What is Benzoyl Peroxide?

Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum

Benzoyl peroxide is a chemical agent that is used to deal with several types of dermatological issues. Most commonly, benzoyl peroxide is employed to treat cases of acne in adolescents and adults. The chemical is found in both over the counter acne medications as well as in prescription formulas.

Benzoyl peroxide is often used to treat adult acne.
Benzoyl peroxide is often used to treat adult acne.

For advanced skin issues, benzoyl peroxide may be used in conjunction with salicylic acid to correct the situation. Salicylic acid is effective in helping with scales on the surface of the skin and can work with benzoyl peroxide to peel away the top layers of damaged skin to expose the healthy skin underneath. In situations where severe damage to the top layer of skin has taken place, this treatment can accelerate the healing process.

Benzoyl peroxide has proven to be especially effective in helping to remove excess oils from the skin that often clog pores. At the same time, the chemical functions as a pore minimizer that can help to tighten the skin and reduce the appearance of larger pores in areas normally impacted by acne, such as the cheeks and the areas on either side of the nose. Most over the counter acne medications require nothing more than a simple topical application immediately after the face has been cleaned with soap and water.

While the use of benzoyl peroxide is common with many different types of skin conditions, there are a couple of drawbacks. First, the chemical can cause the skin to dry to the point of creating newer skin issues. In addition, some people experience an allergic reaction to benzoyl peroxide that aggravates rather than alleviates acne and similar skin problems.

When over the counter products are not effective in treating acne and other issues, it is often advisable to consult a health professional in the field of dermatology. A qualified dermatologist can assess the situation and determine which of the several prescription medications would be most effective. Like the over the counter products, benzoyl peroxide is found in many prescription formulas, usually in more concentrated amounts. However, it is important to only make use of benzoyl peroxide in strong formulas when diagnosed by a professional and provided with a prescription strength that is appropriate for the condition. Using a product that is stronger than needed will not lead to clearing up the problem any quicker and could cause severe irritation or other skin problems that will be as uncomfortable as the original condition.

Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum

After many years in the teleconferencing industry, Michael decided to embrace his passion for trivia, research, and writing by becoming a full-time freelance writer. Since then, he has contributed articles to a variety of print and online publications, including wiseGEEK, and his work has also appeared in poetry collections, devotional anthologies, and several newspapers. Malcolm’s other interests include collecting vinyl records, minor league baseball, and cycling.

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Discussion Comments


@CellMania: Benzoyl Peroxide mixed with Erythromycin is great. It's also good that you use topical retinoids at night, but you really shouldn't mix them with benzoyl peroxide. They cancel each other out, as benzoyl peroxide dries out the skin and makes it shed, while the retinoids are mainly effective for boosting collagen, which helps repairing your skin naturally.


@momothree: The term retinoid actually describes vitamin A derivatives. They are great for unclogging pores. They also help to boost collagen which can reduce those fine lines.

Retinoid can speed up the cell turnover in your skin which can help to even out the discolorations on your face. Tretinoin was the first retinoid and was FDA approved under the name Retin-A around 40 years ago.

There are 3 prescription strength retinoids on the market now. They are tretinoin (Atralin, Avita, Retin-A, Retin-A Micro and Renova), tazarotene (Avage, Tazorac), and adapalene (Differin).


@cellmania: What exactly is a retinoid?


My dermatologist wrote me a prescription for topical erythromycin and told me to mix it with benzoyl peroxide for more effective treatment of my acne.

It also works great when used with a topical retinoid. I use the benzoyl peroxide/erythromycin treatment in the mornings and the benzoyl peroxide/retinoid treatment at night.

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