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Benzoyl Peroxide

Benzoyl Peroxide

What Is Benzoyl Peroxide?

Unless you're Dr. Pimple Popper, the sight of a huge, inflamed zit on your face probably doesn't bring you much joy.

Thankfully, there are ways to treat these painful flareups without having to star in a viral popping video. Get acquainted with this key skin-care ingredient: benzoyl peroxide.

How do you use benzoyl peroxide?

Since it can easily dry out skin if left on for too long, MacGregor recommends using it in a face wash once per day. If you experience dryness with it, switch to use every other night. Either way, you're definitely going to want to follow with a moisturizer.

Look for a product with a benzoyl peroxide percentage of about 2.5 percent if you have mild to moderate acne, while products with five to 10 percent will work better for chronic and more severe acne. Differin's Daily Deep Cleanser, for example, has 5 percent benzoyl peroxide.

Don't, however, follow your benzoyl peroxide treatment with a vitamin C product. While both ingredients are great for your skin on their own, the two cancel each other out when used together. Use them on alternating days to get the most benefits out of each.

How Does Salicylic Acid Treat Acne?

Salicylic acid is what is called a keratolytic, which means it’s an excellent exfoliant. This technical term refers to this ingredient’s ability to help soften keratin, which is a protein that forms part of the skin’s structure. This softening helps loosen scaly skin, which makes it easier for dead skin cells to slough off. Because of its exfoliating properties, salicylic acid is effective in permeating the skin’s top layer, working its way into the pores and dissolving any back up of dead skin cells. Not only does it clear clogged pores, but it also helps the top layer of the epidermis shed, which prevents future pore blockages.

What are the associated side effects?

Although the side effects of each ingredient vary, both products are considered safe overall. They’re also considered safe to use during pregnancy. Salicylic acid should not be used by someone allergic to aspirin.

Both ingredients may cause dryness and irritation when you first start using them. Allergic reactions are rare, but they are possible. You should seek emergency medical attention if you develop extreme swelling or have trouble breathing.

How to use

You should never use a salicylic acid- or benzoyl peroxide-based product for every step of your skin care routine. For example, if you use a salicylic acid-based cleanser, make sure that this ingredient isn’t in your toner or moisturizer.

Using the ingredient in each step of your routine can dry your skin out and worsen your acne.

It’s also important to wear sunscreen every day. Although these acne ingredients don’t cause sun sensitivity like retinoids and alpha-hydroxy acids, unprotected sun exposure can make acne worse. It may also increase your risk of skin cancer and scarring.

The Benefits of Using Benzoyl Peroxide

Benzoyl peroxide is a proven acne treatment that’s included in many prescription and over-the-counter products. It’s also widely recommended by dermatologists and skincare experts because of its effectiveness on a variety of skin types.

A primary benefit of benzoyl peroxide is the elimination of acne-causing bacteria. In addition, p. acnes bacteria do not build up a resistance to BPO in the same way they do with antibiotics. So benzoyl peroxide can remain effective as a treatment for acne over a long period of time.

Risks and Warnings

The most common side effects of using benzoyl peroxide for acne are skin reactions:

  • Dryness
  • Itching
  • Irritation

These are especially common at the start of treatment and some people may misinterpret these reactions as an allergy to BPO. However, serious allergic reactions to benzoyl peroxide are rare.