Benzoyl Peroxide for Acne Treatment | Dr Anastasia Therianou MD, PhD

Benzoyl peroxide for acne treatment

February 1, 2023

A big skin myth that is not spoken about enough, is that acne is often thought of as a skin condition mainly reserved for teenagers. This is, in fact, not true, acne can occur at any age. In fact, one recent study found some degree of facial acne in 54% of women and 40% of men older than 25 years.

So, if you’re struggling, you’re not alone, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t seek treatment.

What is acne?

Acne occurs when the sebaceous (oil) glands begin to overwork. The purpose of these glands is to secrete sebum to keep your skin moist and protect your skin’s barrier, however, when a raised level of sebum is released, it can begin to clog pores and trap bacteria and dead skin cells that are present, creating – potentially painful – spots.

Treating acne with benzoyl peroxide

The good news is, acne can be treated. Though it can be tempting to try and pop or scratch spots, this should be avoided to prevent any acne scarring or the spreading of bacteria to other parts of your face or body.

One super-effective treatment is benzoyl peroxide, a potent chemical compound that normally comes in the form of a gel or face wash. Though severe acne might need stronger, professional treatment, many people who suffer with mild to moderate acne find that this over-the-counter cure helps to minimise redness.

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How does benzoyl peroxide work?

Benzoyl peroxide works as an antiseptic to reduce the number of germs on the skin. Also it peels away the skin to get rid of dead cells and excessive oil. There are gels that combine benzoyl peroxide with antibiotics or retinoid creams. These come only under prescription.

How to use benzoyl peroxide

The most common products contain 1- 5% of benzoyl peroxide and should be used once or twice a day, or as directed by the medical professional you are working with, and can take up to four months to completely clear acne. Make sure to apply to the entire infected area, rather than simply dabbing on individual spots.

During this time it is best to avoid strong sunlight and use an oil-free sunscreen of SPF30 or above on a day-to-day basis.

Take care to avoid your clothing and hair while applying as the benzoyl peroxide gel or face wash can discolour them, and be aware that initial use can cause skin irritation. If this happens, reduce the amount of gel or wash you are using and let your skin gently build up to a higher concentration. Consult your doctor or the medical professional you are working with if skin irritation persists or worsens.

What types of acne is benzoyl peroxide good for?

Benzoyl peroxide products are usually used to treat mild to moderate acne. More specifically, these products are commonly used to treat the following types of acne:

Blackheads and whiteheads: These can be both apparent in blemish-prone skin. Blackheads look like black dots on your skin and whiteheads look like white dots. They are caused by plugged pores, and benzoyl peroxide can remove oil and dead skin cells that clog your pores, so it helps to clear the skin from back and whiteheads.

Acne pimples (pustules): Pimples are small applies on the surface of the skin, which are inflamed and contain pus at their tips. Benzoyl peroxide works to treat acne pimples by killing the bacteria called P.acnes underneath the skin, as well as helping the pores shed dead skin cells.

Cystic acne: Cystic acne is a severe form of acne that results in large, pus-filled cysts forming underneath the skin’s surface. Over-the-counter products may help mitigate the inflammation and bring it down a bit, but dermatologists typically recommend a combination of oral and topical prescriptions in these cases.

Can you use benzoyl peroxide when pregnant?

The good news is that you can use benzoyl peroxide if you are suffering with acne while pregnant or breastfeeding as it is applied to the skin in small amounts and so shouldn’t cause any complications, even if passed through to the baby.

If you’re breastfeeding just make sure that the baby doesn’t come into direct contact with the gel or face wash and avoid using it down your neck or chest area, or take care to thoroughly wash it off these areas before feeding.

If you’re actively trying for a baby, or hope to in the near future, there are no known effects on fertility caused by use of benzoyl peroxide.

Can benzoyl peroxide work for severe acne?

Though you can try a benzoyl peroxide gel or face wash as a first treatment, more severe acne cases might need further, more intensive, treatment, carried out by a dermatologist. The good news is, there are other options available that Dr Anastasia and her team would be more than happy to discuss with you, you can contact them here.

If you would like to discuss this treatment option further, or you want to see what other treatments are available, you can contact Dr Anastasia ‘s Therianou dermatology clinic by phone: 02038695134 or 02034684884 or by sending an email to

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