Benzoyl Peroxide 101: Everything You Need To Know About This Acne Fighter


As far as killing acne-causing bacteria is concerned, there is only one ingredient that has proven to be as effective as salicylic acid: benzoyl peroxide. 

But while some see this ingredient as the holy grail for fighting acne, others warn against using it if you want to avoid irritation and dryness. 

So to gain a better understanding of what exactly benzoyl peroxide is and who it’s best suited for, we asked the experts. 

Here, Dr Timothy Falla, the Chief Scientific Officer for Rodan + Fields, and Dr Natasha Cook, dermatologist and owner of Darlinghurst Dermatology Skin, take us through a quick lesson in benzoyl peroxide 101.

What is benzoyl peroxide? 

Benzoyl peroxide, also known as BPO2, is an active ingredient used in the treatment of mild to moderate acne. Its antibacterial properties enable it to kill acne-causing bacteria on the skin, preventing breakouts before they occur. 

As Dr Falla explains, benzoyl peroxide works to “acidify the area and help exfoliate the surface.” This process removes dead skin cells, making it easier for our serums and creams to more effectively penetrate the skin. 

In the case of excessively oily skin, benzoyl peroxide also has effective mattifying properties, given that it keeps our sebum production in check and minimises shine.

Who is benzoyl peroxide best suited for?

In general, benzoyl peroxide will work best on people with oily and acne-prone skin or those who wish to treat mild acne at home. Due to its potent nature, individuals with sensitive skin may find this ingredient irritating and overly harsh. 

In fact, due to its tendency to dry out the skin, some experts recommend avoiding this ingredient altogether. If you do choose to give it a try, we recommend a patch test to begin with. And to prevent any unwanted bleaching mishaps, avoid dark towels, pillowcases and clothing. 

What should I be looking for in a benzoyl peroxide product?

Like any product containing an active skin care ingredient, the percentage is very important – as is the case with benzoyl peroxide. 

Both Dr Cook and Dr Falla agree that the concentration of benzoyl peroxide needs to be 2.5 per cent or more to be effective. In a cleanser, however, Dr Cook explains that this number can increase anywhere between 3 and 5 per cent.

Whether you’re using a benzoyl peroxide cleanser, spot treatment, toner or moisturiser, it’s important to ease it into your routine slowly. In addition, when mixing it with other ingredients, we recommend doing so at night as it will decrease the efficacy of your vitamin C serum in the morning if you use one. 

Rodan + Fields Spotless Regimen

The Rodan + Fields Spotless Regimen 2-step skin care system includes the Daily Acne Wash and Acne Clearing Treatment. These products contain fast-acting formulas that treat acne under the surface and prevent new breakouts from forming. Combined with glycerin to soothe and calm irritated skin, the regimen combats the entire acne cycle for teens and young adults, resulting in an even, bright complexion. 

$120 at Rodan + Fields

Skin O2 Spot Cream

Containing both acne-fighting heroes, benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid, Skin O2’s Spot Cream will take care of any brewing breakouts. Designed to spot treat individual blemishes, this cream comes partnered with an anti-redness concealer to cover up spots post-treatment.

$32.99 at Chemist Australia

Alternatively, if you’re looking for a way to treat acne without including benzoyl peroxide, look to products with alpha and beta hydroxy acids, such as the Ultraceuticals Even Skintone Smoothing Serum Concentrate ($135, Active Skin) and SugarBaby KNOCK YOUR CELLS OFF Face Mask ($29, SugarBaby Beauty).

Have you tried benzoyl peroxide? What is your experience with the ingredient?

Main image credit: @silkonme

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