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How Useful is Benzoyl Peroxide vs Salicylic Acid for Acne Treatment?

benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid for acne treatment

Many patients who consult us for acne treatment in Singapore have frequently used over-the-counter (OTC) products that contain benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid prior to seeing us. How useful are these ingredients and what are their roles in the spectrum of acne treatment? Continue reading to learn more about which works best for your acne.

What is Benzoyl Peroxide? 

Benzoyl peroxide treats acne by removing bacteria, excess oil, and dead skin cells from the skin. It is most effective on mild cases of acne, i.e., comedones, which are non-inflamed blackheads and whiteheads in the early stages of acne. It is a common and effective acne-fighting product that can be bought without a doctor’s prescription, meaning you can buy it from a pharmacy. In Singapore, pharmacies sell benzoyl peroxide under a few brand names, such as Oxy5 or Oxy10.  As a product, it comes in different forms: face wash, benzoyl peroxide cream, gel, and cleanser.

Side Effects of Benzoyl Peroxide

Benzoyl peroxide is safe for most people, but it can cause some side effects. Because it works by peeling away dead skin cells, it can lead to dryness, redness, and excessive peeling. There might be itching and general irritation as well. Do not use benzoyl peroxide if you are suffering from a sunburn, as it will irritate your skin. It can stain clothing and hair, so make sure you wash your hands thoroughly after each use. 

If you get severe redness and irritation after applying benzoyl peroxide, stop using it immediately. If you get severe swelling and breathing difficulties, it’s best to head to the A&E right away as it could be an allergic reaction. Since the product causes your skin to get dry, it may not be so suitable for people with dry skin, eczema, or dermatitis. 

Salicylic Acid 

You can use salicylic acid to treat mild to moderate acne. It works by helping the skin to shed dead cells from the top layer, and decrease redness, swelling, and inflammation. This can speed up healing and reduce the formation of pimples.

 Salicylic acid is also suitable as an acne peel. In our clinic, our medical team has included clinical-grade salicylic acid of higher percentages into our acne peels. Why is salicylic acid suitable as a peel? It unplugs dead skin cells and excess sebum that causes acne blemishes. It exfoliates dead skin cells by disrupting intercellular connections. Lastly, it has an anti-inflammatory effect on the skin, which helps in treating acne. 

Common brands of salicylic acid available in Singapore pharmacies include Neutrogena and La Roche Posay.

Side Effects of Salicylic Acid

Similar to benzoyl peroxide, salicylic acid has a drying effect and dries out excess oils in your pores. Hence, it’s also not so suitable for people with sensitive skin. Other possible effects include hives, peeling skin, itching, stinging or tingling. 

People who are allergic to aspirin should not apply salicylic acid as they are in the same class of drugs. Doctors also recommend not to use salicylic acid in conjunction with isotretinoin. People with active dermatitis, and women who are pregnant, shouldn’t do salicylic acid peels too. Get medical help right away if you notice any allergy symptoms such as itching, rash, dizziness, or breathing.  

Which One Works For You? 

In short, topical benzoyl peroxide is suitable for mild cases of acne, while salicylic acid works for mild to moderate cases. Both have different types of side effects that we must watch out for. However, for moderate to severe cases of acne, it’s best to consult a doctor for further evaluation and treatment. Pursuing acne treatment is always a worthy pursuit because it’s important to be the best version of yourself. 

If you are looking for doctors in Singapore with significant experience and thorough education in acne treatment, look no further. Our patients walk out of Eeva Medical Aesthetic Clinic looking more radiant and feeling more confident than ever before. Speak to a friendly member of our medical team about scheduling a consultation or to ask any questions about our wide range of treatments designed to renew, rejuvenate, and revitalize. 

Article References:

  1. SR;, Fakhouri T;Yentzer BA;Feldman. “Advancement in Benzoyl Peroxide-Based Acne Treatment: Methods to Increase Both Efficacy and Tolerability.” Journal of Drugs in Dermatology : JDD, U.S. National Library of Medicine, 2009, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/19588642/.
  2. T;, Arif. “Salicylic Acid as a Peeling Agent: a Comprehensive Review.” Clinical, Cosmetic and Investigational Dermatology, U.S. National Library of Medicine, 2015, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26347269/.
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