The fight between benzoyl peroxide vs salicylic acid always comes up when we talk about treating acne and acne scars. Benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid are considered the best ingredients when it comes to treating adamant acne scars and you might have seen these names on your acne-fighting cleansers or other skincare products.

Benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid, both do the same work, fighting acne but they are different in many ways. They have their pros and cons. 

If you are wondering which one you should choose, benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid then you are at the right place. In this article, you will learn both of their pros cons and which ingredient will suit your skin the best! 

What are Benzoyl Peroxide and Salicylic Acid? 

Before we get into their benefits and side effects it’s important to know what are these ingredients and how do they help in fighting acne? Let us see what they do! 

  • Benzoyl Peroxide 

Benzoyl peroxide is the most effective acne-fighting ingredient. It works best on cystic, red, pus-filled acne and pimples. It removes excess oil and dead skin cells from pores to kill the acne-causing bacteria beneath the skin surface. Benzoyl peroxide is found in various skin products. 

  • Salicylic Acid 

Salicylic acid is a bit different from benzoyl peroxide. It works by exfoliating and increasing cell turnover. This helps in keeping them from building up within the pore. Salicylic acid can be found in many over-the-counter products like chemical peels, cleansers, moisturizers, and any other skincare products. 

Benefits of Using Benzoyl Peroxide and Salicylic Acid on Acne 

When treating acne, both benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid are the best but they work differently and benefit your skin in different ways. Here are some benefits of benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid which can assist you in making your choice about which one to use: 

  • Benzoyl Peroxide

Acne is an adamant skin problem that does not go away easily. Acne needs to be treated the right way to make it go away. Benzoyl peroxide is an antibacterial acid that can attack acne from its roots.

It kills the bacteria thriving in your pores and cleans it thoroughly and calms the inflammation. 

Benzoyl peroxide is available in various products and has different concentrations ranging from 2.5% to 10%. It is more drying than salicylic acid. It also works quickly so if you have an urgent meeting or an unplanned date and suddenly a red noticeable pimple has popped up, you can use benzoyl peroxide to calm it down quickly. Bonus point: It prevents antibiotic resistance too! 

  • Salicylic Acid

The fight between benzoyl peroxide vs salicylic acid might be complicated to understand because they do the same things. But, salicylic acid is a bit different from benzoyl peroxide.

It is a type of beta-hydroxy acid that helps in treating acne by simply exfoliating and dislodging the dead skin cells without clogging pores. It is available in various skincare products and different concentrations ranging from 0.5℅ to 2℅. 

 salicylic acid
Salicylic Acid

Not only does this acid fights acne but also soothes the skin. It isn’t drying like benzoyl peroxide. It is effective, soothes, and calms the skin. Due to its amazing anti-inflammatory properties, it is the best in combating acne.

Many skincare brands include this ingredient in their products because of its anti-clogging and pore-reducing qualities. 

Which One to Choose? Benzoyl Peroxide or Salicylic Acid? 

Deciding between Benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid for acne depends on your acne type. There is mild, moderate, and severe acne and then there are various skin types which means they both act differently on different skin types. 

Benzoyl peroxide is a great bacteria reducer. If you have read and inflamed acne you should try benzoyl peroxide. Whiteheads and zits are common skin troubles and benzoyl peroxide can treat them too. So, if you have a mild type of acne, you should try benzoyl peroxide, preferably with a prescription. 

Salicylic acid can remove dead skin cells, dissolve pore blockages, and soothe the skin. You can use it for your Whiteheads and blackheads. If you have a rough texture with lots of pimples, salicylic acid can be a good choice for you! Plus, they are less irritating than benzoyl peroxide. 

Can I Use Both?

Yes, it is okay to use benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid together. Using these two ingredients together can increase the effectiveness against those stubborn zits. Many acne-focused products include these two ingredients together.

Benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid
Benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid

You can use a salicylic acid cleanser followed by a benzoyl peroxide lotion or vice versa. However, if you experience any irritation or anything wrong with your skin. You should avoid using them. 

What are the Side Effects of Using Benzoyl Peroxide and Salicylic Acid? 

There are several cons of using these two ingredients you should know before applying them to your skin. 

  • Benzoyl Peroxide 

Benzoyl peroxide can cause a lot of problems with sensitive skin. It causes dryness and irritation. Although, the irritation persists for a week or so and it should go away after that.

Irritation can be reduced with mild cleansers and sunscreens. If you have any skin condition, you should ask your doctor before using it. 

  • Salicylic Acid 

Whether it is benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid, irritation happens in both of the ingredients if used improperly. Salicylic acid removes excess oil but it can sometimes remove too much oil making your skin excessively dry.

It can even cause hives, itching, peeling skin, and irritation. So, it is better to have a patch test or doctor consultation before using it. 


Whether it’s benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid, they both have the same goal, treating acne. Although, there are some side effects of these two ingredients too. You can use benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid together to increase the effectiveness. 

You should always perform a patch test before using these two ingredients on your skin. If you have sensitive skin, you should ask a dermatologist before using it on your skin. The side effects include dryness, peeling, and redness. 

Also read- Salicylic Acid Face Wash