Home Medicines Benzoyl peroxide: effect, areas of application, side effects

Benzoyl peroxide: effect, areas of application, side effects

by Josephine Andrews
Published: Last Updated on 335 views

Benzoyl peroxide is one of the most important medications for acne. It is generally considered to be effective and well tolerated, but can initially lead to an aggravation of symptoms. Pregnant and breastfeeding women should only take drugs containing benzoyl peroxide after consulting their doctor. Here you can read everything you need to know about benzoyl peroxide. 

This is how benzoyl peroxide works

Benzoyl peroxide is a so-called lipophilic (fat-soluble) peroxide. Due to its fat solubility, the active ingredient is easily absorbed by the skin , where it releases reactive oxygen radicals. These mediate antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, comedolytic (dissolving blackheads) and keratolytic (scaly) effects.

If you are predisposed to this, it can lead to an increased formation of blackheads (comedones), especially during puberty. Hormone fluctuations make the skin particularly sensitive to certain sex hormones.

There is increased sebum and sweat formation, which clogs the pores. Colonization with bacteria and slight inflammatory processes result in purulent pustules and papules, which should be treated with medication to prevent later scarring.

Once applied to the skin, benzoyl peroxide is rapidly broken down into oxygen. The increase in the amount of oxygen in the upper layers of the skin ensures that the number of bacteria is reduced by disrupting the bacterial metabolism.

First, there is often an aggravated inflammatory response (so-called “pimples” of acne ). This is then followed by the so-called “comedolysis” – the blackheads are removed from the skin and the complexion is significantly improved.

intake, degradation and excretion

When applied to the skin, the active substance is practically not absorbed into the blood, since it is immediately converted to oxygen by the influence of light.

When is benzoyl peroxide used?

Benzoyl peroxide is used for various types of acne. At lower concentrations, benzoyl peroxide products are used on the face area, at higher concentrations on the back and chest .

This is how benzoyl peroxide is used

As a rule, benzoyl peroxide is applied to the affected areas of the skin once or twice a day in the form of creams, gels or ointments. The duration of use varies individually between a few weeks and months. Depending on tolerability and effectiveness, the concentration of active ingredient in the ointments can be adjusted. Concentrations between three and ten percent are common.

Benzoyl peroxide is often combined with other active ingredients. A sensible combination is, for example, with agents against fungal diseases, which can occur parallel to bacterial colonization.

What are the side effects of benzoyl peroxide?

Occasionally, i.e. in one percent of those treated, benzoyl peroxide causes side effects such as hypersensitivity reactions. Drying out of the skin by the active ingredient is expressly desired. However, if symptoms such as scaly or itchy skin do not improve after a week, the concentration of benzoyl peroxide must be reduced.

During application, attention should be paid to increased sensitivity of the skin to UV light (eg sunlight).

What should be considered when using benzoyl peroxide?

No other irritants should be used on the skin during treatment with benzoyl peroxide. Experts also recommend avoiding extensive sunbathing.


Benzoyl peroxide cream, ointment etc. must not be used on mucous membranes, open wounds or on the eyes . Should such areas accidentally come into contact with the active substance, they must be rinsed off immediately with plenty of water.


There are no known interactions with other drugs.

age restriction

Acne occurs at the earliest at the onset of puberty. Many preparations containing benzoyl peroxide are therefore approved from the age of twelve.

pregnancy and breast feeding period

There are no safety concerns about the effects of topically applied benzoyl peroxide on the fetus. Due to the lack of data, before using drugs with benzoyl peroxide during pregnancy or breastfeeding, the doctor will always individually weigh the benefits of the treatment against the potential risks.

How to get medication with benzoyl peroxide

The active ingredient is only available in pharmacies in Germany. Drugs with benzoyl peroxide are therefore only available in pharmacies. In Austria and Switzerland, benzoyl peroxide is subject to a prescription and can be obtained from pharmacies upon presentation of a valid prescription.

Since when is benzoyl peroxide known?

Benzoyl peroxide has been known as a remedy for acne for a relatively long time. As a conversion product of benzoic acid, its disinfecting effect was discovered early on.

More interesting facts about benzoyl peroxide

Contact with colored laundry should be avoided when using benzoyl peroxide, as the active ingredient can bleach them. A comparably bleaching effect can also be observed with benzoyl peroxide on dark hair.

In the case of acne, in addition to treatment with benzoyl peroxide, care should be taken to ensure appropriate skin care. Drying out of the skin is desirable during therapy and should not be compensated for with greasy ointments or creams.

Creams with a high water content are suitable for skin care. Cleaning should be done with water and mild soap. It is also best to use special face lotions (tonics) that remove limescale residues that can form a veil on the skin.

It should also be noted that the active ingredient can lead to a hypersensitivity reaction of the body’s defense system (allergy). To rule out sensitization, the medication can be applied behind the ear or on a small area on the inside of the forearm for 24 hours before use on the face. If severe redness occurs during this period, drugs containing benzoyl peroxide should not be used.

You may also like

Leave a Comment