Salicylic Acid vs. Benzoyl Peroxide: Which Is Better for Acne?

Salicylic Acid exfoliating serum dry skin

Written by - Heena

The moment you start searching for skincare products for acne-prone skin, you get overwhelmed with the choices. But then you get burdened with questions like, "are all the products worth it?" Or, are you choosing the right product according to your skin type? And so on. 

We have come up with answers that will solve all your queries and let you understand the most effective ingredient used for treating acne and its after-effects. 

In this context, salicylic acid and benzoyl peroxide are the most popular ingredients used for fighting acne. They are easily available over the counter and provide promising results in clearing mild acne while preventing future breakouts. Salicylic Acid exfoliating serum dry skin

The Benefits of Salicylic Acid and Benzoyl Peroxide

There are several benefits associated with the use of these ingredients. 

Primarily, these ingredients help exfoliate your skin by removing dead skin cells that cause acne by clogging your skin pores.

Furthermore, salicylic acid works best for whiteheads and blackheads and prevents future comedones' formation.

In contrast, benzoyl peroxide works best on red, pus-filled acne, also called pustules. These ingredients not only remove excess oil and dead cells, but also kill the acne-causing bacteria that lie beneath your skin. 

How do you know which ingredient is best for your skin?

Both these ingredients provide positive results in treating acne. However, you’ll need to consider a few factors before claiming one of them to be the best. So, before you choose any of these ingredients for your skin problem, keep the following factors in mind.

Type of Acne

If you have blackheads or whiteheads, salicylic acid would be best suited. On the other hand, benzoyl peroxide is best for treating mild and severe acne types like mild pustules or pus-filled acne. 

Severity of Breakout

Both these ingredients are used for mild acne, and it might take several weeks to see the results. It may take six weeks to see the noticeable results. 

Activity Level

If you remain over-active throughout the day and sweat a lot, you should use salicylic acid. This is because benzoyl peroxide might start bleeding with sweat and stain your clothes in the middle of the day. 

Overall, skin health

If you have sensitive skin and are allergic to new products, you should choose salicylic acid as it is milder than its counterpart. As a result, it won’t aggravate the skin issues you are already facing. 

Underlying medical conditions

If you are suffering from any underlying disease, like kidney or liver disease, you should consult your doctor before using them. Although these items are available over the counter, you should not just buy and use them, especially when battling other medical conditions. 

How to Use : Salicylic Acid and Benzoyl Peroxide

Salicylic Acid

Most salicylic acid creams, astringents, washes, and other over-the-counter products have concentrations ranging from 0.5 to 5%.You could choose a product in different concentrations depending on your skin condition. Furthermore, because of its gentle nature, you can use salicylic acid two times a day or even one more time during the mid-day. 

Benzoyl Peroxide

If you are new to benzoyl peroxide, you should start with a 2.5 percent concentration and then move up to 5 percent. Since you are new and you don’t know how your skin would react to this ingredient, you should first begin by applying it once a day. 

You can start with a gentle wash, and once you complete the first six weeks, you can move ahead to using a gel-based version for enhanced results. However, if you aren’t able to see any noticeable results in six weeks, you should switch to a product with a 10% concentration. 


Never use benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid in every product in your skincare routine. For instance, if your cream has one of these ingredients, make sure your face wash, toner, etc., does not include it. If you include these ingredients in large quantities, your skin may get dry and flaky, worsening the condition even more. 

Also, always wear your sunscreen because sun damage can worsen your acne. 

Therefore, salicylic acid is mild and can suit all skin types. Therefore, you can choose the salicylic acid face wash for acne anytime and apply it continuously for six weeks. Salicylic acid face wash works wonders, even for sensitive skin, and doesn't cause any skin irritation.