Benzoyl peroxide is a chemical antibacterial and drying agent. The most common use for this chemical is in topical forms of acne treatments. It is absorbed into the pores of the skin and inhibits the growth of Proprionibacterium acnes, the bacteria that causes acne. Its drying properties help prevent acne breakouts from recurring by removing dead skin cells that cause comedones, or clogged pores. Benzoyl peroxide may also be used as a bleaching agent, and is found in some products formulated to lighten the hair and bleach the teeth.
When and Where to Use
Benzoyl peroxide can be used as both a treatment and a preventative measure. Use your desired product on the area that is affected with acne, and also those areas where you commonly experience breakouts.
It is typically applied once or twice per day. Usage can be increased if necessary. People commonly use products containing benzoyl peroxide in the morning and evening, but it can be used at any time of day. Keep in mind that it may take up to six weeks to see the full effect of the treatment.
Benzoyl Peroxide Acne Products
Some of the top acne product lines contain benzoyl peroxide as the active ingredient to fight against acne. As a treatment for acne, it is available between 2.5 and 10 percent strengths and in both over-the-counter and prescription forms. The most commonly used acne products that contain this chemical are creams and gels. Facial cleansers, masks, bar cleansers, lotions, sticks, and overnight and spot treatments are also available.
Some of the most popular lines include:
- Proactiv: This brand is a three-step skin care program including a Renewing Cleanser, a Revitalizing Toner, and a Repairing Lotion. This is one of the most popular acne treatments, and is used by many celebrities including Jessica Simpson and Lindsay Lohan.
- Clinique Acne Solutions: This product line includes acne cleanser, night treatment, day treatment and an emergency spot treatment.
- Neutrogena: Dermatologist recommended Neutrogena products are some of the least drying and most effective acne treatment options.
- Clean and Clear: Clean and Clear is another popular line of acne-fighting products. The company's Persa Gel 10 has a high concentration of benzoyl peroxide that works to heal and prevent blemishes.
- Stridex: Stridex's night lotion, which is sold in combination with the day gel, absorbs quickly and works to fight acne while you sleep.
- Clearasil: Clearasil's vanishing lotion and cream are maximum strength products to fight difficult blemishes.
There are also many other product lines that may work. You may need to go through a process of trial and error to find the particular products and brand that work with your skin type. Salicylic acid and tea tree oil are also common ingredients used to effectively treat blemishes and prevent breakouts.
General Precautions and Possible Side Effects
- Be sure to read the complete directions and precautionary statements on the specific product you are using.
- The most common side effects of benzoyl peroxide are dryness, irritation, and itching of the skin. These are usually mild and decrease or cease over time. If your skin becomes extremely or severely irritated, scaly, or swollen, discontinue use and consult a physician before resuming. You may be allergic to products containing this chemical.
- People with sensitive skin may not adjust well to this ingredient. You may want to test the product on a small patch of skin to see if your skin is too sensitive for this medication. Skin may also be more sensitive to sunlight during use. Using other acne treatments simultaneously, before, or after may increase dryness and irritation of the skin in some people.
- Products containing benzoyl peroxide should not be applied to open wounds, sunburns, chapped, burned, or otherwise irritated skin. Avoid use around the sensitive eye area, on the interior of the nose, or within close proximity of the lips. It may bleach hair, fabric, and clothing, so avoid contact with these as well.
- Medications containing benzoyl peroxide are classified as class C for pregnant and nursing women, which means the effects are unknown. Discuss using products including this with your physician before use if you are pregnant or breastfeeding.
Start Treating Your Acne
If you have a problem with acne breakouts, it's certainly important to treat them. The sooner you start using a product with benzoyl peroxide as an active ingredient, the faster you'll begin to see results.