This month’s Skin Smart installment is all about the differences between and benefits of salicylic acid and benzoyl peroxide and for those of us who suffer from the occasional monthly breakout, breakouts due to stress or dealing with a case of acne, this installment will help you decide which treatment will be better for you to help heal and clear up your skin.
Salicylic Acid is a BHA (beta hydroxy acid). The hydroxy part of the molecule is separated from the acid part by two carbon atoms. This means that it is more oil soluble and can penetrate your pores. It has the ability to exfoliate both inside the pore lining, and on the surface of the skin meaning it can help clear breakouts like blackheads and whiteheads. The exfoliation works by breaking apart desmosomes, which unclogs pores and can reduce sebum secretion (all the nasty gunk that clogs pores). It’s also derived from aspirin, so it is an anti-inflammatory and soothes the skin, calms redness and helps to even out skin tone. The anti-inflammatory properties mean it is great for people with sensitive or already irritated skin. Chemical exfoliators are great for clearing skin, but if they often lead you red and splotchy try switching to a salicylic acid product.
Benzoyl Peroxide is antibacterial, so it can get into pores and literally kill the acne-causing bacteria. This means that it works on all types of acne, including cystic and a lot of doctors say that you can see results of benzoyl peroxide faster. The downside of benzoyl peroxide is that it can cause redness, stinging, and peeling especially if you have sensitive skin. On the upside, because it actually kills acne bacteria, it is much easier to fight inflammatory acne (cystic). It also does not induce antibiotic resistance, meaning your skin cannot build up a resistance to the actual medication. If you do have sensitive skin, try using the product only two or three times a week so that you can build up a tolerance to the dryness. With both benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid, be sure to wear sunscreen. Exfoliating products expose your skin to the sun even more than usual and you must protect it.
Unfortunately, there is not a “this ingredient will be better for you” answer here, as it totally depends on your skin. I used Proactiv some years ago (a three-step benzoyl peroxide treatment kit and is still available, but the newest three step treatment kit available now from Proactiv has the retinoid adapalene) with great results for a while until the products stopped working. It was not until I switched to Neutrogena Acne Stress Control line of 2% salicylic acid products (although a couple of products have been discontinued) and saw my skin become smoother in both texture and tone, my existing breakouts quickly went away, and my acne scars faded much faster is when I realized my skin responds better to salicylic acid and I still use the power cream cleanser and the power clear scrub to this day.
So, are you using any salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide products? If so, which are you using and are you loving them? Let me know in the comments below and until next time, be happy, healthy, and beautiful!
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