Benzoyl peroxide has been used to treat acne for over 45 years, and for many women and men who struggle with breakouts, it’s been the key for clear skin. Available over-the-counter on its own and in combination with retinoids or antibiotics by prescription, it’s not ideal for everyone since it can dry out and irritate the skin. Although many dermatologists still consider benzoyl peroxide to be the gold standard for treating acne, its use has waned as other options have become available.
But many people don’t know the full story about benzoyl peroxide…
Benzoyl peroxide is an effective treatment for acne because it penetrates the pores (and the oil that resides there) and has antibacterial and anti-inflammatory effects, which means it kills the bacteria that cause acne while soothing the redness and pain associated with blemishes. Studies have also shown that when benzoyl peroxide is combined with other ingredients like antibiotics, skin-clearing results are amplified. This can be due to enhanced penetration or reducing antibiotic resistance. Benzoyl peroxide is also commonly used in tandem with salicylic acid to prevent breakouts. If a benzoyl peroxide serum or spot treatment is too harsh on your skin, a cleanser containing this ingredient may be effective enough to improve acne, especially when left on the skin for a few minutes before rinsing.
In addition to the dryness and irritation benzoyl peroxide can cause, it kills bacteria by releasing free radicals. This is an issue in and of itself, especially for anyone concerned about visible signs of aging. Beyond these side effects, benzoyl peroxide may also deplete the skin’s natural antioxidant defenses. Even more, one study performed on mice found that benzoyl peroxide had the same effects on the skin as UVB rays (which are the same rays that cause sunburn). Acne is very common among pregnant women due to hormone fluctuations, however the safety of benzoyl peroxide use during pregnancy has not been established.
What should you do?
If benzoyl peroxide is effective for controlling your acne, I recommend sticking with it. If you experience dryness or irritation, I have found a barrier-repair moisturizer can soothe and hydrate the skin. I tell all of my patients that using an effective antioxidant serum (in addition to sunscreen) is the most effective way to prevent visible signs of aging, and I suggest anyone who uses benzoyl peroxide also use a vitamin C product every morning to offset the free radicals created by this skincare ingredient.
If you’re concerned about acne and the effect benzoyl peroxide may be having on your skin, talk to your dermatologist about other treatment options.
By Leslie Baumann, M.D.
Source: Yahoo! Health