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What is Benzoyl Peroxide?

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Updated September 09, 2009

Question: What is Benzoyl Peroxide?
Answer:

Benzoyl peroxide is an over-the-counter medication that’s frequently used to treat mild-to-moderate acne. Found in products, such as Clearasil and Proactiv, it works in a few different ways. First, once a pore is clogged, bacteria can invade the pore and cause redness and inflammation. One of the types of bacteria commonly found in clogged pores is known as propionibactera acnes, and it cannot survive in the presence of oxygen. Benzoyl peroxide introduces oxygen in to the pore, effectively killing the bacteria. Second, it also helps to clear the pore of any dirt or cellular debris.

It is important to read the instructions of the individual product before using it. Start with a mild form, usually 2.5%. If it does not work within a couple of weeks, then look for a stronger product. Make sure to apply it to your entire face, as it can help to prevent breakouts as well. You will probably need to continue taking this medication, even once your acne begins to improve.

As with any drug, there can be side effects. The most common ones are increased sensitivity to the sun; mild burning; and red, irritated or inflamed skin. If these become bothersome or worsen, you may need to speak with your physician about an alternative. Finally, other products may interact with benzoyl peroxide. Be sure to avoid cosmetics or other cleaning products that may also dry the skin, and let your physician know of any other medications you are taking.

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