If you’ve struggled with chronic breakouts – or even occasional pimples – you may have read or heard about benzoyl peroxide and its effectiveness when it comes to clearing skin. But you may not yet fully understand how this ingredient works when it comes to treating breakouts or how to incorporate it into your skincare routine to keep skin clear. Our Skin Health Experts put together this short guide to help you better understand benzoyl peroxide and how it can help your skin.
What Does Benzoyl Peroxide Do for Your Skin?
Benzoyl peroxide has been an ingredient in skincare products for many years. Its primary role is to kill bacteria. When applied to your skin, benzoyl peroxide also works as a drying agent. This causes your skin to dry and peel, removing dead skin cells from your pores.
How Can Benzoyl Peroxide Help Acne?
Acne occurs when an overproduction of sebum, or oil, clogs your pores. This traps dead skin and bacteria, known as Propionibacterium acnes (p. acnes) in your pores. When dead skin and p. acnes become trapped, your skin becomes inflamed—a.k.a, you break out.
So, is benzoyl peroxide good for acne? For some types of acne, yes—benzoyl peroxide can be an effective treatment. Its bacteria-fighting properties can reduce inflamed acne and help prevent bacteria from becoming trapped in your pores.
You should consider using benzoyl peroxide if you’re dealing with:
- Pimples – This type of acne is characterized by red bumps and pus-filled pustules on the face, neck, and back.
- Blackheads and whiteheads – These blemishes remain under the skin (in the case of whiteheads) or appear just on the surface (in the case of blackheads).
- Cystic acne – The most severe type of acne is cystic acne. It results in very painful, pus-filled lesions that stretch deep beneath the skin.
However, cystic acne can sometimes be far more difficult to treat and require prescription medications. In fact, benzoyl peroxide is most effective when used to treat pimples and mildly inflammatory acne.
Types of Skin Care Products Containing Benzoyl Peroxide
Many over-the-counter products contain benzoyl peroxide, but the strength and quality of these vary widely. You’ve likely seen many of these products at your local drugstore:
- Face washes – These often come in a foam or gel style. Most contain a moderate amount of benzoyl peroxide.
- Gels – Gels containing benzoyl peroxide are typically the most highly-concentrated over-the-counter treatments available. You don’t want to use them on your entire face. Instead, you’ll only apply the gel where you have breakouts.
- Lotions – Lotions are usually used in conjunction with face washes. They have lower concentrations of benzoyl peroxide than gels, so they’re usually used on the entire face.
- Toners – Toners contain both benzoyl peroxide and alcohol, so they may dry out your skin even more than just benzoyl peroxide alone.
Benzoyl Peroxide Side Effects
Before you start using benzoyl peroxide, it’s important to know that acne treatment products containing benzoyl peroxide may come with some mild side effects, such as:
- Dry, peeling skin
- Redness and skin irritation
- Stains on your clothing
- Bleached hair if used near eyebrows or hairline
The severity of these side effects might be worsened if you have sensitive skin. However, most skin irritation should resolve after using your skincare products for several days. If not, you should consult with your dermatologist or Skin Health Expert.
Benzoyl Peroxide vs. Other Acne Treatments
Benzoyl peroxide can be beneficial to many acne sufferers. However, for more severe forms of acne, it sometimes isn’t strong enough. To combat the most stubborn breakouts more effectively, other acne treatments are often paired with benzoyl peroxide.
The American Academy of Dermatologists lists the following as additional treatment options for acne:
- Azelaic acid
- Antibiotics (oral and topical)
- Hormonal birth control
- Salicylic acid
- Laser or light therapy
- Corticosteroid injections
- Dietary changes
- Prescription medications
The right treatment for you depends on the type of acne you have and your skin’s sensitivity to the available options. You can also explore if retinol is good for acne and if niacinamide helps with acne on our blog.
The important thing to keep in mind is that there isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution to maintaining healthy, clear, acne-free skin. You’ll need patience, a good dermatologist, and quality skincare products to help you find the right formula for you.
Kate Somerville: Your Source for the Best in Skin Care
Benzoyl peroxide’s most potent power in fighting acne is its antibacterial properties. However, not all types of acne respond to benzoyl peroxide treatments, and sometimes, benzoyl peroxide can leave your face feeling overly dry and irritated.
That’s why we’ve created Anti Bac® Acne Clearing Lotion—a clinically-formulated acne treatment that only contains 5% benzoyl peroxide, so you don’t have to worry about irritation or overly dry skin. By applying Anti Bac to the affected areas, you’ll receive targeted treatment for your acne, whiteheads, and blackheads, and prevent future acne breakouts from occurring.
When it comes to getting your best skin, trust the Skin Health Experts at Kate Somerville.
1. National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases. Acne. https://www.niams.nih.gov/health-topics/acne/advanced
2. National Institute of Health. Benzoyl Peroxide. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK537220/
3. National Library of Medicine. Treatment of Acne. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31502795/
4. National Institute of Health. Benzoyl Peroxide. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK537220/
National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases. Acne. https://www.niams.nih.gov/health-topics/acne/advanced
National Institute of Health. Benzoyl Peroxide. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK537220/
National Library of Medicine. Treatment of Acne. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31502795/
American Academy of Dermatologists. Acne: Diagnosis and Treatment. https://www.aad.org/public/diseases/acne/derm-treat/treat