When it comes to treating acne, there are so many different products on the market; it can make consumer’s heads spin.

With every product comes specific ingredients, and one of those ingredients includes benzoyl peroxide.


What is Benzoyl Peroxide?

Benzoyl peroxide is a topical solution for treating mild to moderate acne, typically on the face, but can also be used to treat acne on the body as well. This solution is available in both prescription medications as well as over the counter products.

It comes in many forms, though more traditionally, it is found in creams, gels, and facial cleansers. It can also be found in some lotions, soaps and even medicated pads.

Benzoyl peroxide is a topical antibiotic and helps to kill off Propionibacterium acnes, otherwise known as P. acnes. Propionibacterium acnes is the actual bacteria that causes acne and is known to cause the inflammation associated with it.

When used topically, benzoyl peroxide actually decomposes to release oxygen, which is lethal to Propionibacterium acnes. This product has been shown to be more effective against the bacteria that causes acne, especially when compared to products such as salicylic acid, sulfur, and resorcinol.


​Whitney Gowe, M.D.

​Benzoyl peroxide is a powerful ingredient that is effective against all kinds of acne lesions (blackheads, whiteheads, and big red pimples). It is bactericidal, meaning it kills bacteria, rather than simply slowing down their growth. It also works very quickly, improving acne as early as five days after starting treatment. It's a great first line treatment for acne, but it's also helpful to use in combination with antibiotics. In fact, benzoyl peroxide can prevent antibiotic resistance!


How to Use Benzoyl Peroxide

One popular product both prescribed and available over the counter is benzoyl peroxide gel. In most cases, this product is treated as a spot treatment because it’s side effects can cause skin irritation, so the less used, the better in most cases.

When using a new product, users should always perform a skin test. This requires users to apply a small amount of the product to a small patch of skin. In this case, it would be best to apply a small amount to a small area of acne for a day, maybe two. While doing this, the user should make a note of any adverse side effects or allergic reactions. If your skin burns too much or begins to show signs of an allergic reaction, such as excessively red and itchy skin, then the user must stop using the product. If no adverse side effects show up, then it's safe to try it on a larger patch of skin.

How you use your product will be determined by which product you are using. In the case of washes, most require users to wash their face once or twice a day. When using creams, foam, lotions or gels, users will want to apply it to the area where their acne is located once or twice a day.

No matter which form of treatment you are using, if you begin to notice excessive drying of the skin or peeling, then it is important to cut back either the amount of the product being used or cut back on how many times a day or week that the product is used.

skin acne pores

Top Brands That Use Benzoyl Peroxide

With so many different skin care options currently on the market, how do you know which product to turn to? Many products use benzoyl peroxide, and the prices for these products can range drastically. So how do we pick a product?

First thing’s first, it is always recommended to talk with your doctor before blindly picking a product. They will be able to tell you if a prescription strength product is best or if you are okay with an over the counter product.

Below, we have listed (in no particular order) the five top brands that have products to treat acne with the use of benzoyl peroxide. These brands have all been recommended by professionals and consumers alike, so it is a good place to start when it comes to researching products that will suit your needs.

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​Neutrogena offers users a wide variety of treatment options when it comes to their products with benzoyl peroxide. From cleansers to on-the-spot treatments, Neutrogena is a popular go-to brand when it comes to skincare needs.One of their most popular products is their No products found.. Not only does it contain 10% benzoyl peroxide, but it is also dermatologist recommended.

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​Clearasil is another widely known brand when it comes to at home acne treatments. Like Neutrogena, Clearasil has a wide variety of options when it comes to acne treatments, from face washes to on-the-spot treatments.One popular product of this brand is the No products found.. Its maximum strength formula contains 10% benzoyl peroxide and works as not only a spot treatment but since it is tinted, it allows for an instant covering of blemishes.

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​Another widely recognized brand is Clean & Clear. From facial washes, to spot treatments, this company also gives consumers a variety of products to chose from.The No products found. is a spot treatment that contains 10% benzoyl peroxide and goes straight to work fighting unwanted acne.

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​While not as widely recognized as the products mentioned above, Paula’s Choice is a well-known skincare brand that offers users a variety of options for their skin care needs.Paula’s Choice No products found. only contains 5% benzoyl peroxide but is also included in a three-step system to help fight off stubborn acne.

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No products found. is a dermatologist-recommended medicine that promises to not only clear but treat and prevents breakouts. This brand offers a few different treatment options, one being a 4% creamy benzoyl peroxide wash to a much stronger, 10% foaming benzoyl peroxide wash.

Benzoyl Peroxide VS. Salicylic Acid

Benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid are both used to treat acne and can be found in a wide variety of acne treatment products. Is one better than the other? That all comes down to the individual and their skin type.

Some users find that benzoyl peroxide provides not only quicker results, but they also have less severe side effects. However, the same can be said about salicylic acid. So why not take a quick look at both products.


Benzoyl Peroxide

Pros

  • ​Kills Bacteria
  • ​Works Quickly
  • ​Prevents antibiotic resistance

CONS

  • ​Causes Dryness
  • ​Can cause peeling
  • ​Causes Redness
  • ​Can bleach fabric
  • ​Can Cause Post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation (dark spots)

We have already touched on what benzoyl peroxide is and what it is used for. So, let’s take a quick look at some of the pros and cons of using it.


Salicylic Acid

Salicylic acid is a type of beta hydroxy acid. Unlike alpha hydroxy acids, beta hydroxy acid is oil-soluble, so it can penetrate your skin’s sebum to get deep into pores. Salicylic acid is an exfoliator that helps scrub and wash away dead skin, debris, and oil that clogs up the skin’s pores.

This acid tends to be strong, and while that helps some, those with sensitive skin may be more prone to the negative side effects that can include burning and redness of the skin. In some cases, people have even reported experiencing chemical burns from products that contain salicylic acid.

Pros

  • ​Exfoliates skin
  • ​Removes dead skin cells
  • ​Soothes skin
  • ​Calms Inflammation
  • ​Reduces Pore Size

CONS

  • ​Don’t always see immediate results
  • ​Can have negative side effects such as sever skin irritation
  • ​Can cause burning
  • ​Can cause bleaching of the skin
  • ​Can cause skin to peel

So, is benzoyl peroxide better than salicylic acid? Based on the pro/con lists above, the two ingredients seem pretty evenly matched. What it all comes down to is the user’s skin type and what they are looking for in an acne treatment.

Is Benzoyl Peroxide Ideal for Everyone?

Will benzoyl peroxide be the cure-all product for everyone?

No.

Everybody is different, and everyone’s skin is different. Some will react well to benzoyl peroxide, and some won’t. Some will find that it works wonders at clearing up their troublesome acne. Others may find that it’s too strong for their skin and leaves it red and irritated.

That being said, start with what you know: your skin type.

Once you know what type of skin you have, you’ll be able to judge better what sort of treatment will work best for you. If you are still unsure where to start, seeing your doctor is a great place to start. Your doctor will be able to make recommendations for you, and they may even be able to give you trial samples to test out before you have to commit to anything!

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