Benzoyl Peroxide & Peeling
Benzoyl peroxide and peeling, dry skin often go hand in hand, as these are possible side effects associated with use. The Mayo Clinic and American Academy of Dermatology both state that benzoyl peroxide is one ingredient in your acne medication that gives you comprehensive treatment, reducing the presence of excess sebum, dead skin cells and bacteria that make pimples form on your skin. However, benzoyl peroxide can also peel, chafe and inflame, especially if you have sensitive skin or don't use your acne medication properly.
Choosing Your Treatment
Benzoyl peroxide is available in nonprescription acne treatments in concentrations of between 2.5 and 10 percent, notes the Mayo Clinic. Before you reach for the strongest benzoyl preparation you can find on your drugstore's shelves, keep in mind that the Mayo Clinic stresses a more conservative approach. Start with a medication with the lowest concentration of benzoyl peroxide to reduce the potential for peeling, dryness, irritation and other associated side effects. You can always purchase a stronger benzoyl peroxide-based treatment in the future, says the Mayo Clinic, as well as increase the frequency you use your medication---after you give your skin some time to adjust.
Preparing Your Skin
Acne treatments that contain benzoyl peroxide are applied after you cleanse. Reduce peeling, dryness and other hazards by using a gentle, oil-free cleanser, advises the American Academy of Dermatology. Avoid medicated cleansers or those that contain harsh ingredients. Use only your fingertips or hands to wash and warm water to rinse--don't scrub your skin with a "buff puff" or washcloth, as this exacerbates oil production. Gently pat dry. Because your skin is most absorbent right after you wash it, wait 5 to 15 minutes before applying your acne medication to avoid skin irritation, advises the AAD.
Benzoyl Peroxide Use
Use a benzoyl peroxide-based acne medication only as directed---or how your dermatologist instructs you to use it. Apply just enough of the product to coat the skin and rub it in gently, says the Mayo Clinic. Don't fall prey to the notion that using more medication will clear up your skin more quickly; if anything, you'll only subject it to more punishing side effects of the medication. Unless your dermatologist gives you the okay, don't use other medications on your skin if you're also using benzoyl peroxide, says the Mayo Clinic---even some over-the-counter skincare products can also make the side effects of benzoyl peroxide worse. Specifically avoid peeling agents such as resorcinol, salicylic acid, sulfur and tretinoin; hair removal products and permanents; products that contain lime or spices; and those that contain a large volume of alcohol, such as after-shaves and astringents.
Avoid applying benzoyl peroxide around the lips or eyes. Don't get it in your nose or tender areas of the neck. If you accidentally get your medication in these areas, rinse it off with water immediately, advises the Mayo Clinic. Don't use benzoyl peroxide on skin that's sunburned, windburned or that has an open wound.
What Else You Should Know
Benzoyl peroxide has one other side effect---it bleaches colored fabric, cautions the AAD---towels, clothing, bedding, you name it. To avoid ruining your favorite pair of p.j.s, wear an old t-shirt to bed at night. Protect pillows by covering them with white pillowcases or cases you don't mind getting ruined.
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