Benzoyl Peroxide or Salicylic Acid: Which Works Better on Acne?

Acne Busters: Benzoyl Peroxide vs. Salicylic Acid

Benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid are both designed to treat acne and almost any product designed for blemished skin is going to feature one or the other; but it's important to know the difference between them so that you're putting up the best defence against your type of acne.

Keep reading . . .Benzoyl peroxide

When you use benzoyl peroxide, what you're actually getting is benzoic acid and oxygen because the product breaks down upon contact with your skin. The oxygen helps kill P. acnes, the bacteria that contributes to acne. Benzoic acid causes skin to peel and dry, exfoliating out the plugs of dead skin and sebum that inflame follicles and cause bumps.

Benzoyl is a powerful product that can penetrate deeply into pores, but it can also be very drying. If the spots you're seeing are deep under the skin, red and/or pus-filled, benzoyl is probably a safe bet because you need both bacteria killing and deep-down exfoliation. Try Dermalogica Clean Start Hit The Spot ($40), Proactiv Solution Renewing Cleanser ($34.95) or Dr. LeWinn’s Medic Spot-Clear Gel ($19.95). However if your acne is on the light side or your skin is sensitive, salicylic acid is probably better suited to you.

Salicylic acid

For those with sensitive skin and people plagued by blackheads, salicylic can be a life saver. Salicylic acid, like benzoic acid, is a good peeling agent, but it's gentler and lacks the oxygen that helps to kill acne bacteria.

If you have lots of blackheads and spots but no deep, closed comedones (pustules), salicylic is the best choice for you as it won't be as sensitising and is less likely to dry you out. Again, don't overuse it—doing too much actually makes things much worse. Try Aveda Outer Peace Blemish Relief Pads ($59.95), Dr. Brandt Pores No More Cleanser ($58) or PuraSkin Deep Derma Cleanser, which is sold as part of the PuraSkin Total Acne Solution ($79.95).

Stockists: Aveda (1300 300 054), Dr. LeWinn’s Medic (1800 033 122).