Benzoyl Peroxide

Benzoyl peroxide is one of the most common ingredients in acne treatments today. In almost any drug store, supermarket, or department store, you can find an acne treatment product that uses benzoyl peroxide, whether at a low or high concentration. If a treatment is marketed for acne reduction and treatment, from over-the-counter gels and cleansers to prescription-strength spot treatments, it likely has this ingredient.

Benzoyl peroxide is a popular addition to acne medications for several reasons. It’s cheap, widely available, and effective at treating mild to moderate acne at lower concentrations. However, this chemical is also available in higher concentrations as a prescription item to treat more severe forms of acne. Benzoyl peroxide is most commonly found in the following acne treatment products.

Most benzoyl peroxide products should have a concentration between 3 and 10% to be maximally effective, but anything over 5% is typically available as a prescription from a dermatologist. The ingredient effectively rids the skin of bacteria and dead skin cells, which clog the pores. It’s especially great for inflammatory acne, or lesions characterized by red, enflamed bumps that contain pus. At lower doses, benzoyl peroxide is generally considered to be too weak for treating more severe conditions, like cystic acne.

Additionally, benzoyl peroxide should, in theory, help decrease the effect of acne scars by improving discoloration. That said, the ingredient can also make the skin very sensitive to sun exposure, which can worsen discoloration. If you want to try benzoyl peroxide as an acne scar treatment, consult a dermatologist before attempting this application. There are likely safer and more effective forms of scar treatment.

As with most popular products, there are a few risks to using benzoyl peroxide. While side effects are fairly limited, the ingredient can make skin dry, red, and irritated. In the most severe cases, it can cause skin to peel. When applied accidentally to clothing and hair, it can bleach the fibers. To that end, people with acne should never use this ingredient on sunburnt skin, as it can worsen symptoms.

In general, benzoyl peroxide is an effective skin treatment for people who experience superficial acne, like whiteheads and black heads. That said, if an outbreak doesn’t respond to benzoyl peroxide, it’s likely a good idea to visit a dermatologist for consultation and acne treatment. Additionally those with sensitive skin should talk to a doctor before using benzoyl peroxide, and if you have an allergic reaction, stop using the product immediately.

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