How to Use Salicylic Acid & Benzoyl Peroxide for Face Treatment

Aggravating acne and its subsequent scarring can plague those prone to breakouts throughout adolescence and into adulthood, but using specific facial products can help blemished skin clear over time. When used together, antibacterial benzoyl peroxide and exfoliating salicylic acid minimize fine lines, soothe irritated skin and stop acne at its source. Halt breakouts before they mar your beauty routine with a dual over-the-counter regimen designed to speed up cell shedding and clear pores of unwanted oil.

A woman is washing her face. (Image: vystek-photographie/iStock/Getty Images)

Step 1

Select a gentle facial moisturizing scrub, cleansing pad or wash that contains salicylic acid. If skin is sensitive, use a product with a 0.5-percent concentration of salicylic acid. Wash your skin twice daily, rinse thoroughly with lukewarm water and pat dry with a soft washcloth.

Step 2

Dip a cotton ball in a toner that contains salicylic acid. Dab the cotton ball over your oily spots, such as the forehead, nose and chin, after washing. Let the toner soak in and dry.

Step 3

Apply a pea-size amount of benzoyl-peroxide gel or cream all over your face after toning and let it dry completely. Select a 5-percent formula and use the product only once every other day to test your skin's tolerance for benzoyl peroxide. Increase the formula percentage and frequency as needed.

Step 4

Smooth a light oil-free moisturizer over your skin to combat dryness.

Step 5

Apply a foundation, BB cream or tinted moisturizer that contains benzoyl peroxide with an applicator sponge or brush to combat acne throughout the day.

Step 6

Spread a clay mask that contains salicylic acid over your face once each week to help exfoliate your skin and reduce oil accumulation. Leave the mask on as directed and rinse thoroughly.

Step 7

Consult a dermatologist if over-the-counter products do not produce a large enough improvement in skin. You may need prescription products with a higher treatment concentration.

Things You'll Need

  • Facial scrub, cleansing pad or wash with salicylic acid

  • Soft washcloths

  • Facial toner with salicylic acid

  • Cotton balls

  • Benzoyl peroxide gel or cream

  • Light, oil-free facial moisturizer

  • Foundation, BB cream or tinted moisturizer with benzoyl peroxide

  • Applicator sponge or brush

  • Clay mask with salicylic acid


Apply sunscreen daily to combat sun sensitivity from product usage.


Acne may return with cessation of product use.

Salicylic acid can cause irritation if used more than twice daily. Sensitive skin may sting with even mild use.

Benzoyl peroxide can cause drying or peeling and may create bleach spots on clothing.

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