Skin Smart 002: Salicylic Acid vs. Benzoyl Peroxide

Woohoo, another Skin Smart installment! Sorry it's taken me so long, but I try to really do my research for these posts and my month has been insane. I've also been having a bit of trouble with breakouts this month, probably due to stress. So, in this post, I'll be talking about the differences between and benefits of Salicylic Acid vs Benzoyl Peroxide.

Salicylic Acid is a BHA, or Beta Hydroxy Acid, aka the the hydroxy part of the molecule is separated from the acid part by two carbon atoms. This means that it's 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 up in there). It's also derived from aspirin, so is an anti-inflammatory and soothes the skin, calms redness and helps to even out skin tone. The anti-inflammatory properties mean it's 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. A lot of doctors also say that you can see results of benzoyl peroxide faster, but I think that's more case by case (as evidenced by my fave products below). The downside of benzoyl peroxide is that it can cause redness, stinging, peeling, etc. especially if you have sensitive skin. On the upside, because it actually kills acne bacteria, it's much easier to fight inflammatory acne (ie cystic). It also doesn't induce antibiotic resistance, meaning your skin can't 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, must protect it.

Unfortunately, there's not a "this ingredient will be better for you" answer here, as it totally depends on your skin. I used benzoyl peroxide with the Clinique Acne Solutions Emergency Gel-Lotion with okay results for a while. It wasn't until I switched to the Paula's Choice Skin Perfecting 2% BHA Liquid Exfoliant and saw ridiculously amazing results that I realized it wasn't doing too much for me. I tried this miracle liquid via recommendation from Emily Ferber (of Into the Gloss) and holy moly. I literally saw a change in my skin overnight. It's incredibly smooth in both texture and tone, my existing acne quickly went away, and my acne scars are fading much faster. I will never, ever stop using this.

Do you guys use any SA or BP products? Are you loving them, or a little meh?
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