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Benzoyl Peroxide for Acne

Benzoyl Peroxide for Acne


Benzoyl peroxide is used to reduce the severity of acne and prevent future outbreaks. Available over-the-counter, this acne-fighting ingredient is marketed under several names, including Benoxyl, Benzac, Desquam and Oxy 10. Because of its ability to exfoliate the skin and keep oil and dead skin cells from the skin's pores, benzoyl peroxide has long been used as an acne treatment method.


Benzoyl peroxide oxygenates the skin. This means when benzoyl peroxide is applied, acne-causing bacteria cannot live in the pores. It also is a drying agent that can dry up the follicles, reducing the amount of oil present on the face and in the pores. However, benzoyl peroxide also has peeling properties, which can be drying to the skin. Benzoyl peroxide is used as an active ingredient in soaps, lotions, spot treatments, gels and on medicated pads.


Benzoyl peroxide is never applied in its purest form to the skin. Instead, over-the-counter benzoyl peroxide products contain anywhere from 1 to 10 percent, dependent upon its intended usage. For example, benzoyl peroxide may be used in higher percentages for spot treatments and in lower amounts for an everyday face wash. The most common concentration is 2.5 percent, which has shown to be less irritating, yet effective.


When benzoyl peroxide is applied to the skin, it automatically breaks down into oxygen and benzoic acid. The oxygen works to kill the P. acnes bacteria that lives on the skin and causes acne. Then, the benzoic acid reaches deep into the pores, sloughing oil and dead skin away, which reduces acne symptoms. Although benzoyl peroxide does begin working when applied, it may take anywhere from four to six weeks to diminish the appearance of acne.


Do not use benzoyl peroxide near sensitive areas, including the eyes, nose or nostrils. Just as with any medication, it is possible to overdose or overuse benzoyl peroxide. While some drying or peeling is normal, if a person experiences burning, blistering, crusting, itching, swelling or skin rash, benzoyl peroxide's use should be discontinued immediately. If symptoms do not subside with discontinued use, a physician should be seen.

Expert Insight

Benzoyl peroxide can be used for the treatment of many pimples or one pimple. Because of its drying effects, it is best to begin using benzoyl peroxide in small doses, such as once per day and in only small amounts. Then, gradually work up to applying twice a day in larger amounts. Washing the face with a gentle soap before applying benzoyl peroxide and using a moisturizer after application may be effective in heightening the drug's effect and preventing the dryness that can accompany its application. If you do not experience significant relief from acne, you may wish to switch to a higher concentration.

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