What's the Difference Between Advil and Aleve?

Comparing two popular NSAIDs used to treat pain

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Maybe you have a headache or your arthritis is acting up. You open your cupboard and see both Advil and Aleve. What's the difference between them and which one should you take?

Advil and Aleve are both nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) used to relieve pain and reduce fever. Though they are different drugs, they fall within the same drug class.

This article explores the similarities and differences between the two drugs. It includes information about the products, dosage, and any side effects.

Advil vs. Aleve
Verywell / Jessica Olah

Similarities

Advil and Aleve are sold over the counter in pharmacies, which means they don't require a prescription. They are meant to give temporary relief from minor aches and pains. Common reasons for this type of discomfort include:

Advil and Aleve both have the same action. They inhibit (block) enzymes commonly known as COX-1 and COX-2, which are involved with inflammation processes in the body. The main target to relieve pain and inflammation is COX-2, but both of these drugs also inhibit COX-1, which isn't desirable.

That's because COX-1 maintains the normal lining of the stomach. Inhibiting it can cause digestive tract symptoms, like ulcers and upset stomach. COX-1 also is involved with kidney and blood platelet function. This means there can be side effects such as bleeding and impaired kidney function.

Recap

Advil and Aleve are both NSAID drugs used to relieve pain and reduce fever. Advil contains ibuprofen, while Aleve contains naproxen sodium.

Both drugs work in the same way, which is to limit the function of COX-1 and COX-2 enzymes. Blocking COX-2 can relieve pain, but blocking COX-1 can contribute to stomach and other problems.

Differences

There are several differences between the two NSAIDs, including these key ones.

Active Ingredients

The active ingredient in Advil is ibuprofen. Each Advil tablet contains 200 milligrams (mg) of ibuprofen.

The active ingredient in Aleve tablets is naproxen sodium. Each Aleve tablet contains 220 mg of naproxen sodium.

Dosing

The drugs have different dosing instructions because the effects of Advil last for four to eight hours, while Aleve lasts for eight to 12 hours. Advil starts working more quickly, but it doesn't last as long as Aleve.

  • Advil: Adults and children 12 years of age and older should take one tablet every four to six hours while symptoms last. If one is not effective, two tablets can be taken together. You should not exceed six tablets in 24 hours unless directed by a healthcare provider.
  • Aleve: Take one Aleve every eight to 12 hours while symptoms last. For the first dose, you can take two Aleve within the first hour. You should not take more than two Aleve in any eight to 12-hour period. You should not take more than three Aleve in any 24-hour period unless directed by your healthcare provider.

Advil 200-mg doses allows for more dosage fine-tuning. That's because the safe range can vary from 200 mg to 1200 mg per day. Aleve starts at 220 mg, but the maximum daily dose is 880 mg.

Side Effects

Advil (ibuprofen) has the lowest risk of digestive reactions compared to similar NSAIDs, including Aleve (naproxen). Advil is favored for people who have ulcers or acid reflux disease. Aleve is more likely to cause pseudoporphyria, a type of sensitivity to light.

The FDA warned about increased heart attack and stroke risk with all NSAIDs, including Aleve and Advil, in 2015. Further research may or may not show a difference in the risk of heart attack and stroke between the two NSAIDs. There are several studies that suggest the naproxen found in Aleve is linked to a lower cardiovascular risk.

Can You Take Them Together?

Taking Advil and Aleve together is not recommended. The risk of side effects and adverse events increases if both are taken together. You should stick to taking one or the other, and only as directed, using the lowest effective dose.

Summary

Advil (ibuprofen) and Aleve (naproxen) are both nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). They relive pain in similar ways, but both can also lead to stomach ulcers, increased bleeding risk, and other problems.

Advil works more quickly, but for a shorter time. Advil seems to cause fewer stomach issues, while Aleve carries a lower risk of heart attack and stroke. The two medications should not be used together.

A Word From Verywell

It's easy to think that Advil and Aleve are pretty much the same. They're both NSAID drugs, but apart from that, they are different medications altogether. Among the key differences is that Advil (ibuprofen) is usually safer for people with ulcers or acid reflux disease.

Both drugs are available without a prescription. However, as with most drugs, it's a good idea to contact your healthcare provider if you have questions.

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5 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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  2. Meek IL, Van de Laar MA, E Vonkeman H. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs: An overview of cardiovascular risksPharmaceuticals (Basel). 2010;3(7):2146-2162. doi:10.3390/ph3072146

  3. LaDuca JR, Bouman PH, Gaspari AA. Nonsteroidal antiinflammatory drug-induced pseudoporphyria: a case series. J Cutan Med Surg. 2002;6(4):320-326. doi:10.1007/s10227-001-0051-8

  4. U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA). FDA strengthens warning of heart attack and stroke risk for non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs.

  5. Angiolillo DJ, Weisman SM. Clinical pharmacology and cardiovascular safety of naproxen. American Journal of Cardiovascular Drugs. 2017 Apr;17(2):97-107. https://doi.org/10.1007/s40256-016-0200-5

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