Benzoyl Peroxide Vs Salicylic Acid Vs Retinoids For Acne

Benzoyl Peroxide Vs Salicylic Acid Vs Retinoids For Acne

There are many products that address acne, acne scars, and oil control.  They all come in different types of products such as cleansers, exfoliants, serums, masks and creams.  This article addresses the pros and cons of Benzoyl Peroxide vs Salicylic Acid vs Retinoids for Acne.  Although Benzoyl Peroxide, Salicylic Acid and Retinoids are all keratolyitc agents, each one can affect the skin in unique ways.

First, every skin is unique; therefore, each skin type will respond differently to acne fighting ingredients.  The only way to know which one works best for your skin type is through trial and error.

The following article will note the differences in the ingredients and what “most” of my clients responded the best to.

Benzoyl Peroxide-

This ingredient is used to treat and address acne.  When used on the skin, it kills the acne causing bacteria (Propionibacterium Acnes) as well as dry out the skin , which addresses both the oil (which the bacteria feeds off the fatty acids in the sebum)and healing the acne lesions.

It can also be used for Poison Ivy Dermatitus.  It is also keratolytic (encourgages softening and peeling of skin).  It is best for red papules and pustules.  When the break is red and/or red with pustules, it caused by the acne causing bacteria.

The acne causing bacteria grows in anaerobic conditions (without oxygen) .  Benzoyl Peroxide works by introducing oxygen in the surrounding area.  This creates an inhospitable environment for the acne causing bacteria to grow.  Thereby, reducing acne acne lesions .

Side Effects of Benzoyl Peroxide:

The side of effects of Benzoyl Peroxide can range from slightly annoying to severe such as:

-it can bleach anything that it comes in contact with including clothes, sheets, towels, hair, etc.  It is also used as a bleach in the food industry.  Everything from cereals , baking flour and cheeses.  It is also used for bleaching teeth as well.

-Dryness, flakiness, itchiness, mild stinging, burning, redness of skin

-Rashes, crustiness, and swelling (rarely) on some sensitive skin types

-Not recommended for most sensitive skin types, skin condition such as Eczema, Psoriasis,etc

-More drying than Salicylic Acid

Works best with red papules, red pustules-Acne Grade 2 and above.

Here are some products that have worked well with my clients who have struggled with acne:

Acne Medicated Lotion 5% Benzoyl Peroxide

Acne Medicated Mask  5%  Benzoyl Peroxide

Spot Treatment for TEENS 5% Benzoyl Peroxide

Spot Treatment Serum for Adults 5% Benzoyl Peroxide




Benzoyl Peroxide vs Salicylic acid:

Where Benzoyl Peroxide is anti bacterial, Salicylic Acid increases the skin cell turnover rate.  It is derived from the Willow Tree Bark and/or Wintergreen leaves.

It is best used to treat blackheads and whiteheads.  It is a Beta Hydroxy acid (BHA) so it encourages the sloughing off dead skin cells.

People who are allergic to aspirin may also find that they cannot tolerate Salicylic Acid, but not everyone.

It is antibacterial and has fungicidal and keratlytic agents.

What I have found in most of the clients that have come in for acne treatments is that if the client had acne grades 1 and 2, the acne cleared up with an acid based cleanser, exfoliant, and spot treatment of Salicylic Acid.

Side Effects of Salicylic Acid:



-Redness (inflammation

-Sun Sensitivity


Because it speeds up the skin cell turnover rate causing dryness and flakiness, some skin types will produce even more oil to combat the dryness so it best to keep the skin hydrated .

Some people respond better with a water based gel (serum) to keep the skin hydrated and others need a bit more moisture so a lightweight moisturizer will do the trick.

Some will break out with a light moisturizer so it is best to try the water based gel first and if your skin needs moisture then introduce the moisturizer.


Here are some examples of Salicylic products. This is my NO MEANS an exhaustive list .  These are products that I have actually used the in treatment room currently or in the past that produced great results.

Gel Based Salicylic Cleanser with 2% Salicylic Acid  Product Re

Gel Based Salicyclic Cleanser  .05% Salicyclic Acid

Gel Based Salicylic Cleanser for TEENS

Salicylic Acid Clay based Mask


Retinoids for Acne

Retin A



Retin A (also known as Tretinoin) – can be prescribed from a Dermatologist

-more aggressive than Retinol-May be better suited for Tolerant skin that is oily

-It is Vitamin A

Other names – Adapalene, Differin, Renova (several others exist under different names)

**Epiduo- Blend of  Adapalene and Benzoyl Peroxide

Retinol-derivitive of Vitamin A

-more gentle than Retin A

-can take longer to see results

-can be found in different percentages in over the counter products

BOTH work in speeding up the skin cell turnover rate and treating acne, age post, acne scars, hyper pigmentation, fine lines and wrinkles.

BOTH can make the skin:





-peel excessively

-can increase break outs before it clears up


-Sensitive skin

-Skin conditions such Eczema, Psoriasis, Rosacea

-Pregnant and Breast feeding women

-waxing services on the face or anywhere Retinoid products are being used.

Best to use hydrating, calming,products in conjunction with Retinoids if skin is inflamed and sensitive.

Some suggested product to help calm the skin

Best Cleanser for your skin type

Ultra Calming Cleanser

Ormedic Balancing Cleanser

Antioxidant calming Hydrating Serum

Sunscreen for Super Sensitive skin SPF 50


Finally, these are some suggestions that have worked very well for a wide variety of skin types and not a complete list but they work very well with skin that is highly reactive, inflamed, dry, break out prone, and flaky.

In summary, this is just a brief explanation on what the different type ingredients are and how they work on the skin to treat acne and control oil , as well as some suggestions on some products to check out to help you get started.

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