Benzoyl Peroxide is an antibacterial medication used to treat conditions such as acne, rosacea, and folliculitis. Although it was previously a prescription, most forms are now considered an OTC (over-the-counter) drug. It has been registered as an acne agent since 1960!
How Benzoyl Peroxide Works & Benefits
Benzoyl peroxide kills off the P. Acnes bacteria, without causing antibiotic resistance in the skin like oral antibiotic treatment would. It also can unblock pores and decrease oil on the skin. There are even suggestions that Benzoyl Peroxide is anti-inflammatory, to calm the reaction of skin towards acne or rosacea.
How to Choose a Benzoyl Peroxide Product
Benzoyl Peroxide may be packaged in wash, cream, gel, or foam forms. The best type to use depends on the surface you plan to use it on and how sensitive your skin is. Washes which remain on the skin for a limited time are best for sensitive or rosacea patients, while stubborn acne will benefit from a leave-on gel/cream/foam. The concentrations range from 2.5%-10% OTC.
Again, for that sensitive or rosacea prone person, start low with a 2.5%. This is also the best bet for anyone starting a new program on the face. The higher strengths are more appropriate for oily areas like the chest or back. The skin tends to be thicker and acne more resistant in these areas, so the higher percentage will show more oomph!
For some people, Benzoyl Peroxide may not be tolerated at all. Extreme redness, itching, or tightness may occur in those who should not use this ingredient. For others, a mild irritation and dryness may appear in the first month or so of use. For such people, initiate Benzoyl Peroxide products a few times a week only and work up from there.
As Benzoyl Peroxide has an antibacterial effect, it targets a different type of acne lesion compared to its popular counterpart of Salicylic Acid. It can be more robust for bigger, deeper lesions and whiteheads, while Salicylic Acid is great for blackheads. Benzoyl Peroxide can also cause more skin irritation than its competitor.
Nonetheless, most acne regimens will include the dueling nature of benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid in rotating components for a comprehensive treatment regimen.