Benzoyl Peroxide

What is benzoyl peroxide and how to use it for acne?

Benzoyl peroxide is a synthesized peroxide topical medicine used to treat acne. Also known as BPO, it is available in both prescription and non-prescription cleansers, gels and creams made to 2.5, 5 and 10% concentrations. Benzoyl peroxide is such a well-regarded medicine that it is on the World Health Organization’s List of Essential Medicines.

How to treat acne with benzoyl peroxide?

Benzoyl peroxide reduces the number and severity of acne lesions in 2 main ways:

  • Benzoyl peroxide is bactericidal.

Meaning it kills the acne causing bacteria called C. acnes (formerly called P. acnes). Unlike antibiotics, this bacteria has not developed resistance to benzoyl peroxide like it has to all antibiotics used to treat acne. The 2.5% concentration is as effective as higher concentrations in treating acne. It is also less irritating to sensitive skin. Find 2.5% benzoyl peroxide in my 2.5% Benzoyl Peroxide Acne Treatment Cream.

  • It acts as a keratolytic.

Meaning it clears out blackheads and keratin blockages in pores.

Benzoyl peroxide may also reduce inflammation and redness from acne lesions.

Benzoyl peroxide works quickly to treat acne, and you will start to see results in under a week. It helps blackheads, whiteheads and red acne pimples.

How do you use benzoyl peroxide to treat acne?

  • Benzoyl peroxide is best applied in a thin layer to acne prone skin twice a day.

Ideally you want to treat the entire acne prone area, because benzoyl peroxide helps to reduce new acne lesions. Many people chose to use stronger concentrations of benzoyl peroxide cream or gel as a spot treatment for pimples too.

  • Benzoyl peroxide can be combined with salicylic acid, glycolic acid, sulfur and topical antibiotics.

It can also be combined with adapalene (a synthetic retinoid). Other retinoids, such as retinol and tretinoin are deactivated by benzoyl peroxide.

Benzoyl peroxide side effects?

Benzoyl peroxide can cause skin irritation, redness, peeling and photosensitivity.

This risk is worse with higher strengths, making 2.5% the logical starting concentration. If irritation develops, the skin usually adjusts in several weeks, though some people develop stinging, itching and swelling and can’t tolerate benzoyl peroxide. Benzoyl peroxide can make the treated skin more sun sensitive too. Wearing sunscreen, using a moisturizer, starting on the lowest strength, and avoiding other harsh cleansers and products may help skin better tolerate benzoyl peroxide.

Benzoyl peroxide will bleach fabric!

Benzoyl peroxide vs. salicylic acid; Can you use them together to treat acne?

Salicylic acid and benzoyl peroxide are the two most well-known and effective non-prescription acne fighters. They both work wonders for acne prone skin.

  • Both help remove dead cells clogging your pores.

  • Benzoyl peroxide also kills bacteria.

  • Salicylic acid penetrates better into oily pores.

Together, these super power acne fighters work better than they do alone. You can use them both twice a day. One can be used as a cleanser, as in my Foaming Acne Treatment Cleanser, followed by a cream, as in my Benzoyl Peroxide Acne Treatment Cream 2.5%. Or, you can use one as a pad that evaporates quickly, as in my Salicylic Acid and Glycolic Acid Acne Treatment Pads, followed by the Benzoyl Peroxide Cream.

Benzoyl peroxide cleansers are the best way to treat back and chest acne.

Applying creams is difficult on the large expanse of chest and back skin. Instead, use medicated cleansers. My Foaming Benzoyl Peroxide 10% Cleanser can be applied with a Salux Shower Cloth. After rinsing-off the cleanser's lather from skin in the shower, medicated benzoyl peroxide medicine will remain behind to treat acne (and bleach fabric so wear white). You can alternate this with Foaming Zinc Cleanser to treat the common type of back and chest acne called Pityrosporum folliculitis. All the products come in my Back Acne Kit.

Can you use benzoyl peroxide if you are pregnant?

No. It is unclear if benzoyl peroxide is safe to use during pregnancy, meaning use should be avoided.


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  1. Foaming Benzoyl Peroxide Acne Treatment Cleanser™

    Foaming Benzoyl Peroxide Acne Treatment Cleanser™

    Benzoyl peroxide kills the acne-causing bacteria p. acnes. It also unclogs pores to treat blackheads, making it an excellent acne treatment for facial acne, back acne, and other areas of skin with body acne.

  2. Dr. Bailey's Benzoyl Peroxide Acne Treatment Cream 2.5% Sensitive Skin™

    Benzoyl Peroxide Acne Treatment Cream™ 2.5% Sensitive Skin

    2.5% is the “sweet spot” in benzoyl peroxide acne treatment. It gives you all the acne-treating power needed to fight acne-causing bacteria and blackheads, but it’s gentle on sensitive skin.

  3. Dr. Bailey's Benzoyl Peroxide Acne Treatment Cream 5%™

    Benzoyl Peroxide Acne Treatment Cream™ 5%

    Benzoyl peroxide is the most effective non prescription acne treatment medicine for killing the acne causing bacteria P. acnes (now called C. acnes). The 5% benzoyl peroxide in this acne treatment cream is strong enough to treat tough acne, but won't irritate most sensitive skin.

  4. Dr. Bailey's Benzoyl Peroxide Acne Treatment Cream 10%, Extra Strength™

    Benzoyl Peroxide Acne Treatment Cream™ 10%, Extra Strength

    A full 10% benzoyl peroxide is the highest concentration available over the counter and the most effective acne treatment medicine for killing the acne causing bacteria P. acnes (now called C. acnes).

  5. Ultimate Acne Solutions Skin Care Kit™

    Ultimate Acne Solutions Skin Care Kit™

    Most regular acne products are irritating to sensitive skin, but this acne treatment kit delivers the best acne medications at levels that are appropriate for sensitive skin.

    Regular Price: $61.00

    Special Price $55.00

  6. Dr. Bailey's Ultimate Acne Solutions Skin Care Kit, Extra Strength™

    Ultimate Acne Solutions Skin Care Kit, Extra Strength™

    Tolerant skin benefits from the high concentration of acne medicine in the Ultimate Acne Solutions Skin Care Kit, Extra Strength.

    Regular Price: $72.50

    Special Price $65.00

  7. Dr. Bailey's Back and Body Acne Kit™

    Back and Body Acne Kit™

    Designed with the right ingredients to clear body acne and prevent acne scars, this is the best back and body acne skin care treatments in a kit.

    Regular Price: $50.00

    Special Price $45.00

  8. Dr. Bailey's Pityrosporum Folliculitis Kit

    Pityrosporum Folliculitis Kit

    My Pityrosporum folliculitis is essential if you have that odd type of acne that both itches and hurts, has bright red pustules and tiny flesh-colored bumps studding your skin and that represent clogged pores.

    Regular Price: $110.00

    Special Price $99.00

  9. Dr. Bailey's Rosacea Therapy Kit

    Rosacea Therapy Kit

    The right complete skin care routine is really important to healing your rosacea. My kit offers products to keep your complexion clear, healthy, and comfortable. >

    Regular Price: $197.00

    Special Price $185.00

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