Aleve vs. Advil: What's the Difference?

Comparing two popular NSAIDs used to treat pain

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

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

Advil vs. Aleve
Verywell / Jessica Olah

Aleve vs. Advil

Aleve and Advil both have the same action. They are meant to give temporary relief from minor aches and pains. They work by inhibiting (blocking) enzymes commonly known as COX-1 and COX-2, which are involved with inflammation processes in the body.

Aleve contains naproxen sodium, while Advil contains ibuprofen. Advil is a shorter-acting drug, so you may need to take it every 4 to 6 hours if your pain has not subsided. Aleve is longer-acting. One OTC dose of Aleve typically lasts up to 12 hours.

Aleve and Advil are sold over the counter, which means they don't require a prescription. Both Aleve and Advil are similarly effective at relieving a variety of different types of pain, including:

The main target of both drugs is COX-2, but they 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 and 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 Between Aleve and Advil

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

Active Ingredients

Each Advil tablet contains 200 milligrams (mg) of ibuprofen, its active ingredient. Each Aleve tablet contains 220 mg of its active ingredient, 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

All NSAIDs may cause gastrointestinal problems, especially when taken at high doses for long periods of time. Compared to Aleve, however, Advil may be safer for the stomach. Advil has the lowest risk of digestive reactions compared to similar NSAIDs, including Aleve.

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 has looked for differences in heart safety between Aleve and Advil. More research is needed, but 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.

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.
  1. Harvard Health Publishing. Heart-safer NSAID alternatives.

  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

Additional Reading

By Carol Eustice
Carol Eustice is a writer who covers arthritis and chronic illness. She is the author of "The Everything Health Guide to Arthritis."