What Benzoyl Peroxide Does To Your Skin

Benzoyl peroxide is a topical medication used to treat acne. It can be found in many over-the-counter creams, gels, and cleansers. Here's what it really does to your skin.

This product fights acne by killing blemish-causing bacteria on and under the skin. It is also antiseptic and anti-inflammatory, which helps clean the skin and reduces swelling that often accompanies acne. "Benzoyl peroxide is considered one of the most effective over-the-counter choices for reducing acne-causing bacteria and for combatting the inflammation that acne triggers," Paula Begoun, skincare expert and founder of Paula's Choice, told Harper's Bazaar. "It can work quickly to get acne under control because it breaks down to oxygen on the skin, reducing the proliferation of the type of bacteria (known as C. acnes) that plays a key role in most forms of acne."

When using benzoyl peroxide, aim for products that have a concentration of between 2.5 and 10%. Anything higher can cause skin irritation and dryness.

The side effects of benzoyl peroxide are similar to those of other acne products

Like many acne products, benzoyl peroxide may dry out and irritate your skin. This can happen to people with sensitive skin types or to people who use the product too frequently. People with sensitive skin should use the lowest concentration of benzoyl peroxide they can find or use an alternative product (via Allure). Women who are pregnant should also avoid this product, regardless of their skin type. Make sure to wear SPF after using benzoyl peroxide, as it can make your skin more sensitive to sunlight.

Some people may experience an allergy to benzoyl peroxide. An allergic reaction can cause an itchy rash as well as blisters and swelling (via Verywell Health). If you notice any negative side effects, stop using the product and visit your dermatologist. They can help you find a solution for your acne that is safer for your skin type. Salicylic acid, which removes dead skin cells on the top of the skin, gives similar results as benzoyl peroxide but is less likely to cause irritation.