Saturday, March 20, 2010

Salicylic Acid vs. Benzoyl Peroxide

The two main active ingredients in most acne fighting products out there today are Benzoyl Peroxide and Salicylic Acid. What's the difference between these two agents? Is one better than the other for getting rid of acne?

Benzoyl Peroxide

What is Benzoyl Peroxide? Benzoyl Peroxide kills the bacterium that causes acne. It works as a peeling agent, thus increasing the skin's turnover and clearing pores. The bacterial count found on the skin is lessened as well since this agent also works to reduce P. Acnes (the bacteria that causes skin breakouts). Benzoyl Peroxide also "dries up" existing skin blemishes. You can find this agent in over-the-counter products in strengths ranging from 2.5% to 10%. Research indicates that products with concentrations over 2.5% aren't much more effective and they're usually much harsher on the skin. Benzoyl Peroxide was one of the first acne treatments to become widely available.

Are there any side effects? When using Benzoyl Peroxide you may experience some initial dryness and irritation. Normally the skin will develop a tolerance to the product after a week or two of use. A small number of people will be much more sensitive to this agent and can suffer some burning, itching, peeling and even swelling after application. It should also be said that Benzoyl Peroxide is a bleaching agent and can cause color loss when it comes in contact with fabric and even hair. Be mindful of this fact when applying Benzoyl Peroxide before going to bed, near the neck and chest, near your hairline and eyebrows, and even when washing the agent off of your face since bleaching can occur.

If the skin starts to feel too dry you should cut back on your use of Benzoyl Peroxide. Excessive drying of the skin can make acne worse. Also, when first starting out with Benzoyl Peroxide, you should begin by using the product on alternating days so that your skin has time to adjust.

Salicylic Acid

Salicylic acid is a beta hydroxyl acid (BHA) that is derived from the bark of the willow tree. It is a key ingredient in many skin-care products found on the market today. The medicinal properties of this agent have been known since ancient times as a means of fever relief and also as an anti-inflammatory drug. Today, it is used to treat acne, psoriasis, dandruff, calluses, corns, keratosis pilaris, and warts. It works as a peeling agent to treat and prevent acne by causing your skin's cells to shed more easily, preventing the pores from clogging up and allowing room for new skin cell growth. The Salicylic Acid penetrates the oil-filled pores and then exfoliates any dead skin cells that have built up inside. This helps to reduce irritation and inflammation, while also breaking down whiteheads and blackheads. Salicylic acid is available in different concentrations in the various skin-care products available to the general public. The approved range of Salicylic Acid for acne treatment is between 0.5% and 2%.

Are there any side effects? The most common side effect is dryness, though this is normally very mild. If the skin appears scaly however, you should apply a light oil-free moisturizer following the application of the product containing Salicylic Acid. The skin can also become irritated for some who use products with this agent. If you experience some mild irritation after using Salicylic Acid you should use the product less frequently. If the irritation is severe or continues even with infrequent application you should stop using the product completely.

Some products don't work well with Salicylic Acid, leaving the skin excessively dry or irritated. These products should be avoided and include harsh soaps/cleansers, alcohol-containing preparations, other acne treatments containing peeling agents (resorcinol, sulfur, tretinoin, or Benzoyl peroxide), drying cosmetics or soaps, medicated cosmetics, and other topical skin medications.

The Verdict

Both Benzoyl Peroxide and Salicylic Acid work effectively as a way to treat and control mild to moderate acne cases. They both work as peeling agents and have similar effects on the skin. The main different between the two agents is that Benzoyl Peroxide works as an antiseptic, though those same antiseptic properties makes the peroxide more aggressive and harsher on the skin. Different skin types will react differently to both acne fighting agents so it is really a person choice here. I personally as an Aesthetician recommend Salicylic Acid over Benzoyl Peroxide.