Benzoyl Peroxide Vs. Salicylic Acid: What's The Difference Between The Acne Fighting Ingredients?

Anyone who has spent time-fighting acne breakouts knows how much of a challenge it can be to fight off zits. Unfortunately for us, acne is a common occurrence that affects almost everyone in the world. According to the American Academy of Family Physicians, acne affects around 50 million people in the U.S. alone. While acne can be troublesome and irritating, there are plenty of products and resources you can use to fight off unwanted breakouts.


With evolving science in skincare, we now know about plenty of ingredients we can use to fight and prevent acne from popping up. Two of the most vital ingredients to have on your skincare shelf are benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid. These acne-fighting ingredients are some of the most powerful ways you can get rid of zits. Because there are plenty of ingredients you can incorporate into your routine, it's easy to get them mixed up and misuse them. To get the best skin possible, you need to use the ingredients that best mix with your skin and your skincare goals. 

What is benzoyl peroxide?

If you are looking for something to fight off your acne, you need to have benzoyl peroxide. As Ridah Syed, senior medical aesthetician at Skinfluencer, tells Ipsy, "Benzoyl peroxide is an antibacterial, acne-fighting ingredient that penetrates the skin's pores to kill acne-causing bacteria and reduce sebum production. It is a great skincare ingredient to use if you suffer from mild to moderate acne, and when combined with other agents, it may be used to treat more severe cases of acne." Benzoyl peroxide is unlike other ingredients in that it directly attacks the source of your acne rather than treating the symptoms of acne.


SkinPharm explains that since benzoyl peroxide is a drying ingredient, it's better for those who can and doesn't have sensitive or dry skin. What's more, because benzoyl peroxide is so potent, it can't be combined with many other common skincare ingredients. Another downside to benzoyl peroxide is that it can stain your clothes and hair if it spills or drips. If you do need something a bit more on the powerful side, it's best for those who have pus-filled acne and are on the oiler side.

What is salicylic acid?

Another ingredient you need to keep on your radar is salicylic acid. Unlike benzoyl peroxide, salicylic acid has been around for over 2,000 years because of its potency in fighting acne. According to ProActiv, salicylic acid is a chemical exfoliant that dissolves the objects that are blocking your pores, such as dirt and dead skin cells. The ultimate purpose of salicylic acid is to prevent blockages by dissolving these objects before they can settle into your pores. Because of this action, salicylic acid is also a key ingredient if you are looking to smoothen your skin texture.


Kiehl's adds that salicylic acid is ideal for anyone who suffers from oily skin as it can be dissolved in oil and help absorb the extra sebum. This process makes this ingredient a must-have for anyone looking to prevent breakouts from forming. Unlike benzoyl peroxide, this ingredient can also be used to help treat whiteheads and blackheads, which form when your pores are clogged. As well, this ingredient can be used in combination with numerous other ingredients, making it ideal if you have multiple issues you want to target in your skincare routine.