Beauty Glossary: A Complete Guide to Benzoyl Peroxide And How To Use It To Treat Acne


If you’ve been struggling with acne, you have probably come across the terms benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid.

These gold star ingredients are popular in most skincare products and are designed to eliminate acne breakouts and, ideally, prevent more from popping up.

However, as with any other skincare essential, there’s more to benzoyl peroxide than just slathering it on your face whenever pimples show up unannounced.

Depending on your skin type and the extent of the breakouts, benzoyl peroxide might be an ideal ingredient option to look for when shopping for a product to use on your complexion.

If you have no idea about what this skincare miracle is, don’t worry.

Here’s a detailed guide to help you find out what it is, how it works, and how to tell if it might be the ideal solution to your skincare problems.

Quick Facts

Properties Featured: Antibacterial, Keratolytic, Moderate Comedolytic

Primary Benefit: Tackles acne-triggering bacteria

Perfect For: Individuals looking to treat mild to moderate acne breakouts

Not Suitable For: Individuals struggling with hyperpigmentation and pregnant moms

How Often Can You Use It: Every morning, with the use of a retinoid at night to increase the absorption of benzoyl peroxide

Works Perfectly With: Salicylic acid

Shouldn’t Be Used With: Vitamin C. You should also avoid using multiple products containing benzoyl peroxide.

What Is Benzoyl Peroxide?

Benzoyl Peroxide, or BP, is an organic peroxide that works as a non-specific oxidizing agent. In layman’s language, the skincare ingredient is a chemical compound that, through oxidation, has helped treat acne for over sixty years now.

According to a study published in the National Library of Medicine, benzoyl peroxide is an effective acne treatment because it features keratolytic, moderate comedolytic, and antibacterial properties, which help get rid of P-Acnes, cystic acne, and Staph.

Aureus on your skin.

While many self-proclaimed skincare gurus claim benzoyl peroxide works for all forms of acne, several dermatologists say that these three forms of acne are the most receptive to this bacteria-eliminating ingredient.

Is Benzoyl Peroxide Suitable For All Skin Types & Tones?

Benzoyl peroxide is considered a perfect acne-tackling ingredient for every skin type and tone: even though the word ‘peroxide screams bleach, this powerhouse ingredient isn’t considered to have skin lightening effects.

That said, though, it’s essential for anyone with darker skin to start with the lowest available percentage (products with 2.5% benzoyl).

This is because high concentrations can trigger irritation and inflammation and increase the risk of post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation.

Additionally, benzoyl peroxide can discolor your hair and clothing, so you need to be extra careful when applying the ingredient.

Perks of Using Benzoyl Peroxide

Gets Rid of Excess Oil: if a little shine is the bane of your existence, sing a benzoyl peroxide cleanser might give you that much-needed mattifying effect.

Eliminates Acne-Causing Bacteria: Benzoyl peroxide features antibacterial properties that help get rid of acne and stops breakouts before they happen.

Sloughs of Dead Skin Cells: The skincare essential can help boost other product’s efficacy of other products by removing dead skin cells build-up, allowing your hyaluronic acid serums and moisturizers to penetrate your skin better.

Side Effects of Using Benzoyl Peroxide

Some users might find benzoyl drying or irritating, leaving patches of dry and red skin. With this in mind, many aestheticians recommend using one form of benzoyl up to twice a day.

That means that if you use a BP cleanser in the morning, you should use it alongside a spot treatment with similar ingredients.

BP can also decrease the efficiency of your Vitamin C serums when used together. Therefore, if you use Vitamin C products in the morning, use your benzoyl peroxide cleanser or toner at night.

How to Use It

Applying peroxide

You can use benzoyl peroxide as a:

Facial Cleanser

Low BP percentages are found in over-the-counter (OTC) exfoliants and washes. What’s more, you can use these forms of benzoyl twice a day as part of your regular skincare routine.

To use it:

  • Wet your face on the area (cheek, arm, neck, forehead, chin) you want to treat and slather on a small amount of the product

• Keep the cleanser on your skin for no more than two minutes.

• Rinse off with lukewarm water

• Pat your skin dry


There are several benzoyl peroxide products in the market, but the most popular are found on drugstore shelves as toners.

The best thing about using this as a toner is that you have more control over where you can apply it.

This is perfect for individuals experiencing dryness when using this powerhouse ingredient.

To use it safely:

• Dab a small amount to a cotton ball or Q-tip

• Gently press it on the affected spots.

• Allow it to dry

Spot Treatment

If you’re using benzoyl peroxide in high doses, you should apply the product directly to the affected area.

To use it:

• Wash the affected spot with a non-BP cleanser and water

• Pat your skin dry

• Apply a thin layer of gel on the affected area and allow it to soak in

Note: For the best results, use the gel once or twice a day. If you have sensitive skin, though, use the gel once before retiring to bed.


If you’re looking for an all-over product that’ll help prevent acne breakouts, a mild lotion might be the best option for you.

When using a benzoyl peroxide-infused lotion, though, many dermatologists recommend washing your face before bed since it works best when you’re asleep.

If you choose to use it during the day, apply a thin layer of the ingredient and coat it with an SPF 50 to help prevent further breakouts and hyperpigmentation.


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