Background with skin care products and title "The Dangers of Using Benzoyl Peroxide and Salicylic Acid Together"

The Dangers of Using Benzoyl Peroxide and Salicylic Acid Together

If you’re like most people, you’ve probably heard that benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid are great for treating acne. And while it’s true that both of these ingredients can be effective in getting rid of breakouts, using them together can be detrimental to your skin barrier. 

Benzoyl Peroxide

Benzoyl peroxide is a powerful acne-fighting ingredient that can be found in many over-the-counter treatments.

It has anti-inflammatory as well as antimicrobial activity. While benzoyl peroxide is effective in killing acne-causing bacteria, it can also be very harsh on the skin.

Some common side effects include redness, irritation, and skin dryness. This can lead to flaking and/or itchy skin.

Whether you use benzoyl peroxide as a leave-on treatment or use a face wash containing this ingredient, you will likely experience inflammation initially.

This is because benzoyl peroxide is actively killing off Cutibacterium acnes, the acne-causing bacteria. When this occurs, the skin reacts by increasing blood flow to the area. 

Specifically, benzoyl peroxide gets converted to benzoic acid on the skin. Once absorbed, it produces a something known as a free-radical oxygen species.

This substance oxidizes bacterial proteins, rendering them incapable of producing more bacteria.

The result is red and inflamed skin. 

Salicylic Acid

Tube of acne treatment salicylic acid

Salicylic acid is another acne-fighting ingredient that is commonly found in over-the-counter treatments.

It is an exfoliating agent that helps to unclog pores and prevent breakouts. It is better known as a desmolytic agent – in which it unglues the “rivets” that hold cells together.

This helps to prevent dead skin cells from clogging the follicle and creating a pimple.

Unlike benzoyl peroxide, salicylic acid is not as harsh on the skin and can help to soothe inflammation.

However, you can still experience side effects from salicylic acid such as skin dryness and irritation. This can lead to dehydrated skin if you overuse salicylic acid, or if you use it without adequately moisturizing your skin. 

The Dangers of Using Benzoyl Peroxide and Salicylic Acid Together

So why should you never mix benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid together?

When used together, benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid can do more harm than good.

Using two treatments at the same time can cause your skin to become overwhelmed.

Since these two treatments have different mechanisms of action or combat acne, your skin could experience excessive amounts of dryness and inflammation. Dry skin can lead to a damaged skin barrier. A damaged skin barrier can lead to more irritation, acne, and redness.

Additionally, one treatment may cause the other treatment to be ineffective. You never want to mix two active ingredients together if you are not entirely sure they will work well together.

Both of these treatments will cause excess flaking, redness, and damage to the skin tissues when overused.

Symptoms of excess exfoliation with salicylic acid includes dryness, irritation, itchy and inflamed skin. This may be exacerbated by using two treatments at once.

If you’re looking for an effective acne-fighting regimen, it’s best to use these ingredients separately. Use benzoyl peroxide in the morning and salicylic acid at night.


Benzoyl Peroxide – StatPearls – NCBI Bookshelf (

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