How does a benzoyl peroxide spot treatment work?

Dr. Ellen Marmur, MD

It's inevitable: we're all going to wake up with a pimple (or a few) occasionally. It's smart to be prepared with a good acne-fighting solution. Combined with a salicylic acid exfoliant (whether it be a cleanser, a liquid, or a lotion), benzoyl peroxide makes up the second part of a one-two punch against pimples. A topical benzoyl peroxide treatment (usually in the form of a gel or liquid) will kill the bacteria that are causing the breakout, help unclog the offending pore, and reduce inflammation, whereas salicylic acid only unplugs the pore. Over-the-counter strengths of benzoyl peroxide usually range from 2.5% to 10%. Higher concentrations are available by prescription but risk irritating and drying the skin. Benzoyl peroxide can help to prevent acne flare-ups before they come to a head, so to speak, so the best time to apply it is in the early stage, when the bump is little and hasn't yet erupted. If you always break out in a particular area, you can apply the product there regularly. In fact, a 2004 study published in The Lancet found that topical benzoyl peroxide treatments are as effective as taking prescription oral antibiotics for some cases of acne.

Simple Skin Beauty: Every Woman's Guide to a Lifetime of Healthy, Gorgeous Skin

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Simple Skin Beauty: Every Woman's Guide to a Lifetime of Healthy, Gorgeous Skin

What if a leading dermatologist just happened to be your best friend and you could ask her anything? DR. ELLEN MARMUR, a world-renowned New York City dermatologist, answers all your questions with...

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.