Benzoyl peroxide is, along with salicylic acid, one of the most popular acne fighting ingredients on the market today. If you go to any drugstore you’ll find dozens of products containing benzoyl peroxide, and for good reason: it works.
Still, there are a lot of questions that you might have about the product. That’s fair, and really you should be asking questions about a product before you apply it to your skin.
Here are some of the most common questions that people have about benzoyl peroxide and the honest, unbiased answers to those questions.
Like most forms of peroxide, benzoyl peroxide is a powerful bleaching agent. Although the concentrations found in acne treatments (2.5% – 10%) are relatively low, it can still bleach hair and fabrics very easily. Skin, however, is different and benzoyl peroxide should not lighten your skin tone at all.
Due to the bleaching property of benzoyl peroxide, you’ll want to be careful when using it. Make sure to thoroughly wash your hands after you’ve applied the product, so you don’t stain your towels or clothes.
If you’re going to be applying benzoyl peroxide to your back or chest, where you’ll be wearing a shirt, there’s not much you can do to prevent bleaching other than to rub the product in until it’s fully absorbed and wait an additional 5-10 minutes for it to completely dry before putting your shirt on.
Benzoyl peroxide will dry your skin, and skin that is overly dry can look prematurely aged. However, you should always be applying a non-comedogenic moisturizer after you apply benzoyl peroxide, and this should prevent your skin from aging faster than it normally would.
I have personally been using benzoyl peroxide daily for over 10 years, and there are people who have been using it far longer, and the only side effect I’ve experienced is clear skin!
In 1995 the FDA changed the classification of benzoyl peroxide from Category I (Safe) to Category III (More Data Is Needed) and this caused a lot of people to worry about the safety of the product. All this means, however, is that there isn’t enough scientific data to conclusively say that the product is safe. It does not mean that the product is dangerous in any way
In fact, there is no reason to thing that benzoyl peroxide causes cancer, or is bad for your skin in any way. In the 30+ years that benzoyl peroxide has been widely used, there has never been a case of skin cancer linked to its use.
In short: No, benzoyl peroxide does not cause cancer.
Benzoyl peroxide should not, on its own, darken your skin. However, it will make your skin more sensitive to sunlight and this will cause you to tan or burn more easily. Some users of the product mistakenly believe that benzoyl peroxide is darkening their skin, when in fact there are merely getting a sun tan.
Another factor is that when first using benzoyl peroxide, your skin won’t be used to it and may slightly redden. This is temporary, and as your skin becomes accustomed to the product, all redness should go away.
Yes, benzoyl peroxide can and does expire. While it won’t become toxic (dangerous), it will become ineffective after long enough. An unopened bottle will last much longer than an opened bottle, although even unopened product will expire eventually.
Any product containing benzoyl peroxide should have an expiration date listed somewhere on it, and for maximum effectiveness it’s best to go by those dates.
Unfortunately, benzoyl peroxide is not going to get rid of or lessen the appearance of acne scars. The only way to reduce the appearance of scars is with something that promotes collagen production, such as a vitamin c serum.
However, by using benzoyl peroxide to treat and prevent acne breakouts, you are helping to reduce your chances of developing acne scars in the future.
Yes, this is exactly what makes benzoyl peroxide so effective as an acne treatment.
One of the primary causes of acne is a bacteria known as P. acnes which can grow inside of clogged pores, and develop into a pimple. Benzoyl peroxide works be killing this bacteria, preventing it from growing and causing acne to form.
Many acne products cause a sort of “initial breakout” when you start using them, where your acne actually gets worse before it gets better. This is completely normal for many products, and happens because the product is bringing up “hidden” acne that has formed under the surface of your skin, but simply wasn’t visible yet.
This shouldn’t be much of an issue with benzoyl peroxide, because it doesn’t really work that way. The benzoyl peroxide should prevent new acne from forming, but it will still take several weeks for existing acne to surface and go away before you start to notice a real improvement.
As I said for the previous question, it should take a few weeks to start noticing a real change with your acne. This is true for most products, because a pimple actually forms 2-3 weeks before you ever see it, deep within your skin.
Another factor to consider is that you should start with a relatively small amount of benzoyl peroxide, and gradually increase the amount to allow your skin time to get used to the product. Using too much too quickly will cause excess redness and irritation, which can acne make acne worse.
No, you should be able to keep using benzoyl peroxide effectively for as long as you need to, even for years or decades.
Benzoyl peroxide works by killing the bacteria responsible for causing acne, and that bacteria is not capable of developing an immunity to the chemical, so there’s no way it could possibly become ineffective.
The chief competitor to benzoyl peroxide, salicylic acid, works by speeding up the skin’s natural rejuvenation process and getting rid of old, dead layers of skin so it doesn’t have a chance to clog pores.
Benzoyl peroxide does not work this way and merely kills the acne causing bacteria which leads to breakouts. This means that it does not unclog pores. However, this is not a problem since ”clogged pores” cannot develop into acne if the P. acnes bacteria is not there to grow inside the pore.