with benzoyl peroxide, it is crucial to use an effective moisturizer to prevent the skin from producing too much oil.

So Which is Right For You?

Of course, you’re now wondering which acne treatment is the right one for you and your skin. Unfortunately, the only real way to test that is through trial and error. Both of these chemicals have shown to have amazing effects in treating acne when they are used correctly and as part of a regular and consistent acne treatment regimen. Some people find success with benzoyl peroxide because it effectively reduces infection and supplies oxygen to the source of the problem. Other people have greater success and fewer side effects by using salicylic acid as a mild exfoliating treatment.

It’s important to remember that overmedicating is never a solution for persistent acne. Using too much of either of these chemicals can make acne worse, not better. If you experience excessive drying or peeling, your skin will attempt to compensate by generating excess amounts of oil. This oil can lead to more acne and worse breakouts. A little of both of these products can go a long way.