Benzoyl peroxide, also called BP, is one of the most important acne fighting ingredients available. Why is it so important? And how does it work? Stay tuned!
Benzoyl peroxide is sooooo important that it’s included in the World Health Organization’s Model Lists of Essential Medicines, which is a list of minimum medical needs for a basic health care system. That’s impressive!
The reason it’s so important is because it works to both prevent and treat both non inflammatory acne… you know… the blackheads and whiteheads… and also, it prevents and treats inflammatory acne… your red pimples, pus pimples and painful zits.
BP has three major acne fighting actions. First, it’s a very effective exfoliant. Second, it’s antibacterial in a special way. And third, it supplies oxygen to help healing.
So first, as an exfoliant, it helps remove clogging dead cells that contribute to causing both blackheads and whiteheads. Also as an exfoliant, it helps dissolve those clogs of dead cells and oil after they form, and, it also helps speed healing of all the inflammatory acne lesions by increasing turnover of the cells on top of the pimples. While I believe that glycolic is the gold standard of chemical exfoliants and is very helpful for acne for the same reasons, BP has a great synergy with glycolic and can be used with it.
Second, BP has antibacterial activity against the acne causing bacteria, Propionibacterium acnes, or P. Acne, as we call it. But it should be noted that Benzoyl peroxide is not actually an antibiotic. P. Acne is an anerobe which means that it needs an oxygen free environment to multiply and conduct its metabolic activity, which includes making the enzyme lipase which is how it causes pus pimples, cysts and painful inflammation in your skin. But the oxygen that Benzoyl peroxide makes inhibits P. acne’s ability to make the lipase that causes inflammatory acne lesions.
Last, the same oxygen rich environment that prevents inflammatory acne also helps in the healing of all types of acne.
At concentrations of 2 ½ to 10%, it’s best used as a leave on spot treatment to heal individual lesions, but in short contact uses such as a cleanser where it’s not left on the skin, it’s a great preventative treatment to help prevent all types of acne lesions. And as a note, for those people who are concerned about whether or not it will irritate their skin in spot treatments, in a cleanser, it’s much less apt to cause any irritation and could also be a great way to start using BP.
Lastly, let me reassure you again that the F.D.A. has determined and declared that benzoyl peroxide is safe. They put it in the category of “grase products”, spelled G-R-A-S-E, which stands for, “generally recognized as safe and effective”, which is what I’ve been telling my patients for 30 years!