Is Benzoyl peroxide effective for acne treatment?


Is Benzoyl peroxide effective for acne treatment?

Medically Reviewed by Mohsen Talani, MD on November 27, 2023 | Written by CBAM Author


Acne is the most common skin problem in the United States and affects people of all ages. Which of the most popular ingredients used to prevent acne, often recommended by dermatologists, works best? Benzoyl peroxide, which you’ll find in most cleansers, creams, and many other skincare products.

According to studies, the benzoyl peroxide solution found in face washes and gels seems to be helpful for people with difficult-to-treat inflammatory or cystic acne and can penetrate painful pores and pimples that form below the skin’s surface.

What is benzoyl peroxide?

Benzoyl peroxide (BPO) is a topical antibacterial treatment most commonly used in the treatment of acne. It is sold over the counter in a variety of concentrations, so you don’t need to see a dermatologist to start using it.

It is also available by prescription in more concentrated forms and sometimes in combination with other treatments (such as antibiotics or retinoids).

It is found in products including benzoyl peroxide creams and lotions, face washes, body washes, exfoliants/scrubs, and spot treatments.

How Does benzoyl peroxide work?

What exactly does benzoyl peroxide (BPO) do to the face and skin?

Chemically, benzoyl peroxide BPO is an organic peroxide. It acts as a non-specific oxidizing agent when applied to the skin.

Here are some ways BPO works:

  • Acts as an anti-inflammatory and comedolytic agent. By reducing acne, inflammation and redness caused by infected bumps under the skin, it can help reduce the unwanted appearance of acne.
  • Delivers oxygen to the skin. This can help opening the skin pores.
  • It has antimicrobial properties. By reducing the presence of bacteria, it reduces acne. In addition to cleaning the skin from all kinds of bacteria, this solution also removes dead skin cells that clog the skin pores.
  • It has drying properties, so washing with benzoyl peroxide can help reduce excess sebum (oil) on the skin and reduce shine. BPO also has exfoliating properties and improves the appearance and tone of the skin.

How and when to use benzoyl peroxide

Benzoyl peroxide products come in several over-the-counter and prescription forms.

Here’s how to use benzoyl peroxide correctly while minimizing the risk of side effects:

  • Depending on the severity of the symptoms, you should use the necessary concentration. For example, benzoyl peroxide products are between 2.5 and 10%. Concentrations as low as 5% may be appropriate for mild to moderate symptoms, while concentrations of 10% are better for moderate to severe symptoms.
  • When you’re just starting to use benzoyl peroxide creams and other products, use lower concentrations of 2.5 to 5 percent, which are often strong enough to get the right benefits. Apply these products to the entire affected skin area, usually once or twice a day.

Ideally, creams and gels should be applied to the skin about 15 minutes after washing the skin and drying it. At least one hour after using benzoyl peroxide cream or gel, wash your face.

  • If you use benzoyl peroxide washes, soaps, or cleansers, you may be able to tolerate a higher percentage than if you use creams. Like lotions, these products can be used once or twice a day.
  • Benzoyl peroxide body washes and soaps are also helpful for acne that appears on the chest and back, not just the face.
  • Avoid putting benzoyl peroxide near the eyes and nose. Also, be careful when using BPO when exposed to strong sunlight or use a sunscreen with a high sun protection factor.

Benzoyl peroxide side effects

Anyone allergic to salicylic acid should not use it on their skin. Many OTC acne washes and treatments may contain this ingredient, so it’s important to check all ingredients on the label. Other side effects of this substance include: skin redness, inflammation, dryness and peeling.

To avoid these common side effects, people can start taking it daily and gradually increase it to two or three times a day according to tolerance. Long-term and excessive use of this substance, especially in children under 12 years of age, may cause salicylate poisoning.

This substance may also interfere with some mediators, including acidic agents, some blood thinners, antidiabetic drugs, aspirin, corticosteroids, diuretics, methotrexate, pyrazinamide, sulfur, and uricosuric agents. Anyone using these medications should talk to a doctor before starting OTC acne medications.

Side effects of benzoyl peroxide can include: peeling, redness, burning, and irritation. The higher the concentration of benzoyl peroxide in the product, the more likely a person will experience side effects. Anyone allergic to benzoyl peroxide should avoid any product containing it.

The doctor can help the person to choose the most suitable topical or oral product according to the type of acne. When doctors diagnose acne, they classify the condition as mild, moderate, or severe. This classification allows doctors to choose the most appropriate treatment.

Doctors may recommend adding salicylic acid to other treatments for moderate or severe acne. People can use benzoyl peroxide alone for mild acne. If they don’t see improvement with benzoyl peroxide, they can try additional treatments such as topical antibiotics or retinoids.

If a person experiences bothersome side effects from salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide, they can reduce the frequency of their use. Anyone experiencing severe or intolerable side effects should stop using the products.

You can suggest benzoyl peroxide to patients with mild acne. For more severe acne, you should try other advanced treatments. CBAM Advanced Skin Therapist Package is the best option for you to start adding advanced skin treatments to your practice. In this program, you will be trained for understanding the skin basics, assessment of normal or abnormal skin, treatment options and also client care in related to skin treatments. The main core of the program includes 4 courses of Microneedling, Chemical peel, Laser Certificate and Skin Care Products 101. Also, the Registrants will get access to 3 additional bonus courses of Skin Anatomy & Physiology, Cosmetic Dermatology and Aesthetic Business & Marketing which help them have a more successful approach in managing the skin related conditions and patients. Learn more about CBAM Advanced Skin Therapist Package here.

Benzoyl peroxide effect on pregnancy, breastfeeding and fertility

Even though the amount of absorption of benzoyl peroxide is very low and it breaks down inside the skin and is excreted through urine, but since its effect on pregnancy is still unknown, it is recommended not to use it during pregnancy and breastfeeding.