Chances are good that you’ve already heard of two of the best-known acne treatments: benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid. But do you know what each does and when should you use one over the other, or in combination, to get clearer skin? Here’s a quick review of these two products and how they help beat breakouts:
What is Benzoyl Peroxide?
Benzoyl peroxide, which comes in a variety of forms, including topical liquids, creams, and gels, works by killing the bacteria that contributes to acne. (Remember that a pimple appears when sebum causes dead skin cells to become trapped inside a pore along with bacteria.) If you’ve seen over-the-counter products with benzoyl peroxide at the drugstore you’ve probably noticed that they come in various strengths (typically from 2% to 10%), but more isn’t necessarily better, especially because benzoyl peroxide can irritate the skin. Use it too often, or too much in an attempt to get acne under control, and your skin may become dry, red, and peel, and you may feel stinging and tingling. To be safe, first test a little of the benzoyl peroxide gel or cream on a small patch of skin to make sure you don’t experience a reaction, especially if you have sensitive skin or are prone to allergic reactions.
What is Salicylic Acid?
Salicylic acid (also called beta hydroxy acid) works differently for fighting acne: It helps to slough off those pore-clogging dead skin cells and reduces redness and swelling. Like benzoyl peroxide, you can take your pick of topical methods; salicylic acid comes in scrubs, face wash, and cleansers, as well as pads and creams.