Benzoyl Peroxide Gel

A benzoyl peroxide gel is generally the best consistency that benzoyl peroxide (BP) can be delivered in. If you use a benzoyl peroxide product that is cream-based instead of gel-based, it can form a white residue when you perspire (not pretty!)

When you buy a product that contains benzoyl peroxide as the active ingredient, the concentration of the BP is usually either 2.5%, 5%, or 10%.

Clinical studies have shown that 2.5% benzoyl peroxide is just as effective in treating and preventing breakouts as its 5% and 10% counterparts. And because of the lower concentration of benzoyl peroxide, 2.5% gets rid of acne with much less irritation than the stronger formulations.

How Does Benzoyl Peroxide Gel Work?

As you may know, benzoyl peroxide is one of the most common and effective acne treatment options available. It works by effectively killing the acne-causing bacteria (“P. acnes”) in the skin.

“P. acnes” is the bacteria that grows inside clogged pores, causing them to enlarge, swell, and get inflamed with white blood cells. If the P. acnes bacteria aren't there in the first place, then a clogged pore can't turn into a big pimple.

So how does benzoyl peroxide do such a good job of killing the bacteria? Well, the BP simply exposes the bacteria to oxygen (note the "oxide" in benzoyl peroxide). Oxygen is poisonous to the bacteria, so the P. acnes bacteria die.

Benzoyl peroxide also contains exfoliating properties that slough off the top layer of dead skin cells, encouraging normal production of cells. Additionally, the oxidizing property of BP helps dry excess oil and sebum on the skin’s surface.

What to Expect when using a Benzoyl Peroxide Gel?

Because benzoyl peroxide is a particularly strong treatment, you might notice side effects like dryness, irritation, itchiness, peeling or redness when you first start using it. The good news is that as your skin becomes accustomed to the ingredient, you will generally be able to tolerate it better. If irritation doesn’t subside or if you develop a rash, pay a visit to your dermatologist.

Also, always use sunscreen with at least SPF 15 while using benzoyl peroxide, as it makes your skin more susceptible to sun damage. For sunscreens that won’t clog your pores or make acne worse, check out these options: Best Sunscreen for Oily, Acne Prone Skin.

Who should avoid it?

For those with extremely dry or sensitive skin, it might be wise to avoid this ingredient entirely and opt for something gentler. And if you're using other acne-fighting medications, be sure to talk to your doctor about possible drug interactions.

Benzoyl Peroxide and Pregnancy

BP is labelled as a category C drug by the FDA, which means that there haven't been enough studies to show whether or not benzoyl peroxide is safe to use while pregnant. Some of the BP that you apply may be absorbed by your body, but it is unknown whether or not it goes into breast milk. It's always best to check with your doctor to be on the safe side.

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