Mobile Menu Close Icon

Can Benzoyl Peroxide Treat Acne?


Sorry to trigger traumatizing memories, but do you remember spotting your first break out as a teenager? Waking up, looking like a pizza and trying to convince your mom you were sick and just couldn’t go to school that day? 

Yeah, that memory. 

You then scavenge your older sibling’s bathroom counter for something, anything that will make it go away – and since then, you’ve become BFFs with the oh-so-reliable benzoyl peroxide. 

If you blocked this out of your memory we don’t blame you.

Benzoyl peroxide has become synonymous with acne treatment. If you get that dreaded zit, it’s benzoyl peroxide to the rescue. But for many people who are looking to use it for the very first time, there are a few things to understand like what it is exactly, how to use it and the associated side effects of benzoyl peroxide. 

We’ll give you the good, bad, and sometimes ugly, on benzoyl peroxide.


What is Benzoyl Peroxide?

Benzoyl peroxide is a chemical compound known for its antibacterial, keratolytic, comedolytic, and anti-inflammatory properties and is commonly used as a treatment for acne. What benzoyl peroxide does for acne is that the medication releases oxygen on the skin and destroys acne cause bacteria. 

Because of anti-inflammatory and comedolytic properties, benzoyl peroxide also helps to open up pores and decrease inflammation in the skin. 

Benzoyl peroxide is easy to get over the counter and is one of the most effective treatments for acne because it removes excess oil and pore-clogging dead skin cells, as well as kill acne-causing bacteria. It may also be used to treat cystic acne which is the deepest, most painful type of acne.

Benzoyl peroxide for acne of all types is effective, however, it is particularly helpful for inflammatory acne. This type of acne is your traditional red, pus-filled pimples, or pustules. 

When it comes to comedonal acne (blackheads and whiteheads) benzoyl peroxide is not as effective as salicylic acid. 

Salicylic acid for acne is also one of the most common and effective products because of its ability to remove pore-clogging dead skin cells. The main difference is that salicylic acid and benzoyl peroxide is that salicylic acid is a Beta Hydroxy Acid (BHA) meaning the way it targets acne is surface level, where benzoyl peroxide is a peroxide that cleans deep within pores. 

This also means that salicylic acid acne treatment is more gentle and mild than benzoyl peroxide acne treatment, and more suitable for sensitive skin types.

It may be confusing at first because the two types of acne treatment are used almost interchangeably. But it is important to note what kind of acne you have and what skin type you have to be able to determine what you should be using to treat your acne.


How to Use Benzoyl Peroxide

What makes benzoyl peroxide so popular is that you don’t heed a prescription to purchase it. It is a common over the counter medication you can purchase from your local drug store. The shelves at your drug store are probably inundated with numerous types of benzoyl peroxide products with different concentrations ranging from creams, cleansers, gels, and body washes for body acne.

If you choose to use a cleanser, we recommend you use a benzoyl peroxide cleanser with a concentration from 4% up to 10%. It is a good range because it will be effective and since you’re washing the product off, it won’t stay on your skin for too long so you’d be safe from potential irritation. 

If you choose to use a benzoyl peroxide as a cream or spot treatment, we recommend a smaller dosage from 2% up to 5% because of how much longer the product is staying on your skin. It’s important to note that if you’re using benzoyl peroxide for the first time, it is best to a smaller concentration first and then work up to the next level.

Benzoyl peroxide is just as effective at 2.5% as it is at 5% and 10%. The main difference is how drying it will be on your skin. The higher the percentage, the higher chance it has to dry out and irritate your skin.

Side Effects of Benzoyl Peroxide

Benzoyl peroxide is considered safe for most people, however there are side effects associated with benzoyl peroxide especially for first time users. Side effects may include dryness, redness and excessive peeling, itching, and general irritation in the area. If you are thinking about using benzoyl peroxide, it is best to start with a small concentration and only up to two times a day.

When considering using benzoyl peroxide, it is also important to note who should avoid it. If you have a sunburn, or if you have eczema or seborrheic dermatitis then you should avoid using benzoyl peroxide due to its highly irritating and drying properties.

Benzoyl Peroxide: The Final Word

Benzoyl peroxide is a popular acne treatment known for its deep cleaning properties and ability to kill acne causing bacteria. 

To determine if benzoyl peroxide will be most effective for you, you’ll need to determine what type of acne and skin type you have. 

While benzoyl peroxide is known to be that popular best friend you made in high school, it does come with its side effects. 

It is best practice to test out benzoyl peroxide slowly while incorporating it into the skin routine. Consulting with a dermatologist or doctor is also recommended, especially for people experiencing severe acne or have particularly sensitive skin or other skin conditions for the best plan for your unique skin situation.

Let’s keep in touch @kiseu