Benzoyl Peroxide: Friend Or Foe?

by Gio
is benzoyl peroxide the best treatment for acne

“Got acne? You need to try benzoyl peroxide. It’s just the thing to make it disappear fast. It did wonders for me.”

“Are you crazy?! Don’t listen to her. Everyone knows that benzoyl peroxide is dangerous. It’s irritating as hell and gives you wrinkles, too.”

Who’s right? Well… both. Huh?

You see, benzoyl peroxide is a powerful weapon against acne. And like all powerful weapons, it has its drawbacks. It’s up to you to decide if the tradeoff is worth it. Hopefully, this’ll help you decide if benzoyl peroxide is a friend or foe for YOUR skin:

Benzoyl Peroxide: what is it and what does it do?

Benzoyl peroxide is a peroxide. Duh! (in case you’re wondering, a peroxide is an unstable bond of two oxygen atoms that can generate free radicals).

We know benzoyl peroxide kills P.Acnes (the bacteria that causes acne), but have no clue how. Scientists think it works by generating free radicals. These free radicals attack the cell walls of P.Acnes until it dies.

The good part? P.Acnes doesn’t grow resistant to benzoyl peroxide so you don’t have to worry about it becoming useless anytime soon.

There’s more. Benzoyl peroxide has a peeling action, too. This helps keep the pores clean from gunk and prevent breakouts.

Does Benzoyl Peroxide makes skin age faster?

Remember when I mentioned that benzoyl peroxide generates free radicals? Well, free radicals are nasty little molecules that wreak havoc on proteins like collagen and elastin and even destroy your cell’s DNA. The result? Wrinkles.

That’s the short story. The long story is a bit more complicated.

Not all free radicals are created equal. The type you want to avoid like the plague are hydroxyl radicals. They’re the most damaging for your skin. Luckily, benzoyl peroxide doesn’t generate hydroxyl radicals. It generates phenyl radicals.

According to Paula Begoun: “Phenyl radicals are not as damaging as hydroxyl radicals, and since the reaction leading to damage occurs quickly [BP can deplete 50% of vitamin E naturally found in your skin within 30 minutes], the damage is brief and fleeting. This is no more harmful than the free radical damage that occurs to your skin from simply being surrounded by oxygen, and such a reaction is easily countered by products containing antioxidants.”

Pay attention to that last part: you can neutralise those free radicals with antioxidants. Benzoyl peroxide isn’t a sure sentence to deep wrinkles.

Related: What Are The Best Antioxidant Serums?

Does Benzoyl Peroxide has any other side effects?

Yep. In high concentrations, benzoyl peroxide can irritate skin, dry it out or give you an allergy. Luckily, studies show that low (2.5%) concentrations of Benzoyl Peroxide have the same benefits as higher doses, but with fewer side effects.

How to use Benzoyl Peroxide

Benzoyl peroxide isn’t as bad as it’s made out to be. But, it still has a few side effects so I don’t recommend it as your first treatment against acne.

Try something gentler like salicylic acid or tea tree oil first and, if that doesn’t work, move onto benzoyl peroxide.

One more thing: phenyl radicals may not be as dangerous as hydroxyl radicals but still, you do want to limit their production. In other words, use benzoyl peroxide only on your pimples, not the whole area.

Related: Benzoyl Peroxide VS Salicylic Acid: Which One Should You Choose?

Can you use Benzoyl Peroxide with Salicylic Acid?

I get this question all the time. Both benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid are effective ingredients for oily, acne-prone skin.

You know all about benzoyl peroxide by now, so let’s focus on salicylic acid. Salicylic acid is an exfoliant that gets inside the pores, exfoliating them from within. It also helps keep oil production under control.

Studies show that  benzoyl peroxide works even better when used with SA. But, this combo is too harsh for some people. It can irritate your skin and make it flake.

If you want to use both, I recommend you use salicylic acid in the morning and stick to benzoyl peroxide at night. Or you can use them on alternate day.

Related: Why Salicylic Acid Is Key To Keep Oily Skin Spot-Free

What Are The Best Products With Benzoyl Peroxide?


The Bottom Line

Benzoyl peroxide is an effective acne treatment but doesn’t come without drawbacks. Use it carefully!

Have you ever used Benzoyl Peroxide? Share your experience in the comments below.



Chic Readings October 28, 2014 - 3:57 pm

Interesting, thank you for sharing:)

Gio October 28, 2014 - 5:13 pm

Helena, I’m glad you enjoyed this post.

[email protected] October 30, 2014 - 6:12 am

I have used BP when i had hormonal acne breakouts and nothing seemed to work.. but i agree BP is very strong and sometimes gave me red patch wherever i used to apply it.. nice informative post 🙂

Gio October 30, 2014 - 9:09 pm

Anubhuti, it’s very effective, isn’t it? Maybe a bit too much.

Maya August 30, 2017 - 5:08 pm

Thanks!! What should be the first treatment?

Gio September 8, 2017 - 9:38 pm

Maya, I recommend salicylic acid. If that fails, you can try azelaic acid.

Priscilla June 13, 2018 - 5:21 pm

Hi Gio! Curious to know, what are your thoughts on the Regimen? And their Benzoyl Peroxide Treatment?

Gio June 16, 2018 - 10:04 am

Priscilla, I’m a fan of regimen. It has what it takes to kill acne. Just be sure to use benzoyl peroxide on your spots only or it can be too drying for your skin.

Acneohno October 10, 2018 - 8:27 am

So is it safe to use benzoyl peroxide on the face at the day time?? By the way great article
, Thanks for sharing.

Gio October 12, 2018 - 5:30 pm

Acneohno, it is safe if you use sunscreen.

Timi Mustapha April 1, 2020 - 2:23 am

So happy to have found your site. You mentioned tree tea oil. How would you use that in place of benzoyl peroxide?

Gio April 4, 2020 - 8:15 am

Timi, as a spot treatment, just like Benzoyl Peroxide. But dilute it first. It’s too harsh otherwise.

Comments are closed.