Salicylic Acid vs. CBD for Acne: Which Is More Effective?

Is CBD oil a better treatment option than salicylic acid

Researchers are understanding more and more how CBD can help treat acne. Image Credit: By RomarioIen on Shutterstock

Standing in the skin care aisle feeling overwhelmed by all of the jargon? Frustrated by too many choices and not enough tangible information? You’re not the only one who feels this way. Trying to keep track of the ever-changing trends in the beauty industry and figure out which products are actually best for your skin is never easy — especially when many of them claim to do the same thing. For example, consider salicylic acid and CBD.

Both are recommended for acne prone skin, and both have been proven to yield positive results in scientific studies. They’re both increasingly common in a wide range of products, too. But which one is better?

Here’s a quick breakdown of both of these ingredients, what they can do for your skin, and what to use them for.

Salicylic Acid and CBD Oil: A Comparison

What Is Salicylic Acid?

The name might sound a little cold and clinical, but salicylic is nothing to be afraid of. This skin care ingredient occurs naturally in plants, and researchers think it might be found in the human body too. They also think that it could be responsible for the pain relieving effects of aspirin, as it’s a byproduct of the drug’s breakdown in the digestive system.

But why use it for acne? The biggest reason to use salicylic is the fact that it’s a beta hydroxy acid, meaning it can actually get inside clogged pores (unlike alpha hydroxy acids, which just work on the exterior of the skin).

Once inside the pore, salicylic will dissolve the oil, dead skin cells, and other grime that are clogging it. As a powerful exfoliator, it will also remove debris from the surface of the skin and cleanse the skin more deeply than most ingredients.

What Is CBD Oil?

CBD stands for cannabidiol, a chemical compound found in cannabis plants that’s extracted in oil form. CBD has become a media favorite in the last few years (although they often get the story wrong) thanks to the anecdotal and scientific evidence of its medicinal benefits. As a result, it’s also taken over the skin care industry.

According to studies, it can help the skin to self-regulate and reduce excessive sebum levels. Not only that, it can also fight off the bacteria that cause breakouts, thus preventing the infection from spreading across the face. As an anti-inflammatory, it can reduce inflammation and relieve pain and tenderness in the affected skin. Some people also think it could help to prevent stress or hormonal breakouts by balancing mood and reducing anxiety.

So Which Is Better — Salicylic Acid or CBD Oil?

The answer to this question depends in large part on two things: 1) what kind of skin you have, and 2) what issues you want to fix. Both ingredients can be effective at treating acne, but not all acne is the same, and your individual skin type will have a big influence on the kinds of products that will work best for you.

People with sensitive skin might be better off opting for a topical CBD-based product. This is because salicylic acid can sometimes be overly harsh on easily-irritated skin, causing rashes and irritation. On the other hand, CBD is gentle on even the most delicate skin and has few side effects.

However, if your acne leaves your face with a lot of blackheads and whiteheads, salicylic acid will be much more effective at getting deep into the skin, clearing them out, and preventing them from re-clogging by exfoliating the surface of the surrounding area.

Moving along, if you’re unlucky enough to be developing some scarring as a result of your acne, then CBD could be an excellent option for you. Studies have shown that it could reduce the appearance of indented acne scars by boosting the production of collagen and helping wounds caused by acne cysts to heal faster. There’s no guarantee of success, as these studies are in their early stages, but the early results are promising.

Finally, salicylic acid is ideal for anyone who has an uneven texture to their skin. Small braille-like bumps along the skin on the jawline are a common (though rarely discussed) side effect of acne which can cause issues with self esteem and body confidence. By getting deep under the surface, products that contain salicylic can even out texture and give a flawless finish to previously bumpy skin.

Sarah Tyrrell
Sarah Tyrrell
Sarah Tyrrell is a health, wellness, and lifestyle writer based in Ireland whose work has appeared in The Irish Times and The Independent, among others. In 2017, she founded the lifestyle brand “Self Love and Sarah” to promote healthy self image and body positivity for women.

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