Zits always show up at inconvenient times, right before a first date or in the morning of a big interview, so when they do show up you want to zap them ASAP. When it comes to over-the-counter acne treatments, benzoyl peroxide (BPO) and salicylic acid are usually the staples. They both tackle the dirt and bacteria that cause acne, but that’s where the similarities between the super ingredients end. They tackle different problems and work differently, but people often use them interchangeably. We spoke to two experts who explain the difference between these ingredients so you can determine what’s best for your condition and skin type.
What is Benzoyl Peroxide?
“BPO is a topical drug agent capable of killing the p.acne bacteria that can cause acne, ”says Dr. Chytra Anand, cosmetic dermatologist and founder, Kosmoderma Clinics and chief formulator, SkinQ. When applied, it breaks down and releases oxygen, which kills bacteria. Benzoyl peroxide kills bacteria (unlike antibiotics, which only slows their growth), so it has not been shown to contribute to bacterial resistance. “It reduces inflammation and works well on mild to moderate acne, including whiteheads,” she says. It’s best to treat inflammatory acne – the kind it’s red, hot, and painful to the touch, says Dr. Stuti Khare Shukla, cosmetic dermatologist and founder, Elements of Aesthetics Clinics.
It can cause dryness and irritation if you apply too much, so doctors suggest applying a very small amount only to the pimple or inflamed area. Plus, it also fits well in a prescription acne routine. “Benzoyl peroxide works best in combination with retinols and antibiotics like clindamycin,” says Dr. Anand. But it can cause flaking and peeling, so it’s best to hydrate well afterwards. Another word of warning? Keep sun protection nearby. “BPO can give you post-inflammatory pigmentation (especially if you have dry or sensitive skin), so it is advisable to use it only in your PM routine and to really apply sunscreen in the morning,” explains the Dr Shukla. applied only to very dry skin, as the absorption of BPO is increased if the skin is moist and can lead to erythema and irritation.
What is salicylic acid?
Unlike BPO, salicylic acid does not kill bacteria, so it can be used with different products for a complete treatment of your acne. It is a keratolytic and comedolytic beta-hydroxy acid, which means that it dissolves dead skin cells on the surface of the skin, then penetrates the pores, dissolves the oil and breaks up the debris on the skin. inside that can lead to acne. When you apply it to areas prone to whiteheads and blackheads (like the T-zone, cheeks, or nose), it can prevent acne from occurring in the first place. It is very oil soluble, so it can cut the fat on very oily skin to get inside each pore and really work.