Benzoyl Peroxide


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Benzoyl Peroxide at a glance

  • Considered the most effective OTC topical antibacterial treatment for blemishes
  • Penetrates the hair follicle to fight blemishes bacteria at the source
  • Does not disrupt skin’s microbiome
  • Solutions range in strength from 2.5% to 10%

Benzoyl Peroxide description

Benzoyl peroxide is widely considered the most effective over-the-counter choice for a topical antibacterial agent in the treatment of blemishes. The amount of research (well over five decades) demonstrating the effectiveness of benzoyl peroxide is exhaustive and conclusive. Among benzoyl peroxide’s attributes is its ability to penetrate the hair follicle to reach the bacteria that cause the problem, and then kill them—with a low risk of sensitivity. It also doesn’t pose the problem of bacterial resistance that some prescription topical antibacterials (antibiotics) do. You might think the use of benzoyl peroxide would disrupt skin’s microbiome, the delicate balance of microorganisms that affect how skin looks and feels. Research has shown that this is not the case, and in fact it can have a balancing effect, since it regulates the proliferation of _P. acnes_ bacteria. Benzoyl peroxide treatments range in strength from 2.5% to 10%. It is best to start with lower concentrations because a 2.5% benzoyl peroxide product is much less irritating than a 5% or 10% concentration, and it can be just as effective. Because of its low systemic absorption, it is considered generally safe for use by people who are pregnant or breastfeeding. It is metabolized within the skin to benzoic acid and any residual amount that is absorbed into the body is quickly excreted via urine. Benzoyl peroxide is considered a weak allergen and tends to only cause irritation if applied too frequently or to skin whose barrier is impaired.

Benzoyl Peroxide references

  • Journal of Shoulder and Elbow Surgery, June 2021, pages 1,316-1,323
  • Matin T, Goodman MB. Benzoyl Peroxide. StatPearls Publishing, 2020
  • Journal of Drugs in Dermatology, June 2017, pages 574-581 and June 2014, issue 6, pages s66-70
  • American Journal of Clinical Dermatology, December 2012, issue 6, pages 357-364
  • Expert Opinion on Pharmacotherapy, October 2009, issue 15, pages 2555-2562
  • Seminars in Cutaneous Medicine and Surgery, September 2008, issue 3, pages 170-176

Peer-reviewed, substantiated scientific research is used to assess ingredients in this dictionary. Regulations regarding constraints, permitted concentration levels and availability vary by country and region.

Ingredient ratings


Proven and supported by independent studies. Outstanding active ingredient for most skin types or concerns.


Necessary to improve a formula's texture, stability, or penetration.


Generally non-irritating but may have aesthetic, stability, or other issues that limit its usefulness.


There is a likelihood of irritation. Risk increases when combined with other problematic ingredients.


May cause irritation, inflammation, dryness, etc. May offer benefit in some capability but overall, proven to do more harm than good.


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Not Rated