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Benzoyl Peroxide vs. Salicylic Acid: Can You Use Them Together?

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There are two key players in the battle against acne you’ve definitely heard about: salicylic acid and benzoyl peroxide. Simply put, these two ingredients are acne’s biggest enemies; they have been proven million times to be the powerhouses that work on acne-ridden skins. This article will take your guesswork away by explaining the perks of these two hero ingredients, their benefits and side effects, and how safe it is to mix them.

What is salicylic acid?

Salicylic acid, an ingredient extracted from willow tree bark, is a beta hydroxy acid that works as an exfoliating agent. As an oil-soluble compound, salicylic acid penetrates deep into the pores, unclogging them and removing dead cells buildup on the skin’s top layer, which in turn, diminishes breakouts apparition.

What is benzoyl peroxide?

The American Academy of Pediatrics says benzoyl peroxide is the most effective OTC acne-fighting ingredient out there. It works by attacking the acne-causing bacteria and removing dead cells, oil, and debris in the pores. One of the reasons why everyone in the know praises this ingredient so much is because it not only slow down bacteria; but kills it!

What are the differences between salicylic acid and benzoyl peroxide?

Although both salicylic acid and benzoyl peroxide are acne fighters, they address skin problems in different ways. The major difference between salicylic acid and benzoyl peroxide is that salicylic acid targets the causes that lead to pimples, such as dead skin cells and excess oil in the pores, while benzoyl peroxide kills acne-causing bacteria.

Should I use salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide?

Choosing which one to use depends on your skincare needs. Salicylic acid is more effective for treating whiteheads and blackheads, while benzoyl peroxide is a better option for inflammatory acne. Also, salicylic acid is milder and less likely to irritate the skin compared to benzoyl peroxide. Thus, salicylic acid is more suitable for those with sensitive skin.

Can salicylic acid and benzoyl peroxide be used together?

It’s perfectly safe to include both salicylic acid and benzoyl peroxide in your skincare routine. However, the most important thing is to know how and when to apply each of them. Since both are exfoliating agents, you shouldn’t layer benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid at the same time, as this could result in irritation.

Can I layer benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid?

You shouldn’t use benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid at the same time. You can use them at different times of the day. Or, use salicylic acid-infused products one night and products with benzoyl peroxide the following night.

What about side effects?

Although both ingredients are effective and generally considered safe for most skin types, some side effects like dryness and irritations might occur in rare cases when using salicylic acid and benzoyl peroxide together.

Final thoughts

Salicylic acid and benzoyl peroxide are two of the most potent acne-fighting ingredients, without a doubt. While salicylic acid eliminates the trigger factors that lead to bacteria, benzoyl peroxide kills the bacteria. That makes salicylic acid more suitable for prevention and benzoyl peroxide for treatment, though both are great no matter what.

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Women's Concepts relies on the latest scientific research to provide accurate, complete, and fact-based information in skincare, on which we're willing to stake our reputation. Our team includes skincare experts who are highly regarded in their fields and committed to upholding the best standards of research. We spend quality time vetting every single product we recommend and double-checking all the facts shared on Women's Concepts. We always stand on the side of inclusivity, and our mission is to help everyone fix their skin issues as they arise and leverage the products they buy to achieve their goals. You can view our expert review board and everything about our editorial guidelines here.
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