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Benzoyl peroxide is a topical solution for treating mild to moderate acne. It also can be an effective adjunct therapy to other topical medications or oral antibiotics in more severe cases of acne, according to Drugs.com 1. Benzoyl peroxide is available over the counter and also in prescription medications 1. Products containing benzoyl peroxide come in many forms including creams, gels, lotions, soaps and pads. Some characteristics of benzoyl peroxide explain its benefits for people with acne.
Decreases Oil Production
Benzoyl peroxide may decrease the skin's oil production, as noted by eMedTV. Overactive oil glands contribute to acne, because excess oil plugs pores, or hair follicles, and also prevents dead skin cells from sloughing away. A build-up of dead cells further clogs and irritates pores. Blocked pores turn into blackheads or whiteheads, and these can turn into the swollen red pus-filled bumps known as pimples. They also can develop into large painful cysts or nodules under the skin that can cause scarring.
- Benzoyl peroxide may decrease the skin's oil production, as noted by eMedTV.
- Overactive oil glands contribute to acne, because excess oil plugs pores, or hair follicles, and also prevents dead skin cells from sloughing away.
How to Get Rid of Pimples Without Scarring
Benzoyl peroxide is a topical antibiotic and kills Propionibacterium acnes, or P. acnes, the bacteria that causes acne and also results in inflammation. P. acnes is anaerobic, meaning it cannot survive in an oxygenated environment. Benzoyl peroxide is an oxidizing agent, and applying this substance moves oxygen into clogged pores and eliminates anaerobic bacteria, explains Drugs.com 3. Benzoyl peroxide is more effective at eliminating this bacteria than other topical solutions, including resorcinol, salicylic acid and sulfur, according to eMedTV. Some acne treatment products and systems combine benzoyl peroxide with one or more of these ingredients to increase effectiveness.
- Benzoyl peroxide is a topical antibiotic and kills Propionibacterium acnes, or P. acnes, the bacteria that causes acne and also results in inflammation.
- Benzoyl peroxide is more effective at eliminating this bacteria than other topical solutions, including resorcinol, salicylic acid and sulfur, according to eMedTV.
Mild Side Effects
Benzoyl peroxide is not associated with any major side effects. Because the substance reduces oil production, dry skin as a side effect is common. This is usually mild, according to the New Zealand Dermatological Society, and can be treated with a non-oily moisturizer 4. If skin irritation occurs, it is rarely severe. While benzoyl peroxide decreases skin bacteria, it does not cause bacterial resistance as oral antibiotics do. Additionally, benzoyl peroxide can reduce bacterial resistance that has developed due to taking oral antibiotics as acne therapy.
- Benzoyl peroxide is not associated with any major side effects.
- While benzoyl peroxide decreases skin bacteria, it does not cause bacterial resistance as oral antibiotics do.
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- EMedTV: Acne Medications
- Cleveland Clinic: Acne
- Drugs.com: Complete Benzoyl Peroxide Information
- New Zealand Dermatological Society: Benzoyl Peroxide
- Matin T, Goodman MB. Benzoyl Peroxide. [Updated 2020 Mar 16]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2020 Jan-. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK537220/
- Matin T, Goodman MB. Benzoyl Peroxide. [Updated 2020 Mar 16]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2020 Jan-.
- U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Food and Drug Administration Center for Drug Evaluation and Research (CDER). Topical Acne Drug Products for Overthe-Counter Human Use — Revision of Labeling and Classification of Benzoyl Peroxide as Safe and Effective Small Entity Compliance Guide. June 2011. fda.gov
- Burkhart CG, Burkhart CN. Antibacterial properties of benzoyl peroxide in aerobic and anaerobic conditions. Int J Dermatol. 2006;45(11):1373‐1374. doi:10.1111/j.1365-4632.2006.02877.x
- Zaenglein AL, Pathy AL, Schlosser BJ, et al. Guidelines of care for the management of acne vulgaris. J Am Acad Dermatol. 2016;74(5):945-73.e33. doi:10.1016/j.jaad.2015.12.037
- Masini F, Ricci F, Fossati B, et al. Combination therapy with retinaldehyde (0.1%) glycolic acid (6%) and efectiose (0.1%) in mild to moderate acne vulgaris during the period of sun exposure--efficacy and skin tolerability. Eur Rev Med Pharmacol Sci. 2014;18(16):2283‐2286.
- Chularojanamontri L, Tuchinda P, Kulthanan K, Pongparit K. Moisturizers for Acne: What are their Constituents?. J Clin Aesthet Dermatol. 2014;7(5):36‐44.
- Kim C, Craiglow BG, Watsky KL, Antaya RJ. Allergic Contact Dermatitis to Benzoyl Peroxide Resembling Impetigo. Pediatr Dermatol. 2015;32(4):e161‐e162. doi:10.1111/pde.12585
- Burkhart CG, Burkhart CN. Treatment of acne vulgaris without antibiotics: tertiary amine-benzoyl peroxide combination vs. benzoyl peroxide alone (Proactiv Solution). Int J Dermatol. 2007;46(1):89‐93. doi:10.1111/j.1365-4632.2007.03081.x
- Kircik LH. The role of benzoyl peroxide in the new treatment paradigm for acne. J Drugs Dermatol. 2013;12(6):s73-6.
Shelley Moore is a journalist and award-winning short-story writer. She specializes in writing about personal development, health, careers and personal finance. Moore has been published in "Family Circle" magazine and the "Milwaukee Sentinel" newspaper, along with numerous other national and regional magazines, daily and weekly newspapers and corporate publications. She has a Bachelor of Science in psychology.