Benzoyl Peroxide

Start searching on the web for information on treating acne, and you’ll find benzoyl peroxide cropping up again and again. It is certainly one of the most popular active ingredients among over-the-counter acne treatment products. One of the positives about this ingredient is that it isn’t affiliated with just one specific brand of acne treatment. However, the results that it gives people are certainly mixed. Some say that it clears up their skin entirely while others find that it dries the skin excessively. Some even find that stopping use of the product causes an influx of blemishes and that it can increase cystic acne by blocking the pores in the top layer of skin. While benzoyl peroxide has many uses, today we look at it’s uses in the treatment of acne – it’s benefits and drawbacks, and when it is worth trying.

What is benzoyl peroxide?
Benzoyl peroxide is an organic peroxide, used for many different personal and industrial applications. It can bleach hair and teeth, polymerise polyster and ‘improve’ flour, in addition to treating acne. Benzoyl peroxide breaks down on contact with skin, producing benzoic acid and oxygen. Formulations of benzoyl peroxide solutions commonly used for acne treatment range from 2.5% concentration up to 10%.

Why is ‘the Ox’ good for acne?
The ‘oxide’ in benzoyl peroxide, and the fact that the substance breaks down to form oxygen and benzoic acid, are one of its strongest weapons against acne. The type of bacteria that lives in the skin and generally contributes to the development of pimples is proponibacteria acnes, or P. acnes for short. They are anaerobic bacteria, and when the benzoyl peroxide breaks down and introduces oxygen into the pores of the skin, the bacteria die. The thought process being that even if a pore still produces excess sebum or is slightly blocked (which is likely to be the case unless the underlying cause is addressed), there are no bacteria to create infection, preventing the consequent immune response that creates a pimple. Importantly, you may still get blackheads as they are not a product of infection.

The other major reason that benzoyl peroxide is used for acne treatment is its ability to lower sebum production. If there is less oil in your pores for the bacteria to thrive, there is less of a chance for P. acnes to establish themselves. In reducing the sebum production, however, this also makes your skin quite dry and by blocking the excretion of sebum can cause cystic acne (large inflamations under the skin that don’t have a place to erupt).

Of note, the benefits only last as long as you keep using the benzoyl peroxide treatment. Benzoyl peroxide only targets the end symptoms of acne and is certainly not a long term solution. It can definitely be useful for helping clear up breakouts, but if you want to remain acne-free, there are often major dietary issues or an underlying health issue in effect.

Popular Benzoyl Peroxide Products
Proactiv is certainly one of the most widely recognized acne treatments that uses benzoyl peroxide. Clearasil is another benzoyl peroxide product that is known the world over. Other products containing the chemical vary per country but you can always ask your pharmacist for a generic over-the-counter benzoyl peroxide solution. They will usually have a variety of similar style 5-10% spot-treatment products, facial creams, scrubs, etc, and you will have an inexpensive introduction to the substance to see whether it is suitable for you.

Why doesn’t benzoyl peroxide work for me?
While the science behind benzoyl peroxide’s treatment of blemishes sounds great on paper, there is a wide variety of reasons why it may not work for you. These include:

  • Your acne was due in part to dry skin and the benzoyl peroxide has worsened the dryness
  • A large population of p. acnes has already established itself under the surface of your skin, so when the benzoyl peroxide dries up the top layer and blocks the exit for sebum, cystic acne forms.
  • You have a higher than average susceptibility to infection
  • You have nutritional deficiencies that inhibit your body from fighting infection and creating new healthy skin cells
  • You have a toxic overload (e.g. acidosis) in your body, weakening your immune system and making you more susceptible to infection

As we mentioned earlier, benzoyl peroxide is not a long term acne treatment – as soon as you stop using it, the pimples will come back. Additionally, it is not suitable for all acne sufferers. While in some milder cases it can be effective in clearing blemishes and preventing break outs while in use, for others you could end up having a worse outbreak than you’ve had for a long time! It is certainly NOT recommended for people with already dry skin. In any case, it is definitely one of the easiest treatments to get ahold of and you never know how it is going to affect you personally until you try it.

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