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The Basics: 9 Things To Know About Benzoyl Peroxide


From benzoyl peroxide wash to benzoyl peroxide treatment lotion, there’s no shortage of benzoyl peroxide products available today. Given its ability to kill the bacteria that causes acne, the ingredient is an essential part of many successful acne treatment regimens—in fact, it’s been used to treat mild to moderate acne for more than 50 years. To learn everything you need to know about benzoyl peroxide, keep reading.

    1. It’s been shown to help reduce inflammatory lesions (mild to moderate acne) and the skin’s oil production. Oily-skinned acne-sufferers, rejoice!
    2. It helps to ‘unclog’ pores, too. It does so by clearing dead skin cells from follicles, thereby reducing the possibility of blockages. By helping prevent pores from becoming blocked and targeting the bacteria that cause acne, it works to prevent breakouts before they occur. Speaking of that …
    3. It works best when used continuously. Benzoyl peroxide works to treat acne by helping to kill the existing P. acnes bacteria inside your pores. It does not increase your body’s ability to fight the bacteria when you’re not using it. That’s why it’s best to use it continuously—for the treatment of existing blemishes, and the prevention of new ones.
    4. It doesn’t work overnight. When you’re using benzoyl peroxide for acne, it’s important to be patient. It might take a few weeks (longer, in some cases) to see improvement. For most, it proves to be well worth the wait.
    5. It’s best to ease into it. To help mitigate irritation when you start an acne regimen that uses benzoyl peroxide, start slowly—maybe every other day—to see how your skin reacts. As we mentioned earlier, some minor irritation is normal. That said, if a product causes burning, swelling and itching that worsens with each use, it could signal an allergic reaction, and you should stop using it immediately and notify your physician.
    6. Less than 5% of people are allergic to benzoyl peroxide. To help provide context for this fact, the percentage of those allergic to penicillin is similar. Benzoyl peroxide allergies are usually characterized by itching and redness—if you think you’re allergic, consult a dermatologist.
    7. More isn’t necessarily better. You’ll find that today’s benzoyl peroxide acne treatments leverage a range of concentrations, from 2.5% to 10%. (Higher, if you’re looking into more aggressive prescription medications.) However, clinical studies have shown that lower concentrations of benzoyl peroxide are just as effective as higher concentrations—and cause less skin irritation than their more potent counterparts.
    8. It’s tenacious. Heard of “antibiotic-resistant” strains of acne? The term applies to certain cases of acne that stop responding to antibacterial or antibiotic treatments. In many studies, benzoyl peroxide has continued to treat the bacteria that cause acne without becoming resistant.
    9. Generally speaking, its associated side effects are manageable. Some common side effects people might experience with benzoyl peroxide include dryness and redness. Adding an oil free moisturizer to your regimen can help keep these symptoms in check. As for the bleaching of fabrics, this one’s true—benzoyl peroxide can bleach your towels and clothing if you’re not careful. We’ve found that using white pillowcases and white towels is the best way to proceed.

Click here to know what salicylic acid is, and how it works. Click here to know more about what benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid do and when you should use one over the other, or in combination.