The Acne Expert

How does benzoyl peroxide work?

Posted by Mary Freihofner on


According to the American National Institute of Health benzoyl peroxide has an 80% efficacy rate. This is the highest rate for any acne fighting ingredient. BP also has the lowest toxicity rate of the other effective acne fighting ingredients according to Environmental Working Groups, Skin Deep program. (I highly recommend this very reputable resource for checking any of your skin care ingredients)

How benzoyl peroxide works is super cool!

There is one species of bacteria involved in the acne process and it is called Propionibacterium acnes. This bacteria is anaerobic which means it can not survive where there is oxygen and this is why it likes to live down deep in your skin inside clogged pores. 

And this also why acne can not live on your make-up brushes, pink buff sponge, pillow cases etc. Other microbes can live on them, but not the only one that causes acne-Propionibacterium acnes. This is also why acne is not contagious. 

Benzoyl peroxide is a peroxide molecule with an oxygen molecule on its tail. The peroxide is active and burrows down in the skin carrying the oxygen with it. Once in the skin the oxygen literally zaps the bacterium killing them and halting the inflammatory process. 

Benzoyl peroxide also has a comedolytic result effectively dissolving dead skin cells. This helps to open up the pores allowing the natural oxygen in the air into the skin and also helps to unclog pores.

BP can be drying and about 25% of people will experience some drying from BP. But there are hacks for this! Keep in mind that most will have a small amount of dry skin that resolves after 3-6 days so try and hang in there for about a week and see how your skin responds. If after a week your skin is still dry try these hacks.

If your skin becomes itchy or swollen you should stop using the BP.

Hack #1-The BP dry skin hack that works best is to stop using cleanser. because all non-acne provoking cleansers are drying and stripping. I know for some customers this can be jaw dropping information but the BP is so antiseptic that cleansing is not necessary. Instead just rinse with water, use a moist wash cloth if you like, pat dry. If you wear make-up you need to use a cleanser each day that you wear it. If you do not wear make-up on certain days it would be helpful for your dry skin to not use cleanser those days. 

I can't stress enough that the more you can use your BP the more clear your skin will become. 

Hack #2-Another hack for the BP dry skin issue is to let your skin slowing acclimate to the BP. For this you will apply the BP to your acne areas once per day for only 5 minutes-and then rinse it off. You do this for one week. The next week you leave the BP on for 15 minutes and then rinse off. The next week for 30 minutes, and so on working your way up. It sounds tedious but if you have tried everything and nothing is working and the BP is making you too dry, I recommend this protocol. Though I would recommend hack #1 above first. 

Hack #3-Reduce the amount of BP you are currently using. If you are dry using the BP every night then try going to every other night. 

I've heard many times from acne clients that they feel like their skin can breath again-and it is literally true!

If you have questions please tune into my Live Q&A on Instagram where you can send me questions any time!