What You Need To Know About Salicylic Acid vs Benzoyl Peroxide

What You Need To Know About Salicylic Acid vs Benzoyl Peroxide - Three Ships

There are so many various ingredients that you will see in your skincare products. While salicylic acid and benzoyl peroxide aren’t precisely new ingredients, you may be wondering what they are and why they are found in many of your acne products.

We’re going to break down everything you need to know about salicylic acid and benzoyl peroxide, their benefits to your skin, and which one may be the best choice for you.

Understanding the unique properties of each ingredient can help narrow down which one will benefit you the most for your specific skin concerns. So, let’s get started!

What Is Salicylic Acid?

Salicylic acid is a chemical exfoliant known as beta-hydroxy acid (BHA). Salicylic acid is a fat-soluble organic compound that is used to chemically exfoliate the skin, which is ideal for cleansing the surface and deep inside of your pores.

Salicylic acid works to minimize the appearance of pores on your skin and helps to unclog your pores to prevent the buildup of excess oil, which can lead to acne pimples and breakouts.

What Are the Benefits of Salicylic Acid?

Salicylic acid has a wide variety of wellness benefits for your skin. We’ve compiled a list of some of the most common and sought-after benefits to help make your decision process easier.

Exfoliates Your Skin

BHAs like salicylic acid are chemical exfoliants, meaning they can help scrub away the dead skin cells living on your skin’s surface to reveal healthier, younger-looking skin.

Salicylic is also a keratolytic or peeling agent that helps remove the build-up of dead skin cells and promotes new cell turnover on your skin.

Salicylic acid is an astringent, meaning that it causes the tissues in your skin to shrink. This can lead to tighter-looking skin and minimize the appearance of pores.

Reduces Redness and Swelling

Salicylic acid has also been shown to have the same active ingredients as aspirin, which gives it some pretty powerful anti-inflammatory properties. It may be beneficial for any redness, swelling, and irritation you may experience due to an acne breakout.

Unclogs Pores

Salicylic acid is an oil-soluble ingredient, so it is able to penetrate deep into the pores of your oily skin and remove the build-up of dirt, bacteria, and hair follicles that often leads to acne breakouts.

Because salicylic acid gets so deep into your pores, it can also help prevent the build-up and production of excess oil on your skin and reduce the likelihood of acne lesions, like whiteheads and blackheads developing.

You can learn more about the benefits of salicylic acid for your skin, here.

What Is Benzoyl Peroxide?

Benzoyl peroxide is an organic acid known for its antibacterial properties used to kill P. acnes. These bacteria can play a role in developing acne on your face.

Benzoyl peroxide is additionally beneficial for removing dead skin cells from your skin and has been known to be one of the faster-working acne treatments to help reduce the appearance and severity of skin blemishes like acne.

Benzoyl peroxide can help minimize the appearance of mild to moderate existing acne and may be beneficial for maintaining clear skin when used regularly. Because of its drying effects, benzoyl peroxide should only be used twice a day.

What Are the Benefits of Benzoyl Peroxide?

Like salicylic acid, benzoyl peroxide has several different benefits it can bring to your skin to keep your skin clear and bright. Let’s discuss some of the most popular uses of adding benzoyl peroxide to your skincare routine.

Helps Kill Bacteria

As we’ve mentioned, benzoyl peroxide is jam-packed with natural antibacterial properties. This can help keep your skin cleaner and reduce the severity of acne breakouts caused by acne bacteria.

Promotes New Skin Cell Turnover

Benzoyl peroxide is a comedolytic, meaning it can help remove comedones from your skin, which are essentially little plugs trapped in your pores (i.e., whiteheads and blackheads).

Comedolytics also help increase how fast your skin sheds dead skin cells, which is especially beneficial to those who experience acne breakouts caused by dead skin cells clogging their pores.

Removes Excess Oil

Benzoyl peroxide has a drying effect, which can be helpful if you are experiencing excessive oil on your skin. Benzoyl peroxide can help dry up the excess oil, mattify your skin, and reduce unwanted shininess.

Which Is Better For My Skin?

Because salicylic acid and benzoyl peroxide are beneficial for acne-prone and oily/combination skin, choosing between them comes down to your acne severity and skin type.

Salicylic acid has been known to be more beneficial for cleaning out clogged pores and may be the better option if you know that your acne is in part caused by excess amounts of oil or clogged pores.

However, note that benzoyl peroxide can be especially harsh on sensitive and dry skin types, so you may want to stick to salicylic acid if your skin is easily irritated.

Benzoyl peroxide is not as beneficial if you have moderate to severe acne, so you may decide to try salicylic acid if your type of acne is a bit more intense.

Salicylic acid may make your skin more sensitive to sunlight. Although you should already be using SPF on your skin daily, you may want to consider benzoyl peroxide if you are outside or exposed to sunlight for significant periods during your day. It’s also not recommended to use benzoyl peroxide products near dark fabrics, as this could bleach your dark materials.

How Do I Use Salicylic Acid?

Like any new product that you incorporate into your skincare routine, patch testing and starting slow is highly recommended when using salicylic acid on your skin.

Because it is a chemical exfoliant, it’s normal to experience mild irritation when you begin using it, but it shouldn’t last past the first couple of uses. It is considered more favorable than benzoyl peroxide and might be better for more sensitive skin types. Just skip the higher concentrations and observe how your skin reacts when applied.

Our Refresh Papaya + Salicylic Acid Cleanser is a great way to incorporate salicylic acid into your skincare routine. Along with the salicylic acid, our cleanser also contains glycerin, a natural humectant that helps retain your skin’s natural moisture, the perfect companion to an exfoliant!

This cleanser can be used daily by rubbing it onto your wet face in circular motions, rinsing it off, and pat drying. Maintaining proper moisture after using exfoliants prevents excess oil production that can clog your pores and lead to acne breakouts.

You may consider adding our Glow 49% Jojoba Oil Serum to pair with your salicylic acid cleanser. This serum can help maintain your skin’s natural oils and moisture while preventing the buildup of excess oil and reducing the appearance of pores.

How Do I Use Benzoyl Peroxide?

Benzoyl peroxide can be used in several different product types, but the most popular ones tend to be cleansers and spot treatments.

Because of its antibacterial properties, benzoyl peroxide as a spot treatment can be used on acne pimples, whiteheads, and blackheads to help kill off acne-causing bacteria.

As a facial acne cleanser, using benzoyl peroxide with hydrating ingredients, including aloe vera, can help to prevent skin dryness. Using benzoyl peroxide as a face wash can help ensure you are getting all the benefits of benzoyl peroxide.

Benzoyl peroxide can also be used for body acne and facial acne, so you may also consider a body wash containing benzoyl peroxide if you are prone to body acne.

The Bottom Line

Nobody enjoys trying to figure out how to manage an acne breakout. The good news is that whether you choose acne-fighting ingredients like salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide, there are various treatment options and avenues available to you.

Skincare doesn’t have to be a bunch of unpronounceable chemicals cooked up in a lab and plunked into lotion or serum. Getting natural, clear skincare in your daily routine no longer has to be a chore. Simple, naturally-effective skincare is just a few clicks away at Three Ships Beauty.


Salicylic Acid (Aspirin) - National Library of Medicine

Benzoyl Peroxide - National Library of Medicine

Sunscreen and Your Morning Routine | Johns Hopkins Medicine

Refresh Papaya + Salicylic Acid Cleanser

Targets Blemishes


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Glow 49% Jojoba Oil Serum

Supports Skin Barrier


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