The skincare market is flooded with products to help clear acne, and two specific ingredients are the leaders of the market: benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid. Both of these can work on your skin but after 20+ years as a makeup artist watching the evolution of talent’s skin, I have my opinion of the front runner. Before we get to that, let’s go thru what these two ingredients are all about.
Each of these two ingredients have a specific benefit: Salicylic acid removes dead skin cells that clog pores, giving the appearance of smooth skin. Benzoyl peroxide (BPO) kills acne causing bacteria in your pores. It acts as an exfoliating agent by increasing the turnover of skin and removes the mixture of sebum and dead skin cells from the pores. Experts say one thing to watch out for is that benzoyl peroxide can bleach fabrics that it comes in contact with, like towels, pillowcases and even shirt collars. As a makeup artist, I can always tell if a talent is using a benzoyl peroxide product because their skin is dry, tight and shiny and no amount of moisturizer will help the skin calm down so I can apply makeup to it. As I have worked with some of the same talent since they were in HS to their 30’s, I have seen the sun damage hyperpigmentation that comes from using a BPO product without the proper sun protection. Using a proper SPF to protect your skin is essential when using any kind of “chemical” exfoliator as hyperpigmentation often shows up later in life when hormones shift. Although BPO can work quickly, IMO it is not worth the risk of the side effects that I have seen over the years.
What is Salicylic Acid?
Salicylic acid is a type of Beta-hydroxy acid (BHA) that can help treat acne by exfoliating the skin and helping dislodge dead skin cells that can clog pores. Skin cells tend to multiply quickly and are sticky (to each other), salicylic acid works by dissolving the “cement” that holds the skin cells together so the skin has a smooth texture. Not only does it fight acne, it also is known to sooth skin, which is important since acne skin tends to be irritated skin. A lot of acne treatments can make the skin red and inflamed while the skin adjusts, but salicylic acid has anti inflammatory properties. Did you know it is a close chemical cousin to aspirin? Makes sense as to why it helps calm angry skin. Levels of salicylic acid in over the counter products almost never irritate the skin, making it a sure bet for clear skin. I much prefer to do makeup on someone who uses a salicylic acid product because the skin is most often hydrated and in balance, which always makes makeup look smoother.
No matter what product you choose, or what ingredient base you go with, it’s important to look for products that offer other benefits too. Antioxidants, anti-inflammatories and hydration are key components to help protect the skin’s barrier function (ph level) and improve the overall health of your skin. Even with acne, hydration is KEY so you don’t play the over dry/over oily game across your cheeks. I also HIGHLY recommend a good SPF at all times, which you can read more about here.
Here is the product line that my teenage daughters are using to their rave reviews: “9.5 bananas says Stella and it’s aesthetic” Beautycounter Countercontrol Line