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Benzoyl Peroxide For Acne: Benefits, Uses, Treatment & Side-Effects

Benzoyl Peroxide is a chemical compound that is vastly used as a treatment for acne due to its antibacterial and keratolytic properties.

  • Benzoyl Peroxide for acne- When applied topically, Benzoyl Peroxide works effectively on treating acne by decreasing the number of acne-causing bacteria (C. acnes)
  • It breaks down keratin which causes the shedding of dead skin cells and helps unclog the pores, releasing the trapped sebum, skin cells and bacteria which could trigger acne. 
  • Unlike antibiotics, bacteria does not easily form resistance against Benzoyl Peroxide.
  • It is one of the quickest treatments to clear inflammatory acne.
  • Inflammatory acne- As the name suggests, these are inflamed acne which include papules, pustules, nodules and cysts. Benzoyl Peroxide can be effective in treating inflammatory acne as these are formed when bacteria, sebum or dirt plug hair follicles. Benzoyl peroxide exfoliates the skin to free the plugged follicles and works as an antibacterial to get rid of the acne-causing bacteria.
  • Non-Inflammatory acne- Unlike inflammatory acne, these aren’t pus-filled and are often caused due to clogging of pores. These include whiteheads and blackheads. Benzoyl Peroxide isn’t as effective in treating non-inflammatory acne as it is in treating inflammatory acne. It can be used in combination with other ingredients such as Salicylic Acid to treat blackheads and whiteheads.

Benzoyl Peroxide comes in many formulations, here are some of them-

  • Cleansers- Benzoyl Peroxide cleansers help get rid of sebum, dirt and bacteria clogging the pores by washing them away. These can be used everyday. 
  • Ointments- Ointments are meant for spot treatment. These should only be used on affected areas, preferably at night to avoid irritation.
  • Gels- Similar to ointments, gels are also meant to be applied on affected areas. 
  • Serums- These are usually meant to be in contact with the skin for a longer period of time. These can be applied to clean skin and followed up with a moisturiser.
  • Moisturisers- Moisturisers with Benzoyl Peroxide are usually teamed with hydrating ingredients to moisturise the skin while treating acne.
  • Masks- Masks are meant to show intense results in a short amount of time. Due to this, these usually have a higher concentration of Benzoyl Peroxide in them. These can be used once or twice a week.

Benzoyl Peroxide is available in many formulations and concentrations in the market. Although you might find ointments and gels boasting of 10% Benzoyl Peroxide, it’s safest to use a concentration between 2%- 5% to avoid the risk of irritation. A Benzoyl Peroxide face wash can be used all over the face, twice a day whereas a cream or a gel is generally used as a spot treatment. Benzoyl Peroxide can be quite drying, so it’s important to use a moisturiser diligently while using it. Start by applying a moisturiser and follow up with Benzoyl Peroxide as a spot treatment to minimise irritation

Benzoyl Peroxide is recommended for those with acne-prone skin. Other skin types aren’t really in need of Benzoyl Peroxide and can stick to using other exfoliating ingredients like Retinols, AHAs or BHAs.

Benzoyl Peroxide can safely be used alongside hydrating ingredients such as Niacinamide and Hyaluronic Acid. But other active ingredients such as Retinol, AHAs, BHAs and Vitamin C are a different ball game altogether. Using Benzoyl Peroxide with any of these ingredients might cause both of them to deactivate each other’s action. Hence, make sure to avoid using the two in the same routine.

Although Benzoyl Peroxide is an effective treatment for acne, the downside of this ingredient are the side effects associated with it. Benzoyl Peroxide may cause-

  • Redness
  • Itchiness
  • Scaling and peeling of the skin
  • Irritation
  • Dryness

In case of an allergy or a severe case of side effect, Benzoyl Peroxide may cause blisters or inflammation. It is important to stop application and seek medical help in such cases.

  • Adapalene- Adapalene is a form of a retinoid used as a treatment for acne. It works by unclogging the pores and effectively exfoliating to prevent the formation of plugs leading to acne. It also reduces inflammation and redness associated with acne.
  • Salicylic Acid- Salicylic Acid is a BHA, which works by loosening the dead skin cells and exfoliating the skin, freeing the trapped sebum, dead skin cells and bacteria. It is an oil-soluble acid meaning it penetrates deep into the skin.
  • Sulphur- Sulphur is a popular ingredient in anti-acne masks. It works by absorbing excess oil and is also effective against the bacteria causing acne.

Benzoyl Peroxide is amongst one of the most effective treatments for acne. Although it comes with a risk of side effects, if used correctly and moderately, this ingredient might be all you need to get rid of your acne. Keep in mind that using Benzoyl Peroxide can leave you with scarring, which may take time to fade. So, patience is key with this ingredient.

  • How long does it take to see results while using Benzoyl peroxide?

You can expect to see results within 4 weeks of using Benzoyl Peroxide, some people might even see quicker results.

  • How long should you leave Benzoyl Peroxide on your face?

The duration of how long Benzoyl Peroxide must be left on the face really depends on the product and concentration you’re using. There’s no need to leave a face wash containing Benzoyl peroxide on your skin for more than a minute, whereas gels and creams can be left overnight as a spot treatment.

  • Does Benzoyl Peroxide cause dark spots?

Benzoyl Peroxide may leave Post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation (PIH) after clearing up acne. These may appear as dark spots left where the acne used to be.

  • Which is better, Salicylic Acid or Benzoyl Peroxide?

Although both of them have a similar mode of action, Salicylic Acid works best on comedonal acne whereas Benzoyl Peroxide is effective in treating inflammatory acne. You can choose between the two based on your requirement or you could opt for a combination of both.

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