Which is Better: Benzoyl Peroxide or Salicylic Acid to Treat Fungal Acne (Malassezia Folliculitis)?

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There are many ways to treat fungal acne (also called malassezia folliculitis) and get clear skin. Two of the most popular acne treatments are Benzoyl Peroxide and Salicylic Acid.

In this article, we’ll explore the difference between these two popular acne-fighting ingredients so you can determine which is the best for you!

But wait – what is fungal acne anyway? And how will I know if I have it?

If you don’t know what fungal acne is, check out these other helpful articles:

Otherwise, let’s dive into benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid for treating fungal acne.

Don’t Know Which Products are Safe?

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How to Treat Fungal Acne with Benzoyl Peroxide

If you have experienced any form of acne, fungal or bacterial, chances are you’ve heard of – or used – benzoyl peroxide.

Benzoyl Peroxide is probably one of the most-used ingredients for the treatment of acne vulgaris. But why is that?

How Benzoyl Peroxide Targets Acne

Benzoyl peroxide is a first-rate acne treatment because it has antibacterial, comedolytic, and keratolytic properties. Here’s what that means:

  • Antibacterial – kills the bacteria that can cause acne
  • Comedolytic – works to unclog pores
  • Keratolytic – loosens & assists in exfoliation of skin cells

When I wrote about my 17+ year journey with severe acne, I mentioned my use of oral antibiotics (as prescribed by a dermatologist) to treat my acne. And this resulted in a major yeast (read: fungus) overgrowth both internally and externally.

Part of me wonders what would have happened to my skin if I’d never taken those antibiotics – would I still have developed fungal acne? Be sure to read the whole story to find out how I got clear for good.

But unlike antibiotics, your skin doesn’t build up a resistance to benzoyl peroxide, so you don’t run the risk of a fungal overgrowth. Sweet!

Now you may be wondering why I’m pushing benzoyl peroxide as a fungal acne treatment when it’s mostly known to kill bacteria. Because there’s a difference in fungal acne and bacterial acne.

Benzoyl Peroxide for Treating Fungal Acne

So can benzoyl peroxide kill the malassezia yeast that causes fungal acne?

Technically, no.

Benzoyl peroxide is not an anti-fungal. But here’s why I think it can be a great option – because of its ability to increase cell turnover and unclog pores.

The bacteria & fungus that cause acne live deep down in the hair follicle of your skin (hence folliculitis, or inflammation of the hair follicle). But when you increase cell-turnover by using benzoyl peroxide, you help to clean those pores out, and therefore – you eliminate the bacteria and yeast.

In fact, I believe that many people could clear their fungal acne without dangerous oral or topical anti-fungals if they could just stop feeding the yeast!

So if you do use benzoyl peroxide to treat your acne or fungal acne, be sure to use a formulation that does not contain any harmful ingredients.

And if you are suffering from both fungal and bacterial acne (it happens!) – benzoyl peroxide’s antimicrobial properties could be beneficial for you.

By harmful ingredients, I mean those that are known to feed the malassezia yeast. You can check all product ingredients in this site to be sure.

The CONS of Using Benzoyl Peroxide to Treat Fungal Acne

Before you run out and purchase benzoyl peroxide, I want to issue this fair warning to you.

A vital part of treating & curing fungal acne is restoring a healthy skin moisture barrier. Without a healthy moisture barrier, it doesn’t matter how much you treat the fungal acne – you’re likely only making the problem worse.

And unfortunately, benzoyl peroxide can be extremely drying.

One suggestion that I love comes from this wonderful blog post. The author suggests putting benzoyl peroxide on top of your moisturizer to decrease the risk of drying out your skin & damaging your skin’s moisture barrier further.

Otherwise, I would suggest limiting your use of benzoyl peroxide to once per week, or once every few days.

To learn more about how benzoyl peroxide treats acne, check out benzoyl peroxide in the Paula’s Choice ingredient dictionary.

Feeling Stuck When It Comes to Clearing Your Fungal Acne?

from fungal acne to clear skin guide

When I first found out I had fungal acne, it took me months of research to figure out what I could & couldn’t use. And I still made mistakes!

The resources I found online didn’t have the answers I needed, so I had to be my own guinea pig.

And now that I’ve done all the work, I want to share it with you!

If you’re feeling confused and want the straightforward information, products, and skincare routines I used to treat & clear my fungal acne, I’ve created the From Fungal Acne to Clear Skin Guide just for you.

Download it now to fast-track your results to clear skin for life.

How to Treat Fungal Acne with Salicylic Acid

Second in popularity to benzoyl peroxide is salicylic acid. Again, if you’ve experienced acne of any kind, it’s possible you’ve used this ingredient in a face wash, toner, or spot treatment.

Why is salicylic acid such a common ingredient in acne treatment products?

How Salicylic Acid Targets Acne

Unlike benzoyl peroxide, salicylic acid is naturally occurring in the bark of white willow & wintergreen leaves! However, it can also be manufactured synthetically.

Also called beta hydroxy acid (BHA), this multifunctional ingredient addresses many of the systemic causes of acne. Its primary benefit is as an exfoliant, helping shed dead skin in a way similar to how skin acts when we are younger. Because it has the ability to penetrate into the pore lining and exfoliate inside the pore as well as on the surface of skin, it is especially effective for reducing breakouts, including blackheads and whiteheads.

In addition to these benefits, salicylic acid also has soothing properties to calm aggravated skin, can help minimize the appearance of an uneven skin tone, and has hydrating abilities that can result in smoother skin.

Paula’s Choice

Salicylic Acid is a first-rate acne treatment primarily for its keratolytic properties, but it is also anti-fungal and mildly antibacterial. Here’s what that means:

  • Keratolytic – highly exfoliating, increases cell turnover
  • Anti-fungal – kills the yeast (fungus) that can cause acne
  • Antibacterial – kills the bacteria that can cause acne

I like to call salicylic acid a super-slougher! Meaning – it’s even better than benzoyl peroxide at sloughing off old skin cells.

Salicylic Acid for Treating Fungal Acne

Since salicylic acid does have some antifungal properties (yay!), I prefer it as a fungal acne treatment over benzoyl peroxide.

One of my favorite ways to use it is Stridex Maximum Strength Pads. These contain 2% salicylic acid and are gentle enough for daily use. However, you can overdo it with salicylic acid – so I have reduced my use of this product to a couple times per week, maximum.

If you’re going to purchase a different product with salicylic acid, make sure to check your products for harmful ingredients.

And by harmful ingredients, I mean those that are known to feed the malassezia yeast. You can check all product ingredients in this site to be sure.

The CONS of Using Salicylic Acid to Treat Fungal Acne

Like with benzoyl peroxide, salicylic acid can dry your skin out and disrupt your moisture barrier. And if your moisture barrier is out of whack, chances are – your skin isn’t clearing no matter what you do.

I had to learn this lesson the hard way, so I can’t stress enough how important a good moisturizing routine is in treating & preventing fungal acne.

If you need some advice on maximizing your results by keeping it simple, read my article about The Only 4 Products You Need to Treat Fungal Acne.

When using salicylic acid, also make sure to avoid further irritation by wearing sunscreen daily. Here are my favorite sunscreens safe for fungal acne.

Spread the Word About Fungal Acne

Be sure to leave a comment with your current skincare routine! Do you use salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide?

I’m always curious to learn more about how other people have treated & cleared their fungal acne. And when you share – it helps everyone who reads this blog or watches my Youtube Channel get clear skin faster!

So what are you waiting for? Hop in the comments & spill the tea!

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better fungal acne treatment? benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid