Benzoyl Peroxide: Uses and Precautions

What Is Benzoyl Peroxide?

Nine out of ten teenagers will suffer from acne at some point. Benzoyl peroxide is a topical treatment effective in reducing the number and severity of acne breakouts from mild to moderate. Benzoyl peroxide used for acne is applied to the affected areas in gel or cream form, in concentrations of 2.5% to start, and then 5%, and can be increased to up to 10%, although there is no evidence that says the higher concentrationis more effective than the lower ones. If one is to increase the effect, it is best to apply the lowest concentration and gradually build up to a higher one. Doing it that way will increase the chances of better acne clearance, and help to eliminate the sometimes dryness and irritation that often results with the use of benzoyl peroxide. Benzoyl peroxide is also available as a liquid wash.

How Does Benzoyl Peroxide Work?

Bacteria is responsible for acne breakouts. Propionibacteria acnes cannot live in an oxygenated environment. What Benzoyl peroxide does is to convey oxygen into the pores which actually kills the bacteria. It also works by ridding the follicle of excess dead skin cells that can clog pores and cause breakouts. A blocked pore is called a comedone. Benzoyl peroxide unblocks the pore, therebystopping the break out before it happens. Once the skin is clear, one has to keep using benzoyl peroxide or the bacteria will build up again and breakouts will resume.

If the acnes (pimples) are red, and pus filled, benzoyl peroxide is needed.

When acne is more severe, benzoyl peroxide is also available combined with an antibiotic such as Duac once daily, Quinoderm, Duac or Epiduo.

How Should Benzoyl Peroxide Be Used?

Always carefully read the instructions on the usage and possible side effects before starting any topical treatment, so is using benzoyl peroxide. Here is a general instruction about using it.

  • ŸOne should start with the lower concentration first to reduce the chances of skin irritation. Use once or twice daily. Once you have made sure that your skin is not being irritated by benzoyl peroxide, gradually increase the concentration. Keep in mind you may not need to increase the concentration if it takes effect at the lower one.
  • ŸBe sure to wash the area about 15 minutes before applying the cream or gel. Wash with a gentle soap, and dry the skin gently with a towel. And then apply the benzoyl peroxide.
  • ŸIf you are using the benzoyl peroxide liquid wash, apply the liquid and leave on one to two minutes before rinsing. And then gently dry with a towel.
  • ŸDo not apply benzoyl peroxide to irritated skin or sensitive areas around the eyes, mouth and the sides of your nose. Do not apply it to any areas of skin which are irritated or sore.

What Should Be Noted When Using Benzoyl Peroxide?

Before starting this treatment, one should always discuss the benefits and risks of using benzoyl peroxide. Your doctor can help you determine if this is the best treatment for your particular case of acne. Here are some common tips you should know before using it.

  • ŸKeep in mind that it may take 4 to 6 weeks to see results. If after 6 weeks, there is no any improvement, call your physician.
  • ŸSome people can have allergic reactions to some of the ingredients in it, so be sure to speak to your doctor or pharmacist to determine if there is something like a fragrance that may cause an allergic reaction.
  • ŸNote that some people become more sensitive to sun exposure while using Benzoyl peroxide. If so, you may need a sun-block. Use a sunscreen that protects against UVA light and an SPF of at least 15. However, check with your doctor to make sure you use a non-comedogenic one.
  • ŸDo not use Benzoyl peroxide during pregnancy or breast feeding unless it is definitely needed. Be sure to discuss the use of it with your doctor.
  • ŸEven when all your acne lesions have cleared, it is common to have flare ups if you stop completely. Instead, try using the product every other day using the lower strength for maintenance.
  • Ÿ   Do not use benzoyl peroxide for children less than 12 years of age without talking to a doctor.
  • Ÿ   Always store this medication in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight and heat.

What Are the Side Effects of Benzoyl Peroxide?

The following are mild side effects of benzoyl peroxide and should go away soon after starting the treatment. However, if they do not, call your doctor.

  • Ÿ  Dryness and peeling of the skin
  • Ÿ  Slight stinging and tingling
  • Ÿ  Warm feeling

The following effects can be serious, so call your doctor right away if you come across these symptoms:

  • Ÿ  Burning, blistering, redness or swelling of the area of the treated area
  • Ÿ  Rash

If you experience the following symptoms, call your doctor immediately and get medical help right away. These are symptoms of an allergic reaction.

  • Ÿ  Hives
  • Ÿ  Difficulty in breathing or swallowing
  • Ÿ  Swelling of the face, lips, eyes or throat
  • Ÿ  Itching
  • Ÿ   Feeling faint

Benzoyl Peroxide or Salicylic Acid?

Both benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid are great for fighting acne and they are far more affordable treatments. You can purchase them at almost any drugstore. So, which will be your choice for acne?

To make the decision as to which one to use, consider the condition of your acne. If your pimples look deep, red and pus filled, benzoyl is your best choice because of its ability to penetrate deeply and clear the pores. However, you should know it can be very drying.

If you suffer mostly from blackheads and spots but not big acnes, salicylic acid may be the better choice for you because it is much gentler and is suitable for sensitive skin, which will not cause the dryness that benzoyl peroxide does. However, salicylic acid won't kill acne bacteria like benzoyl peroxide.