About Benzoyl Peroxide
Benzoyl peroxide is a chemical that acts an agent, is an ingredient and provides treatment. As an agent, it acts as a catalyst to facilitate chemical reactions; it is an ingredient found in many prescription and over-the-counter products; and it is an effective treatment for mild to moderate acne.
Benzoyl peroxide is a colorless, crystalline and solid chemical produced from a reaction of benzoyl chloride, sodium hydroxide and hydrogen peroxide. It has a melting point of between 103 and 106 degrees Celsius, but in dry form is dangerous, reactive and subject to spontaneous combustion. Benzoyl peroxide will not dissolve in water, but it is slightly soluble in alcohol and will dissolve in both ether and chloroform.
Benzoyl peroxide's main functions are as a treatment for acne and as a bleaching agent for foods such as milk, flour and whey in the cheese-making process. In addition, it can function as a curing agent for silicone rubber and as an ingredient in manufacturing.
As a treatment for mild to moderate acne, benzoyl peroxide is available in prescription and over-the-counter forms. It works to remove excess oil from your skin and reduce the size of skin pores, especially around the nose and cheeks. Including benzoyl peroxide in prescription acne medications that contain antibiotics such as erythromycin or clindamycin increases their effectiveness, according to the AcneNet, an informational website hosted by the American Academy of Dermatology.
In the cheese-making process, benzoyl peroxide functions as a way to bleach milk, whey and flour, and control color in cheddar cheese and Italian white cheeses such as Provolone, Parmesan and Romano cheese.
The specific process for using benzoyl peroxide as an acne treatment depends on the form, such as a lotion or liquid. In general, however, MayoClinic recommends first washing the area with a nonmedicated cleanser and then applying the product according to instructions on the label or that your doctor provides. After applying the medicine, wash your hands well to remove all traces of the medication.
When used as a bleaching agent in flour, the maximum amount added to flour is 50 mg/kg in a mixture of 32 percent benzoyl peroxide and 68 percent cornstarch. When used to bleach milk or whey, the maximum amount of benzoyl peroxide added is 20 mg/kg.
When using benzoyl peroxide for acne treatment, don't use it on irritated or sunburned skin or around an open wound. Also, do not use any product containing benzoyl around your eyes, mouth, lips or nose.
The bleaching process in cheese-making can destroy some vitamin A content in the resulting cheese curd. Countries that depend on cheese to provide a portion of their vitamin A requirements need to add this back in.
Although using benzoyl peroxide as a treatment for acne is effective, depending on their severity, might require medical treatment. Some of these side effects might be the result of your body adjusting to the medication, and others might indicate an allergic reaction. Mild side effects can include dryness, skin peeling, mild stinging and skin redness. More severe side effects can include a skin rash or irritation that includes blistering, swelling, severe burning and itching. If you do suffer severe side effects, MayoClinic.com recommends you report this to the Food and Drug Administration.
According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, or FAO, only about 15 percent of cheese produced worldwide uses benzoyl peroxide in the bleaching process. In 2002, the JECFA, or Joint FAO/WHO Expert Committee on Food Additives, determined the inclusion of benzoyl peroxide as a bleaching agent presents no safety concerns.
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