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Benzoyl peroxide is a tried and true acne-fighting ingredient. Whether you’re dealing with acne as a teen or an adult, it’s time you get to know this bacteria-busting super ingredient.
Benzoyl peroxide (also referred to as BP or BPO) is a topical antibacterial treatment that’s considered one of the most effective acne medications on the market. Breakouts occur when oil and dead skin cells clog your pores. Benzoyl peroxide penetrates your pores to reach and kill all the P. acnes bacteria (aka acne-causing bacteria) on your skin. BPO is so effective that it was included in some of the world’s first acne treatments and has been considered the gold standard in acne treatment for more than 50 years.
Benzoyl peroxide is such a fascinating ingredient because it delivers oxygen into the pores where acne-causing bacteria thrive. This type of bacteria can’t live in an oxygen-rich environment, so BPO essentially kills it at the source. BP also helps unclog your pores, and with continued use it helps keep your skin bacteria-free — even after your acne has cleared. Finally, benzoyl peroxide works as an anti-inflammatory, reducing the redness and soreness that can accompany a pimple.
If you look at all the prescription meds and over-the-counter acne treatments that include benzoyl peroxide, you’ll see that concentrations vary widely — some formulations include up to 10% BPO. Higher concentrations of benzoyl peroxide don’t necessarily make a product more effective at treating acne. In fact, studies have shown there’s no significant difference in the results produced from the 2.5%, 5%, or 10% concentrations.
There’s a reason why acne treatments with benzoyl peroxide are available in many prescription and over-the-counter products: BPO can be used over a longer period of time than antibiotics. P. acnes bacteria don’t build up a resistance to BPO, so you can use benzoyl peroxide as an effective acne treatment for an extended period of time.
As with any strong acne topical, BP does have some side effects. The most common are dryness, itching, irritation, light peeling, and some redness. To minimize these effects, start by using BPO once every few days to gradually let your skin get used to it. Be sure to avoid using benzoyl peroxide with other medicines (prescription or otherwise) that dry out or irritate your skin. Of course if you are seeing persistent irritation, redness, or itching, be sure to stop using BPO and consult a doctor.
Because benzoyl peroxide has so many common side effects, it can be challenging to determine whether you’re allergic to it. However, some people are allergic to BPO and a genuine allergic reaction will include severe redness and burning, itching, serious irritation, cracked skin, scabbing, blistering, swelling, a rash, and possibly even hives. Consult your doctor if you are showing any of these symptoms.
As we mentioned, you still may have some mild to moderate side effects when you’re first starting to use benzoyl peroxide. Don’t give up! Just take a few precautionary measures so you can still reap all of the benefits BPO has to offer.
Benzoyl peroxide typically takes about a month to start working, but up to two to four months to have a full effect. If you don’t see an improvement after this time, speak to your doctor, who may suggest more potent, prescription-strength treatments.
It’s typically safe to use benzoyl peroxide for an extended period as long as you don’t have any significant side effects. However, keep in mind that your breakouts may come back if you stop using it — though there’s nothing wrong with giving your skin a break once in a while.
Over the years, benzoyl peroxide has become a gold standard for treating acne because it kills P. acnes bacteria, unclogs blocked pores, keeps those pores clear, and reduces inflammation. Very few other acne-fighting ingredients have so many benefits. See for yourself by trying proactiv’s products that feature benzoyl peroxide.