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Benzoyl Peroxide for Acne: Effectiveness and How to Use
Do you struggle with recurring acne? There’s one product that you absolutely need to add to your skincare routine: benzoyl peroxide. Get to know it here.
What is Benzoyl Peroxide?
Benzoyl peroxide is a topical treatment commonly used to treat mild to moderate acne. It’s a bactericidal substance or an antibacterial, meaning it can kill the bacteria that cause acne. It also causes the skin to dry and peel off dead skin cells, which helps with shedding excess oil.
This treatment can be bought over-the-counter at different concentrations. Benzoyl peroxide can also be found in smaller concentrations in products like cleansers and body washes, as well as in higher concentrations in bleaching products for hair and teeth.
Among the many topical acne treatments, benzoyl peroxide is often considered the gold standard. But like any other substance, you’ll have to know how to use it properly in order to get the best results. Let’s talk about it below.
Is Benzoyl Peroxide Good For Pimples?
Benzoyl peroxide is considered by many healthcare professionals as the gold standard in treating acne. It can drain excess sebum from the skin by drying it out and at the same time kill bacteria that cause acne (called Propionibacterium acnes). Acne-causing bacteria is famously the culprit behind inflammatory acne, which is why benzoyl peroxide is best used for that specific type.
However, it’s still effective at treating other types of breakouts, including whiteheads, blackheads, and cystic acne, as long as it’s used in conjunction with other acne medications.
You can find benzoyl peroxide in other acne products like benzoyl peroxide gel and acne creams. Its bleaching properties also help in reducing the appearance of dark spots and acne scars. Apart from acne treatments, it can also be seen in facial washes and body washes.
Can Benzoyl Peroxide Make Acne Worse?
No, benzoyl peroxide does not make acne worse. But it’s worth noting that your skin may feel worse before it gets better during the first three weeks that you use benzoyl peroxide. If you have sensitive skin, you may also be more prone to irritation and dryness.
If you notice a negative reaction from your skin, make sure you’re not using other acne treatments within an hour of applying your benzoyl peroxide gel or cream.
Topical retinoids and other treatments can actually make your skin dry and be detrimental to your skincare routine if used incorrectly. Many acne treatment products, when used together, can cause peeling, skin burning, dry skin, and irritation. Some ingredients you should steer clear of are tea tree oil, salicylic acid, tretinoin, and retinol, which can cause negative reactions when used at the same time as benzoyl peroxide.
That said, benzoyl peroxide products by themselves are incredibly effective when used to treat acne. It’s also worth noting that benzoyl peroxide – unlike other topical antibiotics, like clindamycin – poses no risk of antibiotic resistance.
How Do I Use Benzoyl Peroxide To Treat Acne?
Benzoyl peroxide is one of the best ways to prevent acne. It’s also simple to use – after cleansing (preferable with a mild cleanser) and toning, apply a thin layer of the solution to affected areas.
Do not apply benzoyl peroxide if you’re using other exfoliants like alpha hydroxy acids like salicylic acid, glycolic acid, or lactic acid.
Can I Use Benzoyl Peroxide Every Day?
Benzoyl peroxide can actually be used up to twice a day depending on your skin. As always, make sure to talk to your healthcare professional about existing health conditions and skin conditions to see if they recommend benzoyl peroxide as a treatment plan.
How Long Does It Take For Benzoyl Peroxide To Work on a Pimple?
Benzoyl peroxide works anywhere between overnight to four weeks. This is because it comes in different concentrations and works differently for other pimple types.
Normally, emergency acne patches being sold in drugstores will contain a much stronger dose of the ingredient in order to get rid of the pimple overnight. However, other benzoyl peroxide products, such as creams and gels, are going to take around three weeks to produce visible improvements. People often see maximum benefits at around the 8-week mark when they treat stubborn acne.
Benzoyl peroxide is also most effective on acne vulgaris, also known as inflammatory acne. Other types of acne, such as cystic acne and closed comedones, can take longer and require additional medication to treat.
How Can I Prevent Peeling And Flaking?
No matter your skin type, using benzoyl peroxide can dry you out or result in flaking. This can be prevented by adding a good moisturizer to your skincare routine. You can apply it after your acne treatment.
Can You Be Allergic To Benzoyl Peroxide?
One thing you’ll want to avoid is an allergic reaction. The good news is that while it’s possible to be allergic to benzoyl peroxide, it is very rare.
There are severe and potentially life-threatening symptoms, but they are only present in the most serious form of allergic reactions. Symptoms of a true allergic reaction to the substance include swelling of lips, tongue, or throat, hives, and trouble breathing, a.k.a. Anaphylaxis.
What You Can’t Use with Benzoyl Peroxide Gel (Salicylic Acid and More)
Using benzoyl peroxide may actually lead to skin irritation when not used properly. We can’t stress enough that you shouldn’t be mixing peeling agents, chemical exfoliants, and other potentially drying products used to treat acne all on your own. In fact, you’ll need to steer clear of them at least an hour before you apply benzoyl peroxide. Products include:
- Any acne product or skin product that enhances sun sensitivity
- Other topical acne products or skin peelers ie. salicylic acid, tretinoin, sulfur
- Astringents like tea tree oil and other abrasive and drying skin products
- Products with high amounts of alcohol like shaving creams
- Hair removal products
Benzoyl peroxide is one of the best acne treatment products you can purchase over-the-counter. It’s safe, straightforward to use, and will not make your skin resistant in the long run.
Of course, it’s not a one-size-fits-all deal, and your dermatologist might recommend other products on top of or in lieu of benzoyl peroxide. Check out our suggested skincare routine for acne here.
Joey is an AB Psychology graduate of the University of St. La Salle – Bacolod. Her life’s passions include writing, film, and spending hours on end binge-watching fashion vloggers on Youtube.