Benzoyl Peroxide VS Salicylic Acid: Which One Should You Use?

by Gio
salicylic acid vs benzoyl peroxide

Thought acne would disappear once you’d turn 20?

Sometimes, it does. Other times, it stays with you long after that. No matter what you do, it stubbornly refuses to leave your face alone.

Oh, why can’t you just go away, acne?

If it doesn’t get the message alone, you need a bouncer to show it the door (and keep it out). The best candidates for the job?

Benzoyl Peroxide and Salicylic Acid.

Their CVs say they’re both good at getting rid of acne. But, they have slightly different skills and do the job in different ways. Which one gets the job depends on your specific needs.

Which one is better for you? Let’s start the benzoyl peroxide vs salicylic acid showdown to find out:

Benzoyl Peroxide Is Better At Treating Acne

Why Is Good At Treating Acne?

Benzoyl Peroxide is one of the most effective acne treatments available. Fact.

It works thanks to its peeling action: it exfoliates skin, getting rid both of the dead cells on its surface, and the dirt and sebum that’s clogging your pores.

Once all that crap is out of the way, your pores never get clogged up enough to erupt in breakouts. Plus, P.Acnes. the bacteria that causes acne, feeds on these dead cells. The fewer it has to eat, the weaker its gets.

Talking about bacteria, Benzoyl Peroxide can reach P. Acnes even when it’s hiding deep into your pores and kill it.

The best part? Unlike with antibiotics, there’s no risk of bacterial resistance. It won’t stop working in a year or two.

Are There Any Side Effects?

Yes, all the most powerful skincare ingredients do. It’s the other side of the coin, I guess.

Benzoyl peroxide has two major side effects:

  • Irritation: if you have sensitive or dry skin, you may not be able to use it all
  • Free radicals: when it kills P.Acnes, it generates free radicals, the molecules that cause wrinkles

That’s why you should use small doses (2.5% is more than enough) only on the areas affected by acne. This is definitely not something you want to slather all over your face, trust me!

Best Picks:

  • Paula’s Choice Clear Regular Strength Daily Skin Clearing Treatment with 2.5% Benzoyl Peroxide ($18.00): available at Dermstore and Paula’s Choice.
  • Proactive & Proactiv+ Pore Targeting Treatment ($42.00): available at Sephora and Ulta.

Salicylic acid Is Better At Preventing Acne

Why Is It Good At Treating Acne?

Salicylic acid, a.k.a BHA (Beta Hydroxy Acid), is an exfoliating acid derived from the bark of the willow tree.

Like benzoyl peroxide, salicylic acid exfoliates skin too: it unclogs the pores and gets rid of the dull, dead skin cells that accumulate on its surface. This starves P.Acne and prevents breakouts.

Benzoyl Peroxide also has anti-bacterial properties that soothe irritations and reduce redness.

BUT, its antibacterial properties are weak. In other words, it’s not a good bacterial killer like Benzoyl Peroxide.

Are There Any Side Effects?

Yep. Let’s be clear: Salicylic Acid is a lot gentler than benzoyl peroxide, BUT it can still cause some mild dryness.

If that happens to you, cut back and use it only three times a week or so.

Best Picks:

Related: Salicylic Acid: Why It’s Key To Keeping Oily Skin Spot-Free

Benzoyl Peroxide VS Salicylic Acid: Which One Should You Use?

Salicylic acid is better for prevention, benzoyl peroxide for cure. Start with salicylic acid and, if your acne’s really stubborn, upgrade to benzoyl peroxide (if you have sensitive skin, you may want to stick to benzoyl peroxide anyway).

What are your thoughts on the benzoyl peroxide vs salicylic acid debate? Share your thoughts and what you’re currently using below.



Kaolee Hoyle July 6, 2010 - 6:24 pm

I am a die-hard fan of Benzoyl Peroxide. My face used to flare up, especially right before my period. It was so stressful dealing with the acne and the after effects of it. Finally, I was reading a particular book (can’t remember now), but the book was talking about benzoyl peroxide and about how many people use it after they see acne, but it is best to use benzoyl as a preventive care ointment. After I read that, I head straight to Target and bought myself the Neutrogena benzoyl peroxide and applied a very thin layer to my t-zone. I’ve been doing that for over 3 years now and my face has dramatically changed. I am just a big fan of Benzoyl Peroxide. My face stays clear all month long.

I definitely recommend trying Benzoyl Peroxide as a preventive ointment. When you put on your face, just put a thin layer and rub it into your skin. It dries your skin out so I suggest using it every other night until your skin gets used to it. Also, there’s 2.5% and 10%. I suggest using 2.5% first and then if you want to, go up to 10%. I use the 10% Target up & up brand now because it is a little cheaper than Neutrogena’s, but the 2.5% was definitely A+ plus too!

Hope that helps! Email me for any info.

beautifulwithbrains July 6, 2010 - 7:56 pm

Kaolee, thank you for sharing your experience. I’m glad Benzoyl Peroxide works so well for you and has improved your condition greatly. And thanks for the tips, I agree with you. Benzoyl Peroxide is effective at treating acne but can be drying and your skin can take a while to get used to it so it’s definitely better to start with low concentrations. They’re effective too. 🙂

Dao July 6, 2010 - 6:37 pm

BP works really well on my skin. Salicylic acid doesn’t do anything significant. One thing: make sure you don’t use BP and anti-oxidants at the same time. They negate each other.

beautifulwithbrains July 6, 2010 - 8:01 pm

Dao, I’m glad BP works for you. I think Salicylic Acid is a better option for those that have sensitive skin or very mild acne. But if your skin can tolerate BF, that’s more effective as it doesn’t just exfoliate skin but kills the bacteria that cause acne as well. And thanks for the tip. You’re right, those ingredients shouldn’t be used together. 🙂

Nea/ Fashioned in Finland July 7, 2010 - 8:29 am

Very interesting post! I’ve bought salisylic acid products for my husband but I think I’ll get that PB later.

beautifulwithbrains July 7, 2010 - 12:49 pm

Nea, I hope Salicylic Acid works well for your husband. BP is stronger and more effective but not everyone can tolerate ir. But if one can, it’s a good treatment for acne.

jen July 18, 2010 - 5:24 pm

I just changed from using BP to SA in the past few weeks. BP worked keeping me pretty clear but is so harsh on my skin. My skin looks better with SA but I haven’t stopped breaking out on my jawline. I want to give SA a chance because it is less irritating and drying but the breakouts are worse than I’ve ever had. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

beautifulwithbrains July 19, 2010 - 11:17 am

Jen, mm apart from BP and SA unfortunately there is not much else that works. Tea Tree Oil is an effective and less irritating alternative. The only problem is that it’s often included in products in concentrations of 1% which don’t do much. You would need a higher does (about 5%) to see the benefits. Or maybe you can try to use BP only on your breakouts and SA on the rest of the face? Hope this helps.

charley girl September 7, 2010 - 5:26 pm

hi .. im a young girl and i have tanned skin and i have inflammed red skin around my nose and a few pimples on my chin … around my nose and lips and some on my forehead.. just basically the T ZONE and i want something that will fade the redness and help my blemishes although i dont want it to exfoliate my tanned skin as i love being tanned .. but i dont want a red nose and red areas around my nose ..any help anyone 🙂 helps greatly appreciated 🙂

beautifulwithbrains September 8, 2010 - 7:35 pm

charley girl, if you need something for pimples benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid would be the best option. They are exfoliants but if you want to preserve your tan you could use them any other day. That would make the tan fade slower but of course the blenishes would take a bit mor to heal.

As for the redness, I’m not sure what to suggest as I don’t know what caused it. If it’s due to the sun, then exfoliating may irritate your skin more. If it is a condition like rosaca instead it is better to opt for products with anti-inflammatory ingredients and avoid exfoliants as well. Hope this helps.

Peaceudo December 30, 2010 - 5:53 am

I heard somewhere that it is damaging to the skin to use Benzoyl P. for extended period of time. I forgot why and I forgot if this applies to S. Acid. If anyone can find a source for me, I’d appreciate it!


beautifulwithbrains December 30, 2010 - 9:39 am

Peaceudo, I remember reading on a website a while ago (can’t remember which one but I can have a look for you if you want to) that Benzoyl Peroxide generates free radicals and using it for a prolonged period of time can cause premature aging. They didn’t provide any evidence though nor link to any scientific studies or research supporting their claim and even though I looked, I couldn’t find any either. The Beauty Brains (link on my blogroll) also say it is safe and doesn’t cause premature aging so I wouldn’t worry about it.

As far as I know, it doesn’t apply to Salicylic Acid, so if you’re really worried about BP, SA would be a good alternative.

Kayle February 5, 2011 - 3:59 pm

Benzoyl Peroxide din’t help me with my acne/pimples.

Salcylic acid worked for me. There was absolutely less break out. Although, your blackheads or whiteheads somehow thickens but falls off when you try to rub your fingers gently.

beautifulwithbrains February 5, 2011 - 7:52 pm

Kayle, I’m glad to hear Salicylic Acid helped with your breakouts. It works so well at keeping the pores clean so that pores won’t get clogged with oil and dirt and cause problems.

Eli February 16, 2011 - 8:23 pm

Really, I’m confused. I’ve been using products with salicylic acid all my life, to practically no purpose. Now I’ve made a little research into benzoyl peroxyde, because I found a product wth 5 % of it, that claims to fight acne. But… half the people whose opinions I read were terrible, about itching, flaking, stinging and burning, the other half were very happy with it. I don’t know what to do…

beautifulwithbrains February 16, 2011 - 8:51 pm

Eli, Benzoyl Peroxide is very effective ingredient against acne but it is also pretty harsh (and that’s probably why it works so well). Some people can tolerate it well, while others, especially those with sensitive skin, can’t and will instead experience stinging, flaking and burning. Unfortunately, there is no way of knowing how your skin is going to react to it until you try.

If acne is a problem for you and Salicylic Acid doesn’t help, then trying Benzoyl Peroxide may be a good idea. You can start by using products with very low concentrations of BA on alternate days to give your skin time to get used to it. Some flakiness and dryness is normal at the beginning but if you use it in moderation and after a couple of weeks these symptoms haven’t passed, then discount its use.

Hope this helps.

Eli February 17, 2011 - 10:21 am

Thanks, to start with a lower concentration is a good advice. If I can’t find, I will test the 5% first behind my ear for a couple f days to see what the reaction will be.

beautifulwithbrains February 17, 2011 - 1:47 pm

Eli, you’re welcome. I hope it works for you. 🙂

Maria July 7, 2011 - 4:14 pm

I’m trying to figure out how to help my 13 year old with blemishes, mostly triggered by her period. We’ve tried various products. Currently she’s using Juice Beauty, which is an organic regimen, with salicylic acid. She’s been on it for almost 30 days, and it seemed to be working well, until that time of the month started rolling around. Now she’s getting about 2 new pimples per day (and that adds up!) I’ve been reading this discussion, and wonder if she should try a BP product next (Neutrogena?). Several people have recommended alternating days at first, since BP is more harsh, until you can gauge the reaction. My question is: should she use her SA/anti-oxidant product on the off days?

beautifulwithbrains July 7, 2011 - 8:02 pm

Maria, Benzoyl Peroxide can definitely help in clearing up the blemishes. It is best to use it every other day at first because it is pretty harsh and skin needs time to get used to it but I wouldn’t use SA on the off days. Both of these ingredients together could be too strong a combination and do more harm than good. Products with antioxidants, instead, can be used with BP without problems.

However, if the problem is hormonal, BP (and SA too) can only cure the symptoms, not the cause, hence why SA was working well until that time of the month. I would suggest you consult a doctor to know if the contraceptive pill may be a good solution to regulate her hormones, avoiding blemishes to occur when she has her period. I understand you may not be comfortable with this considering her young age, but a doctor will know if it is a suitable solution for her age or if there are other, more suitable, treatments to regulate her hormones.

Doka-chan July 11, 2011 - 9:59 pm

I really hope you don’t give your child birth control at age of 13 just for pimples. That stuff is known to cause a lot of issues in GROWN women let alone someone who is just now developing.

I recommend you guys start monitoring her oil intake. During this time of the month, the hormones release oils to your skin. If you’re eating healthy oils full of anti-oxidants and omegas, the pimple thing won’t be a problem. If you’re eating fast food, hydrogenated oils (most plant oils in the store and processed foods), etc, pimples are GUARANTEED.

I just started replacing cooking oil with coconut oil (unrefined), olive oil (the one from walmart which is not the best but better than the vegetable oil they sell), and putting flaxseed oil on my salads and treats to ensure I get proper omegas and fill my body with healthy fats instead of the terrible fats prevalent in american diets today.

beautifulwithbrains July 12, 2011 - 6:31 am

Doka-chan, I’ve never heard of the pill causing problems for grown-up women but I do think that 13 may be too young to start taking it which is why I recommended going to a doctor to find out more about it. A doctor will know if it is a suitable option or if there are better ones.

Eating an healthy diet is always beneficial both for our health and looks. 🙂

josh August 9, 2011 - 2:37 am

what if i use a SA product with a BA product. for example Clinque has a 3 step system and the 1st step is just a cleaner with 1.5% SA and after would use my 5% BP wash. would that be ok

beautifulwithbrains August 9, 2011 - 6:43 am

Josh, these too ingredients are usually too strong to be used together but if the SA is in a cleanser then I think it will just end up down the drain and there shouldn’t be any problems (SA in cleansers doesn’t really do much). I guess you could give it a go and see how it works.

styles September 1, 2011 - 10:29 pm

so i started using sa bout 3 wks ago i am getting less big zits but noticing more blackhead, and then these clog up and turn into zits, should i stick with it? and can i use sa and bp at the same time?

beautifulwithbrains September 2, 2011 - 5:58 am

Styles, I’m sorry to hear that. I had never heard of sa causing blackhead and clogging pores (usually side effects include redness and flaking, something stinging). It actually exfoliates the pores from the inside so it should keep them unclogged. Are you sure it’s sa the culprit and not some other ingredient in the product? In any case, stop using it now. It’s better not to use SA and BP together as that combination could be too strong for skin and cause irritations.

styles September 2, 2011 - 7:45 pm

like no i mean they clog when i try and mash them, i heard sa makes the stuff under the skin come up, is that true? and how long does this take? And every now and then i get some zits hard to get rid of, any ideas how to get rid of it?

beautifulwithbrains September 4, 2011 - 8:16 pm

Styles, SA exfoliates both inside the pore, keeping it clean and preventing build up which can turn into zits, and also the surface of the skin. Products with SA do help keep skin clear and prevent breakouts, unless you have a more severe case of acne, in which case BP may be a better option.

styles September 2, 2011 - 8:10 pm

And what products would you say to use?? like does clean and clear work?

beautifulwithbrains September 4, 2011 - 8:20 pm

Styles, Clarifying Night Cream by ProActiv Solution and Oil-Free Acne Stress Control 3-In-1 Hydrating Acne Treatment by Neutrogena are two good options that contain SA. Hope this helps.

Adrienne September 26, 2011 - 4:43 pm

I just started on SA, it is the first time and my pimples are drying . Am I supposed to only use it on every second days or second week? I am oily and sensetive.

beautifulwithbrains September 26, 2011 - 6:49 pm

Adrienne, that depends on your skin. Usually, it is recommended you start using it every other day, but if you notice that that irritates your skin, use it once every few days. Hope this helps.

Martin Isaksson October 14, 2011 - 11:36 pm

I have been using Avene (with salicylic acid) cleanser and since I wanted to get completely rid of my pimples I started using benzac (5% BP). So here is my question: is it good/safe to first wash my face with Avene and then apply Benzac?

beautifulwithbrains October 16, 2011 - 7:30 pm

Martin, hello.

Salicylic Acid in a cleanser doesn’t really do much as it’ll just end up down the drain when you rinse it off. Because of that, I don’t really think that using Benzac afterwards would cause any problems.

abhi October 21, 2011 - 1:27 am

Thank you so much for this post! I’ve been using the much-hyped Neutrogena Acne wash (with SA content of 2%). Although it did seem to work in the beginning, I now find that it isn’t any better than an ordinary facial wash- except that my face now bears an even-toned look perhaps due to the peeling action that you’ve described. Let me switch to BA and see how it works. From your post, it seems to me that BA does not work if used solely as a cleanser- is that correct? Perhaps I could even try rubbing on some of the Acne Wash on my face before going to bed (it doesn’t lather) and see if that works.

beautifulwithbrains October 21, 2011 - 3:55 pm

Abhi, I’m glad that your skintone looks more even now. But I’m afraid that no ingredient, apart from the detergents of course, actually do much when used in a cleanser simply because they don’t stay on the skin long enough before being rinsed off and ending up down the drain. If the concentration of the ingredient is high enough and is massaged on the skin for a whole minute or more, then they will provide some benefits. Although, if you want to use BA or SA, I do recommend to invest in a good leave-in product as that’ll give you better results, and sooner soon.

Jimi October 25, 2011 - 1:30 pm

I find the cleanser to be a very important part of fighting my acne. However most of the SA cleansers out there irritate my skin too much making things worse. Soaps and face washes don’t work. If I don’t clean my face at least twice a day my skin feels dirty and looks oily. The one product that works the best for me is spectro acne gel. I’m not sure what’s in it but it works wonders for the oil production of my skin and makes it feel (and look) really nice and clean. I also use 2.5 BP (I believe the low concentration is key) before bed with a spectro moisturizer. I think I’ve finally found a regimen that works 🙂 only problem is sticking to I with all the school work :S
P.s. I find the 2.5% BP is hard to find in Canada so I usually buy it when I’m in the states but I recently noticed that spectro also has a 2.5% cream sold here too. Just a tip for the canadian readers 😀

beautifulwithbrains October 25, 2011 - 6:35 pm

Jimi, I’m so glad you have found a skincare regimen that works for you, although I know it’s not always easy sticking to it when you’re busy with school work. And thanks for sharing this useful tip, I’m sure it’ll be really handy for my Canadian readers.

Hilda October 26, 2011 - 7:09 am

I have both BP(neutrogena) and SA(kiehl’s) products. I used to use SA but it was not effective for me so I started using BP. I just found out (by reading this article and everyones comments) that BP is better for prevention so I’m going to use a thin layer all over my trouble areas!! I’m thinking of using SA during day time under my makeup see if it works while working with BP at night. I kept on using BP on new and painful blemishes but it never seemed to work (it just dried the skin around it and it didn’t get rid of the pimple) !! 🙁 I’ve read that exercising can also be very effective for your skin so I’m going to start working out more often!

I dont know why I started getting acne at the age of 21! In high school, I barely ever broke out and I used to brag about it to my friends haha! But now I started getting acne around my jaw line and I have ridiculously large pores all over my face!!!!! ahhh I’m so frustrated I have no idea what to do 🙁 and I wear makeup almost every single day just to cover up my blemishes and acne scars. I know makeup is not helping my skin either but I’m so embarrassed to go out without it!

If anyone has any other suggestions or has similar problems as I do please let me know what I should do!

Heather December 14, 2011 - 10:25 pm

Jawline acne is mostly caused by an allergic reaction to dairy products. If they’re deep, one-on-top-of-the-other pimples that itch, it’s dairy. You may have developed an allergy to it that you didn’t have before. I stopped eating dairy (it’s in nearly everything, so read your ingredients) and my jawline acne is gone. Hormonal acne can mimic it to some degree, but it will also be around your mouth, more spread out and not so deeply imbedded and painful.

beautifulwithbrains December 15, 2011 - 9:17 am

Heather, thanks for sharing your experience. I’m glad that eliminating diary from your diet has solved the problem, although it must be a bit frustrating at times as, as you said, it’s everywhere these days.

beautifulwithbrains October 26, 2011 - 6:18 pm

Hilda, I’m sufferto hear you have acne. Using SA during the day and BP at night would be a good idea. They will help keep your pores unclogged and BP will kill the bacteria that causes it too. Also, using a gentle cleanser also helps reduce oily skin and acne without drying skin. And if BP doesn’t work on your blemishes, maybe you can try Tea Tree Oil? Make sure you get a product with a high concentration of it though or it won’t work. Hope this helps.

Searching November 6, 2011 - 5:40 am

Hi, I’ve been using st Ives facial cleaner with SA & it seems to have worked for me for a couple years. But I still have blackheads & related minor breakout bumps at times. Would you have any suggestions tho on what to use for the treatment of blackheads & what products to use for this & similar minor breakouts? Also do u have a reccomendation of a moisturizor? When I look for such products I am totally lost. We have too many available. =P Thanks.

beautifulwithbrains November 6, 2011 - 9:41 pm

Searching, I’m glad the St Ives facial cleanser works best for you. For your blackheads, I’d suggest you use a leave-in exfoliant with SA (it’ll work better if it stays on the skin for a longer time) or tea tree oil.

Looking for a moisturizer is hard indeed. There are too many options indeed. I don’t really know what your skin type is so I’m not sure what to suggest. You say you have blackheads and breakouts at times so I guess it’s oily or combination? Until I know more, I can only advice you to try one that’s not too emollient or greasy or it may make your problem worse..

Searching November 8, 2011 - 3:17 am

Thank u for the suggestions. I cannot say I’ve heard of a leave in exfoliant, & I’ve done my share of staring aimlessly at the products stores have to offer. I will look again & I appreciate the suggestion of tea tree oil. My skin is combination. I have the same luck with moisturisor as I do acne\blackhead medicine, much time spent lost looking in the aisles. I appreciate your input. Thanks!

beautifulwithbrains November 8, 2011 - 2:31 pm

Searching, you are welcome. Paula’s Choice has some good leave-in exfoliants with BHA such as their 1% Beta Hydroxy Acid Lotion or Gel. Or just look for serums/gels with SA. Tea Tree Oil works well too.

Talking about moisturizers, have you tried Clinique Dramatically Different Moisturizing Gel? That works well for combination skin. Hope this helps.

JODIE POLIFKA November 14, 2011 - 10:07 pm

my brother has psoriosis ALL OVER HIS BODY…….WHAT SHOULD HE DO????????????????? FOR TEN YEARS

beautifulwithbrains November 15, 2011 - 6:38 pm

Jodie, I’m sorry to hear that. There are several treatment for psoriasis:phototheraphy, lasers, topical retinoids and other prescription products… but I think your brother should consult a doctor as soon as possible so that he/she can prescribe the best treatment for him.

Amber November 19, 2011 - 3:54 am

I actually have very mild acne and very sensitive skin. I’ve found SA doesn’t work one bit to clear my skin up. I have found the only product that works is Clean and Clear’s advantage 3 in 1 exfoliating cleanser. It has 5 percent Benzoyl peroxide in it. I had a product with SA in it, the 2.5 percent stuff, and it never cleared my skin up. I think BP is the best, but that’s just for me.

beautifulwithbrains November 20, 2011 - 9:04 pm

Amber, I’m glads that you’ve found a product that works well for your sensitive, acne prone skin. Thanks for sharing your experience.

samantha November 25, 2011 - 1:12 pm


My GP has recently prescribed me with BP 2.5% to use as a cream – I have been using this now for around 3 days, applying it mostly at night as it is too drying for the day. I have noticed my face breaking out into several tiny whiteheads when i wake up in the morning – is this normal when it is first used? I dont know whether to just carry on for a few weeks to see if this settles down – my partner seems to think it is the BP pushing all of the clogged pores to the surface of my face but im not so sure. I am applying moisturiser around 5 minutes after the BP to keep my face from drying out completely – could this be causing a reaction?
Any suggestions greatly appreciated – i dont want to give up on it already as everybody else seems to be raving about it!
Thanks x

beautifulwithbrains November 25, 2011 - 7:10 pm

Samantha, hi. BP is quite a harsh ingredient and, when you first start to use it, it can irritate skin, causing dryness and breakouts. Give your skin a week or so to get used to it and if by then you still get whiteheads, then you may wanna stop the treatment. Hope this helps.

Eileen November 27, 2011 - 3:47 pm

Hi, I just came back from the UK about a month ago and pimples on my face started to appear so i used BP 5%, however once applied my face gets all itchy and flaky. I’ve been using BP a month already and my pimples do seem to get worse, red and inflamed. Should i switch to SA instead?

Thanks x

beautifulwithbrains November 27, 2011 - 8:51 pm

Eileen, hi! It’s normal to have a bad reaction when you first use BP as it’s quite harsh and your skin needs time to get used to it. But if your skin is still red and inflamed after a month, then I think it’s best to stop the treatment and try SA instead.

Nick November 29, 2011 - 12:49 am


I have been using a Neutrogena (3.7% BP) facial scrub regularly for a good period of time. I have been back and forth between SA and BP scrubs for years, and I’ve never really noticed a definitive difference. If any, the only slight difference I notice is that my face feels a little more clean after using a BP scrub. Through my usage of both products my breakouts have reduced, but the bumps and occasional whiteheads persist. I decided to try something different today. I used a 3.7% BP scrub to wash my face and then applied a 2% SA toner with a cottonball and let it dry, like the directions said. Is this a good way to go in order to reduce the amount of bumps and occurences of whiteheads?

Thanks a lot!

beautifulwithbrains November 29, 2011 - 3:13 pm

Nick, hello. Both SA and BP need to stay on the skin to be effective so if the scrubs you used were rinse-off products, then the reason why you didn’t see a big improvement is probably cos they didn’t have enough time to work properly. A toner (and any other product) that doesn’t need to be rinsed away will work much better and I think your new regimen will prove more effective indeed.

SC December 12, 2011 - 11:33 pm

I recently purchased a BP cleanser and also a salicylic acid astringent that is to be left on after application. From my understanding the effects of the BP will be minimal due to it being rinsed off. That being the case, would it be a good idea to use both the cleanser and the astringent daily?

I have another question regarding the BP cleanser – I’ve noticed in earlier comments that antioxidants are not to be used simultaneously with BP as it is counterproductive. I have been using sweet almond oil to moisturize my face and help with dark circles under my eyes; sweet almond oil is high in Vitamin E. Wil this interfere with my BP cleanser?

beautifulwithbrains December 13, 2011 - 7:10 am

SC, BP in a cleanser doesn’t really do much as it just ends up down the drain when you rinse everything off so I don’t think using with a leave-in SA product would be a problem. And because the cleanser is applied before the sweet almond oil, I doubt there’ll be any left on your skin to interfere with it. Hope this helps.

Dawn December 14, 2011 - 5:16 am

I previously used salicylic acid and it did work, just not as much as I wished it would. I remember my chin being almost flawless while using it though, cheeks were a problem area. So I switched to bp. Bp is helping with the acne on my cheeks but now my chin is full of acne. What if I use bp on my cheeks and salicylic acid on my chin?

beautifulwithbrains December 14, 2011 - 7:29 am

Dawn, that’s just what I was going to suggest. There shouldn’t be any problems with using each ingredient on a different area.

maria December 18, 2011 - 9:35 pm

i talked to someone with murad (chatting) and she told me NO to use Benzoyl Peroxide and Salicylic acid together she did not say why but she said dont do it!

She did not ask me if i was having trouble with those products ( i was not) but she acted like PLEASE DONT do that, stop using those two products together) What is the scientific answer i am sure it is one, i have been looking for one but no luck yet. Can someone really can explain with scientific info why no to use those two products together? Or the lady from Murad website is crazy!!!!

beautifulwithbrains December 18, 2011 - 10:04 pm

Maria, these ingredients are both harsh, especially BP, so using them together can actually irritate skin and make things worse. If you really want to use both of them, I’d suggest to use one in the morning and the other at night. But using one at a time is usually best for skin.

maria December 19, 2011 - 6:10 pm

Ok, thank you for the input i stopped using them at the same time now, I will use only Salicylic Acid in my cleanser and repairing lotion.

thank you once again.

beautifulwithbrains December 19, 2011 - 6:59 pm

Maria, you’re welcome. I’m glad I could help. 🙂

Adam January 3, 2012 - 12:34 pm

I have recently gotten this AcneFree severe acne kit with the washes and lotions and I am on the fence with it. I haven’t used it yet, the BP and SA dilemma has me thinking. It seems the overall consensus is that BP is better and that is what the face wash in the kit is. I want to be able to use something and just stick with it. I honestly usually just use the green Irish Spring on my face but once in a while I get a little breakout and being 28 yrs old its not to cool. So, with that being said should I open this AnceFree kit and just start a schedule for face cleansing? Its a new year and it would be so nice to not have to worry about the occasional breakout and just have skin I don’t have to worry about. It can be such a insecurity, and I don’t want to be subsided on life due to a breakout, but the self- conscience feelings I would really like to leave in 2011. Any input would be great, there is just so many face washes and being a dude, I walk as fast as possible down the lotion and face wash aisle, its all to confusing and seems like a scientific equation to just get a face wash that works good. Reason being I got this box with 4 different things. Hopefully its all I need. Any input or opinions would be greatly appreciated. Thank you for your time and reading this comment Thank you!

beautifulwithbrains January 4, 2012 - 5:03 pm

Adam, I know how you feel. It’s really important to choose the right products so that breakouts will be a thing of the past. I don’t really know enough about the kit you purchased to be able to say how effective it is, it just depends on the ingredients really. I wouldn’t say BP is better than SA though. BP is stronger and thus more suitable to more severe cases. If you only have occasional breakouts, SA may be enough for you. However, both ingredients don’t really do much in a cleanser. That’s because cleansers are rinse-off products so when you wash them off your face, these ingredients will end up down the drain while, to be effective, they should remain on the skin. Some dermatologists recommend to massage the face wash on your skin for 5 minutes before rinsing it off to make the most out of ingredients such as BP, but even this method doesn’t work as well as leave-in products. So I just recommend you invest in a good lotion or serum with either SA and BP (does the kit you bought include those?). As for cleansers, it doesn’t really matter that much which one you use, as long as it is gentle and removes dirt and other impurities without irritating skin.

Princessa January 9, 2012 - 8:05 am

hi, ive been using BP for a year now, it cleared my acne up so well, but suddenly im so flaky and dry that BP has been breaking me out because its too drying and harsh. ive tried moisturizing, but that didnt help too much? i cant stop using BP, its my holy grail, help!? PS: its winter; cud that be impacting my skin?

beautifulwithbrains January 9, 2012 - 9:20 am

Princessa, I’m sorry to hear BP is causing problems for your skin, especially after working so well for you. The cold winter weather can contribute to dry skin so that may be a factor. Keep using a moisturizer twice a day and soon you’ll be some improvement. Also, if you don’t want to stop using BP, you can switch to a product that has a smaller concentration of it. In alternative, you can keep using your current product, but less frequently (every other day for instance). Hope this helps.

ADS January 12, 2012 - 1:23 am

I just started using a BP product/face wash after using a ton of SA products. None of the SA products seemed to do much.

question is, with the BP products, i also wanted to use witch hazel for my oily skin.

Is there any issue using both? Will one negate the other? if not, in what order should i use each?


beautifulwithbrains January 12, 2012 - 7:11 am

ADS, I’m sorry SA didn’t do much for you. I don’t think there is any problem in using both BP and Witch Hazel. About the order, I would personally use a toner with Witch Hazel and then a leave-in treatment with BP. Hope this helps.

Adam January 12, 2012 - 10:45 am

thank you very much for your response, i found it very informative. The kit did actually come with a lotion that is 2.5% BP. I have been putting that on, but just a real little bit and it seems to be doing pretty good. I have also been massaging in the face wash stuff and it even makes my face feel clean when i’m done. Than a little lotion and rock and roll. You have made something that seemed to be such a daunting task into something very simple and now just an extra couple seconds after the shower and I can feel the difference! On behalf of everyone one else who looks down the face wash aisle and sees a labyrinth of products, Thank you for your time and helping with the questions that I now feel I have some crucial knowledge of and feel comfortable using.

beautifulwithbrains January 12, 2012 - 7:05 pm

Adam, you’re welcome. I’m glad your new routine is working well for you and that I could help. 🙂

Jean January 23, 2012 - 1:57 am

I was suffering an ugly whitehead on the edge of my lip, and ran across this article. 🙂 The whitehead just.. fell off today, and the area no longer hurt. It took 2 days for this to happen. I used an SA wash 2 times a day in the area and a 10% BP cream on the zit itself 3 times a day. It hurt, and it felt drying, but I stuck with it.

Today, the whitehead just fell off (like it detached itself) and there’s just my skin with what looks like a big hole. It no longer hurts to touch it. I’m going to continue my plan and hope it heals quickly with no scarring.

So for me, using both SA and BP is what did the trick. To prevent them, I’m going to stick to some sort of acne wash, even though I have normal skin. (The last time I had a whitehead was almost half a decade ago, hence I don’t know how to deal with them).

Good article – thanks a lot for the breakdown! 🙂

beautifulwithbrains January 23, 2012 - 7:02 am

Jean, you’re welcome. I’m glad this article helped you to find a good way to get rid of your whitehead. 🙂

Faye April 3, 2012 - 9:53 pm

Hey, great article!
I heard/read more than once to not mix BP and SA together because it will make you break out. But I’ve read people’s regimen where they use a BP face wash and an SA lotion or cleansing pads right after. Is it bad? Good? What do you think of using a BP face wash and an SA lotion or cleansing pads at the same time??

beautifulwithbrains April 4, 2012 - 7:40 am

Faye, personally I don’t think it is a good idea because both ingredients are harsh and used together they can be very irritating. Having said that, everyone’s skin is different so I think that using them together could work for some people. But if you wanna use both ingredients, it’d still be better to apply one in the morning and the other at night as they’re less likely to cause a negative reaction in this way. Hope this helps.

Faye April 4, 2012 - 9:04 pm

🙂 Thanks, I myself came to the same conclusion and just wanted a second opinion.

beautifulwithbrains April 5, 2012 - 5:44 am

You’re welcome. 🙂

dan April 5, 2012 - 11:08 pm

hi there.
I’ve had some whiteheads on my chin area for sometime now but recently, some of them started swelling reddish on by one after I got up from bed in the morning for the past few days. I have BP, SA and tretinoin (stieva a) at home. Do you know which one will work the best?
(Also, on the side note: is using dalacin T(Clindamycin phosphate) along with BP or SA too harsh for my skin?)

beautifulwithbrains April 6, 2012 - 7:16 pm

Dan, hi. BP, SA and Tretinoin should all work well but how well depends on your skin. We are all different and what works for one person may not work well for another. Personally, I would start with the ingredients that’s less harsh (SA) and if that doesn’t work, I’d switch to BP and then Tretinoin.

Dalacin T can be used together with BP or SA, but no one can tell you if that combination will be too harsh for you until you try it. If you find it too harsh, you can always use one in the morning and the other at night. Hope this helps.

Jack April 16, 2012 - 11:38 pm

Hi I’ve tried lots of products in infinite combinations both bp and SA. Nothing is clearing it up. I was just wondering what product seems to be the most effective you’ve heard about? Specifically what brand and kind of treatment works best for clearing up and preventing moderate acne. Thanks!!

beautifulwithbrains April 17, 2012 - 7:16 pm

Jack, I’m sorry to hear you can’t seem to find a product that works well for you. Benzoyl peroxide is considered to be the most effective over the counter treatment for acne, so if that doesn’t work, I’d suggest you consult a dermatologist who will be able to prescribe either some topical antibiotics or tretinoin.

Julie April 25, 2012 - 6:29 am

Hi, I’m 22, and ‘ve got lots of white pores (they are not inflamed) on one side of my face and the sides of the chin area. I’ve being using Benzac AC 2.5% gel on my face twice a day for 3 weeks, and it has made my skin exfoliate which is good, but I’m not sure if it will clear them up if I keep using it for a couple of months. Thanks in advance

beautifulwithbrains April 25, 2012 - 7:36 pm

Julie, after 3 weeks of regular use, your skin should have started to clean up a little bit. If that’s the case, keep using the product as it will solve the problem. Otherwise, I would consult a dermatologist to see what else you can try. Hope this helps.

Julie April 26, 2012 - 11:04 am

The smaller ones look a bit better. The big ones are still there. Apparently, no one else can see it except me…I forgot to say that some parts of my face is bumpy, and I was wondering if it will help if I keep using it for at least a number of weeks. Thanks for your reply 🙂

beautifulwithbrains April 26, 2012 - 8:51 pm

I’m not really sure what you mean when you say bumpy, but if it has helped with the smaller ones, then I’d keep using it for a few more weeks and see how that goes. 🙂

Nadya May 5, 2012 - 9:26 pm

I have problems with acnes, I’m using products with SA and so far it is going good but not great, but my bigger problem is the scars that remained from the acne. Any suggestions how to deal with this problem?

beautifulwithbrains May 6, 2012 - 7:13 pm

Nadia, there are several treatments for acne scars. One is glycolic acid peels. However, the amount of Glycolic Acid in OTC products is really small and may not work that well so I would suggest you have them done by a dermatologist who can use a higher concentration of it. Other treatments include microdermabrasion and laser therapies, but these too are performed by a dermatologist. Hope this helps.

cholo May 6, 2012 - 2:59 pm

BP worked for me but not that great but everytime i go cold turkey on BP i break out really bad and when I come running back to BP i seem to have better skin. I really wanna give salicylic a chance cause its less harsh but at the same time I am unsure to give it up cause of the breakouts. so heres my question, I just bought the VMV id acne skin regimen kit and it has Salicylic acid in it can I use both S and BP at the same time?? 🙂

beautifulwithbrains May 6, 2012 - 7:18 pm

Cholo, both ingredients used at the same time can be pretty harsh on the skin, but you can give it a go and see if yours can take it. To reduce the risk of an allergic reaction, though, use one in the morning and the other at night. Hope this helps.

Xcite May 14, 2012 - 6:02 am

Started using SA, first time I start using treatment. Im on my 4th day, after I use SA I feel my skin tightening, and slight itching but it goes away. Not too much pealing. How do I know what level my acne is at. I can’t tell if it’s moderate/mild or strong. Is using a moisturizer after SA necessary? How long should I wait to see any results with SA, so i can switch to BP?

beautifulwithbrains May 14, 2012 - 6:59 pm

Xcite, the difference between mild, moderate and strong acne depends on how many blackheads, cysts and in general lesions you have on your skin. The more you have, the worse your condition is.

As for whether to use a moisturizer, that really depends on your skin. If you feel the need to use a moisturizer afterwards because your skin feel dry or tight, then use it. Otherwise, don’t.

Usually, you need to give a product a month to see how well it works for you, although with SA, you should start seeing some slight improvement after about one or two weeks.

Gelay June 3, 2012 - 4:26 pm

Tnx its help me!

beautifulwithbrains June 4, 2012 - 8:15 am

Gelay, you’re welcome. I’m glad it did.

Hilary June 14, 2012 - 7:21 pm

Hi, I just started using the Aveeno product with SA and Shea. Its a foaming cleanser. I find its working but I am also finding little tiny somewhat itchy white heads just under my bottom lip…I can’t figure out what is happening and there are new ones ever morning. I am wondering if its natural in the beginning to have a bout of more break outs because of it bringing dirt up and out of my pores faster?

beautifulwithbrains June 14, 2012 - 8:59 pm

Hilary, that can sometimes happen. If there was dirt/buildup in your skin, the SA would bring it to surface. In that case, your skin would have broken out anyway, but the SA just made it happen sooner rather than later. I’d keep using it for a few more days and see how things go.

Hilary June 14, 2012 - 9:42 pm

Thanks! I will keep it up 🙂

beautifulwithbrains June 15, 2012 - 5:50 am

Hilary, you’re welcome. 🙂

Suchit June 23, 2012 - 7:30 pm

Hi, my over all face is oilly through out the day especially my fore head & nose. Also my nose is fully covered with Black heads & white heads. This results in pimples, zits 7 acne scars on my nose regularly at the age of 36. i tried using BP 5%, but it results in sever irritation. I have never tried SA…….Please suggest me a treatment which will get rid of this problem.

beautifulwithbrains June 23, 2012 - 9:26 pm

Suchit, if BP doesn’t work for you, then you should try a leave-in product (no cleansers!) with Salicylic Acid instead. Also, wash your face only twice a day, use a lightweight moisturizer and, throughout the day, oil blotters to absorb excess oil. Hope this helps.

Michelle June 24, 2012 - 8:50 am

Hello – thanks so much for the help and advice you give. My 13 yo son is experiencing acne; it has slowly gotten worse over the last month and I really want to help him. He has been using Neutrogena Acne Wash (SA) for about 1 yr and it seemed to keep his skin clear until the last few months. I didn’t realize until reading this that it is just “washing down the sink”. I decided to step it up a bit and he has been using Neutrogena Rapid Clear pads (SA) once a day for nearly 2 weeks, as well as the face wash morning and night. It doesn’t seem to be getting better. He has a lot of forehead bumps, and in the past few days it has spread to his cheeks. The acne isn’t white or blackheads, just mostly a red bumpy-type with the occasional whitehead. Should I keep him on this for a while longer, or just try and switch to BP now? The pads do seem to have a drying effect, but not to a flaking point. Thanks.

beautifulwithbrains June 24, 2012 - 1:00 pm

Michelle, I’m sorry to hear your son has acne. You did well to try a leave-in product with SA as this ingredient in a cleanser doesn’t do much, but I don’t think the Neutrogena pads was the right choice. I’ve googled the ingredient list and the product contains a high concentration of Alcohol Denat which is very drying for the skin, and causes it to produce even more oil. I think you should try switching to a leave-in SA product without alcohol for a couple of weeks and, if you don’t see even a small improvement by then, then try one with BP. Hope this helps.

sarah July 5, 2012 - 3:42 pm


I used to use BP 2.5 on my pimple, but it becomes big, red n at times it wil burst out unknowingly or i have to aqueez it out cos it looks bad, pain n irritateas a lot. after the pimple is gone it leaves a scar on that pimple place.

some times when i use BP on a new small pimple it will shrink and later after few weeks or so it wil come back again.

So can u plz explain me this and why this happens. i dont wanna squeeze pimple but after applying BP i am forced to do tat 🙁 Due to this reason i stopped using BP.

Thanks in advance


beautifulwithbrains July 6, 2012 - 5:44 am

Sarah, I’m not a dermatologist so I’m not sure but I think that BP is simply too harsh for your skin. The scarring I believe is due more to you squeezing the pimple out because it looks bad than to BP itself. Also, if you don’t use BP (although in your case, I believe SA would be a better choice) regularly, I’m not surprised that the pimples will keep coming back. You need to keep skin well-exfoliated and oil production under control to make sure they won’t pop up every now and then. Hope this helps.

Burat July 16, 2012 - 8:19 am

hello, I have an oily nose and open pores on my whole nose(T zone) I having using Garnier Multaction scrub w/ purifying salicic acid but it will helps to get rid my white heads and blackheads on nose?

beautifulwithbrains July 16, 2012 - 6:19 pm

Burat, I’m sorry to hear that. It’s a rinse-off product, isn’t it? Then, I’m afraid it won’t help much. A leave-in product with SA will work much better and faster too.

CB August 17, 2012 - 2:28 am

I am so frustrated with my skin. I’m 23, female, and have had acne every day for the past 12 years. I have super oily I never use a moisterizer. Im afraid it will do more harm. My face is very dry after washing it. then quickly oils up.. I use a gentle wash and then spot treat with sa. I heard bp wad bad for long term use.

beautifulwithbrains August 17, 2012 - 5:52 am

CB, I’m sorry to hear about your skin woes. If your skin is very dry after washing it, then you should switch to an even gentler cleanser. Which one are you using at the moment?
Benzoyl Peroxide is harsher than SA, but I think you should give it a go since the latter isn’t working too well for you. Or you can go to a dermatologist and ask whether you can take some prescription retinoids. That may help too.

Danny September 14, 2012 - 11:24 pm

Im a boy aged 15,, im using clean n clear facewash that contain 0.5% salicylic acid,, i wonder if this product does work??..

beautifulwithbrains September 18, 2012 - 7:27 am

Danny, I’m afraid salicylic acid in a cleanser doesn’t do much because it stays very little on the skin before it’s rinsed off. You should look for a leave-in profuct with this ingredient, it will work much better.

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