Benzoyl peroxide is one of the most popular ingredients in acne treatment medications. A great tool for fighting mild to moderate breakouts, it is available in gels, cleaners, soaps, and spot treatments. Benzoyl peroxide works by killing acne-causing bacteria and clearing dead skin cells from blocked pores. This can both treat existing breakouts and prevent future acne from forming.


This ingredient is widely available in over-the-counter products, which means you won’t need a doctor’s prescription to use it. Still, this medication is not recommended for everybody, especially those with sensitive skin. If you’re curious about how this ingredient can help treat and prevent acne for your skin, visit one of our dermatologists. We can assess your condition and make personalized recommendations.


Benzoyl Peroxide Treatments by Acne Type

Benzoyl peroxide is a popular acne treatment because it both kills bacteria and helps the pores shed dead skin cells and excess sebum. However, this treatment will not work for all types of acne. While this is a good treatment for inflammatory acne, it may not work for the occasional whitehead or blackhead.

  • Papules and Pustules: Inflammatory acne responds particularly well to benzoyl peroxide treatments. This may be a result of the ingredient’s ability to kill bacteria, even under the skin’s surface. Red bumps containing pus will respond best to this treatment.
  • Blackheads and Whiteheads: Noninflammatory acne can respond well to benzoyl peroxide, but it is not typically the fist line of treatment. If you’re looking for whitehead and blackhead treatment, reach for a topical retinoid. If that doesn’t work, however, benzoyl peroxide can help treat dead skin cells and oil that clog the pores.
  • Cystic Acne: Benzoyl peroxide is often used in combination with prescription medications to treat cystic acne. As one of the most serious forms of acne, your dermatologist will likely recommend a multi-product treatment regimen. This ingredient is commonly included.


How to Use Benzoyl Peroxide Effectively

It’s a very popular acne treatment, but you’ll still need to do your research before heading out to buy a product. The ingredient is available in a variety of concentrations, typically between 1 percent and 10 percent. Higher concentrations are available with a doctor’s prescription. When picking your product, think about where you’ll be using the treatment. If you’re treating facial acne, you should use a lower concentration (around 4 percent) because this skin is sensitive and delicate. The chest and back can tolerate higher concentrations of the product.

This medication is available in several products. The most common are face washes and foams, which are used one or twice each day to prevent acne. However, you can also find creams, lotions, soaps, and gels (spot treatments) with varied concentrations of the ingredient.

Many products containing benzoyl peroxide also claim to reduce the effects and visibility of acne scars. While this ingredient can help to shed excess and dead skin cells, which can make scars less prominent, most research doesn’t support the claim. Rather than trying this product on acne scars, talk to a dermatologist about possible acne scar removal treatments.