According to Drugs.com, benzoyl peroxide is the generic name for one of the most popular acne drugs in the U.S. It’s a topical medication that is an ingredient in lotion, soap, shaving cream, medicated pad, solution, gel, stick, facial mask, cream and foam. While there are many benzoyl peroxide products available over-the-counter, your doctor may also prescribe more concentrated forms of the medication.
Each benzoyl peroxide product comes with specific label directions that you should follow to ensure the best possible results without unwanted side effects. For example, Drugs.com says the facial mask form of benzoyl peroxide is used once a week, or as instructed by your health care provider. Start by washing acne blemishes with a non-medicated cleanser, rinsing and then patting your skin dry. Apply a thin layer of the facial mask product in a circular motion, leave it on for 15 to 25 minutes, rinse it off and pat your skin dry.
According to Acne Recovery System, benzoyl peroxide attacks acne in a number of ways. First, it’s a strong antioxidant that breaks down the bacteria that cause acne blemishes. Benzoyl peroxide also unclogs pores by penetrating the oil plugs, breaking them up and allowing the drug to kill the bacteria underneath.
Although it’s easy to purchase benzoyl peroxide products, they’re not considered safe for everyone. Don’t use benzoyl peroxide if your skin is raw, red or sunburned, says the Mayo Clinic. If you have eczema, seborrheic dermatitis or another allergic skin disorder, talk with your doctor before you purchase products containing benzoyl peroxide. It’s important to know that benzoyl peroxide interacts with other medications, as well as alcohol, tobacco and some foods.
If you use benzoyl peroxide products, you should avoid skin care products containing alcohol, cosmetics or other acne treatment medicines that dry out the skin, according to the National Institutes of Health website Medline Plus. Because benzoyl peroxide makes your skin more sensitive, limit your exposure to sunlight and sunlamps. Because it’s an antioxidant, benzoyl peroxide can bleach your hair, clothing or bedding.
According to Medline Plus, benzoyl peroxide can cause temporary mild redness, peeling, stinging or warmth of your skin. It can also cause more severe burning, blistering, crusting, swelling or marked redness of the skin. Tell your doctor about temporary side effects that don’t go away, as well as any more serious effects.
According to the Mayo Clinic, acne treatment products containing benzoyl peroxide can make your acne worse before it gets better. Drugs.com says, however, that you can expect significant improvement within two to three weeks.