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Benzoyl Peroxide for Treating Acne: How does it work?

Benzoyl peroxide is an anti-microbial medication that removes acne-causing bacteria on your skin. In Singapore, benzoyl peroxide is known for effectively treating and preventing acne breakouts. It is not uncommon for many people to seek acne treatment in Singapore, due to the humid weather conditions all year round. 

Benzoyl peroxide is widely available off-the-shelf or over-the-counter in Singapore and comes in varying concentrations for mild to moderate breakouts. Keep reading to learn more about how benzoyl peroxide works on acne-prone skin and if you are applying it correctly for optimal results.


How does benzoyl peroxide work for acne?

How to use benzoyl peroxide for acneMany factors can trigger acne, such as hormonal imbalances, stress, and poor nutrition. One of the main causes can be the growth of acne-causing bacteria on the skin. Benzoyl peroxide is a medication that works as an antiseptic to reduce the number of germs or acne-causing bacteria on your skin.

Bacteria that cause acne can only survive in an oxygen-free environment. Benzoyl peroxide works by introducing oxygen into the pores to kill these bacteria. When the bacteria population is reduced, the frequency of breakouts is also minimized.

how acne-causing bacteria blocks pores diagramIt also unclogs pores and removes excess sebum by causing a mild peeling effect, helping to prevent breakouts before they even begin.

However, it is important to note that benzoyl peroxide may not be suitable for some types of acne. While it may be effective in treating hormonal or teenage acne, severe types of acne such as nodular acne will typically require stronger forms of treatment. Benzoyl peroxide may also not be the best choice if you have eczema or dermatitis.

Does benzoyl peroxide worsen acne when you first start using it?

Benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid work as a gentle exfoliator by peeling away skin to get rid of dead skin cells, excessive oil, and trapped bacteria. Salicylic acid is an acne-fighting ingredient that is milder than benzoyl peroxide and is most commonly used to treat blackheads and whiteheads.

purging acne breakout process upon using benzoyl peroxideThe exfoliation effect may trigger increased breakouts. This is a process known as “purging” when the skin reacts to an active ingredient that increases the rate of skin cell turnover.

Because your cells are turning over more quickly, lingering breakouts that might have taken weeks or months to surface, may all start to come up at once. When this happens, the best approach is to wait for the side effects to subside, while keeping to a good skincare routine.

What is the best way to use benzoyl peroxide?

Selecting the right type of acne treatment product and benzoyl peroxide concentration will depend on the type of acne you have and where it is located.

Benzoyl peroxide comes in the form of many acne treatment products such as face creams, cleansers, body gels, and acne ointments. Over-the-counter (OTC) products are more appropriate for mild acne.

Some benzoyl peroxide treatments are available by prescription only, as they contain other active ingredients such as antibiotics or retinoids, and may work better for moderate acne.

benzoyl peroxide for body acneIf you have body acne, you may prefer to use a wash specifically formulated for the body instead of just the face. Acne body washes and soaps are ideal if you have frequent breakouts on the chest, back, and other areas of the body. The skin on the chest and back is more resilient and can tolerate a higher concentration of benzoyl peroxide.

Tip: Wash like you would normally with regular body soap.

The face is more sensitive, so many prefer to use a product with a lower concentration of benzoyl peroxide for face acne. Face washes or foams can be used once or twice a day to help prevent acne and treat existing lesions.

Tip: For on-the-spot acne treatment containing benzoyl peroxide, use a small pea-sized amount that is enough to cover the spot.

Things to take note of when using benzoyl peroxide

Like all medicines, benzoyl peroxide can cause side effects, although not everyone gets them. The most common side effect is skin irritation. A higher concentration of benzoyl peroxide may lead to dry skin in the affected area.

skin irritation symptoms reaction to benzoyl peroxideIf your skin shows symptoms of dryness, redness, or excessive peeling, try using benzoyl peroxide less often. Apply it once a day or once every 2 days, until your skin gets used to it. You can minimize side effects by starting with a lower concentration. Using a good moisturizer will also help in preventing dry skin.

Speak to a board-certified aesthetic doctor if you are concerned about the side effects and risks involved in using benzoyl peroxide. Your aesthetic doctor will be able to assess your skin type and determine your suitability for the treatment.

What about acne scars?

An acne outbreak can sometimes result in acne scars. This is especially the case with inflammatory acne. Unfortunately, no acne product will clear up your scars overnight, and such is the case with benzoyl peroxide.

It has not been proven that benzoyl peroxide acts on the pigment cells that cause acne scars, as studies are still ongoing on its lightening effects. One tip you can adopt to prevent acne scars is to wear sunscreen every day, as acne scars can worsen with sun exposure.

Schedule an appointment with our aesthetic doctor to learn more about effective methods to get rid of acne or acne scars.

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