How to use benzoyl peroxide
- Before you start the treatment, read the manufacturer's printed information leaflet from inside the pack. It will give you more information about benzoyl peroxide and will provide you with a full list of the side-effects which you could experience from using it.
- It is recommended that you use benzoyl peroxide once or twice each day. When you first start using it, you will be recommended to use a 4% or 5% strength preparation. This will help keep any skin irritation to a minimum. If you find it does irritate then try the 2.5% strength once the irritation has settled. These strength preparations often work as well as the higher 10% strength preparations and cause less skin irritation. If necessary, you can increase the strength of the preparation as you go on, but do this gradually. A general point is that you should apply benzoyl peroxide to all of the area where your spots occur and not just to each spot.
- Creams and gels should be applied about 15 minutes or so after washing the area with soap and water and gently drying with a towel. At first you may want to wash the preparation off after a few hours, but gradually try to increase the length of time you leave it on the skin. When your skin is used to the preparation, aim to put it on twice a day and leave it on.
- If you are using a 'wash', wet your skin and then pour some of the liquid wash on to your hands and use it to wash the affected areas. Leave it on for a minute or so before you rinse it off. Then dry the area gently with a towel.
- As you apply benzoyl peroxide, try to avoid getting it on the sensitive areas of your skin in or around your nostrils, your eyes and your mouth. Do not apply it to any areas of skin which are irritated or sore.
Getting the most from your treatment
- It is recommended that you use a mild soap and lukewarm water to wash with. You cannot clean off blackheads. The black tip of a blackhead is actually a skin pigment and cannot be removed by cleaning or scrubbing.
- If your skin becomes very dry, it may help to use a moisturising cream (preferably a fragrance-free and water-based cream). Do not use ointments or oil-rich creams, as these could clog your pores again.
- Try not to get any benzoyl peroxide on your hair or clothing, as it can cause bleaching.
- Benzoyl peroxide can cause some people's skin to become more sensitive to sunlight than normal. Avoid strong sunlight, or use a sun cream with a high sun protection factor until you know how your skin reacts. Do not use sunbeds.
- Continue with the treatment for at least six weeks before deciding if it is working for you or not. The most common reason for treatment failure is giving up too soon, thinking that the treatment is not working. If, however, your skin has not improved after two months then make an appointment to speak with your doctor who will advise you about other suitable preparations to try.
- Once your spots have cleared, acne commonly flares up again if you stop treatment altogether, so it is common to carry on with a maintenance treatment. You may find that one application every other day with a low-strength preparation is sufficient for this.
Can benzoyl peroxide cause problems?
Along with their useful effects, most medicines can cause unwanted side-effects although not everyone experiences them. The table below contains some of the most common ones associated with preparations containing benzoyl peroxide. You will find a full list in the manufacturer's information leaflet supplied with your medicine. The unwanted effects often improve as your body adjusts to the new medicine, but speak with your doctor or pharmacist if any of the following continue or become troublesome.
|Very common benzoyl peroxide side-effects (these affect more than 1 in 10 people)||What can I do if I experience this?|
|Redness, skin peeling||This can occur when starting treatment, but usually passes after a day or so. Until your skin recovers, reduce the frequency of application or the time you leave the preparation on your skin|
|Common benzoyl peroxide side-effects (these affect less than 1 in 10 people)||What can I do if I experience this?|
|Dry skin, itching and irritation (burning or stinging)||If troublesome, reduce the number of times you|
use the preparation, or stop using it altogether for a few days. When your skin has recovered, start using it again, but less frequently
If you experience any other symptoms which you think may be due to the preparation, speak with your doctor or pharmacist for further advice.
How to store benzoyl peroxide
- Keep all medicines out of the reach and sight of children.
- Store in a cool, dry place, away from direct heat and light.