What is benzoyl peroxide?
Benzoyl peroxide is a common and widely used ingredient in treating acne that ranges from mild to severe. It is an FDA approved bactericidal substance, meaning that it kills off acne-causing bacteria.
Apart from killing off bacteria, it also works as a deep exfoliant, which clears out congested pores of dead skin cells and excess oil and also helps in preventing acne from returning.
What type of acne is it suitable for?
Benzoyl peroxide is known to be best suited for inflammatory acne, which is termed acne vulgaris. In combination with other ingredients, it can also be used to treat whiteheads, blackheads and cystic acne. But, since it works by killing off acne-causing bacteria, it is most suitable for inflamed acne.
Main benefits of benzoyl peroxide in acne care
There are several benefits of using benzoyl peroxide in your acne care regime.
- Kills off acne-causing bacteria - When pores are clogged, the oxygen supply is cut off. This provides a great breeding ground for acne-causing bacteria which needs this sort of environment to thrive.
Benzoyl peroxide has antibacterial properties, which open up the congested pores, introducing oxygen and benzoic acid in them. This kills off the microbes and heals your acne.
- Exfoliates the skin deeply - Benzoyl peroxide has keratolytic properties, which means that it can deeply exfoliate dead skin cells and excess sebum from your pores, which trigger breakouts.
- Prevents further acne - Comedolytic agents prevent acne from developing in the future. Benzoyl peroxide is one such agent, which keeps the pores unclogged and helps prevent further acne, and to an extent whiteheads and blackheads from forming.
- Lessens inflammation - Deeply penetrating the hair follicles and pores, benzoyl peroxide reduces inflammation caused by acne. The redness, swelling and pain from acne reduce, as does the appearance of acne. This happens due to the anti-inflammatory properties of the substance.
Are there any side effects of benzoyl peroxide?
Apart from the obvious benefits, benzoyl peroxide has a few side effects and should be used with slight caution. You should never use it in excess and always do a spot test before trying out any new ingredient on yourself. Some of the side effects include:
- Excessively dry or peeling skin
- Redness, itching or burning sensation
- Purging (when the skin breaks out excessively) within the first few weeks
- The hyperpigmentation that can occur after the redness
What are the precautions to keep in mind when using this acid?
There are certain things that should be kept in mind when using benzoyl peroxide in your skincare routine.
- Do not use it with retinol - Both retinol and benzoyl peroxide are exfoliants that stimulate the renewal of cells. Using the two together can cause over-exfoliation, leaving the skin red, irritated and raw.
- Do not use it with alpha-hydroxy acids (AHA) - Like retinol, AHAs like glycolic acid, lactic acid, etc. also act as exfoliants. And, using both at the same time can leave your skin excessively dry, red, irritated and flaky. So, never combine the two in your skincare routine.
- It can decrease the efficacy of Vitamin C - When used together, benzoyl peroxide can reduce the efficiency of any product that contains vitamin C. So, use the two at separate times if you want the best results from both.
- Always use sunscreen after - Benzoyl peroxide can make your skin more sensitive to the effects of UV rays. Thus, it is very important to follow up its use with a good sunscreen that has adequate SPF to prevent any sun damage.
How to incorporate benzoyl peroxide into your skincare routine?
There are a few ways in which you can incorporate benzoyl peroxide into your skincare routine.
- Use it one time in the evening - If you are using it as a topical treatment in the form of creams or gels, use it only once in your regime at night.
- Use thrice daily - Even though it is not advisable to use benzoyl peroxide in excess, it can be incorporated up to thrice in a day if you use it in the form of a cleanser twice a day, followed by a cream or gel treatment at night. You can even skip the treatment if you use a moisturizer at night with benzoyl peroxide in it.
- Use it in combination with salicylic acid - Salicylic acid is known to decrease the buildup of excess oil in your skin, which amplifies the effects received from benzoyl peroxide.
You can use a cleanser that contains both the ingredients or use a toner that has salicylic acid, followed by a benzoyl peroxide gel or cream. Another way to use salicylic acid in your regime along with benzoyl peroxide is to use an exfoliant mask infused with salicylic acid on a weekly basis.