The Acne Killing Heavyweight: How Benzoyl Peroxide Can Help You Fight Severe and Cystic Acne

A heavy hitter when it comes to dealing with severe and cystic acne, Benzoyl Peroxide is the most effective option you’ll have available OTC (over the counter). I touched on the amazing benefits that Salicylic Acid can provide you in your skincare routine, most notably in preventing blackheads, comedones, pimples, and mild acne. 

Benzoyl Peroxide is another amazing acne fighting ingredient, and should be your next best option for dealing with severe acne should Salicylic Acid fall short.

What is Benzoyl Peroxide?

I first came across Benzoyl Peroxide during some light online research in response to a personal mask acne breakout (which is a symptom of prolonged mask wearing). My research suggested that I apply a Benzoyl Peroxide Cleanser to my face, after removing my mask for the day, and to keep that solution on for at least 2 minutes before rinsing.

Benzoyl Peroxide is an ingredient with many purposes, such as bleaching and disinfecting, however, it is most notably common for fighting severe and cystic acne.

It not only unclogs our pores, allowing our excess sebum and dead skin cells to be exfoliated, it’s also a fantastic agent for killing bacteria that might live under and on our skin.

What kind of acne is Benzoyl Peroxide best for?

Acne can be induced in a variety of ways. Most commonly, acne is induced from clogged up pores and the growth of P. Acnes bacteria. Where Salicylic Acid is best with mild acne (think pimples, blackheads, comedones, and other anti-inflammatory acne afflictions), Benzoyl Peroxide is able to penetrate deeper and more effectively when it comes to bacteria induced acne.

This is why if you’re experiencing acne induced from prolonged mask wearing, it’s best to incorporate Benzoyl Peroxide due to its effectiveness in killing bacteria.

Benzoyl Peroxide is also known to show beneficial results in dealing with more severe forms of acne, Cystic acne included. Since P. Acnes Bacteria is a common cause for cystic acne, Benzoyl Peroxide’s ability to kill bacteria will help mitigate cystic acne breakouts.

Now you might be thinking, especially if this your first time reading about this powerful acne fighting ingredient - how have I not used this before!

The question you should be asking yourself is this - have you exhausted all other acne-fighting options?

When should you use Benzoyl Peroxide?

There’s a reason that Benzoyl Peroxide is one of the strongest and final OTC (over the counter) measures you can use in fighting your acne; it’s powerful stuff.

I personally felt compelled to use Benzoyl Peroxide when I had exhausted all other options. I had tried two different Salicylic Cleansers (one from Neutrogena and one from geologie) before I concluded that my acne was not getting any better.

Also, I noticed there was a direct correlation to the areas of my acne breakouts and the areas of my face that is covered during prolonged mask wearing. This tells me that I’m fighting acne induced by bacteria, more so than clogged pores.

It was time to bring in the big guns..

How To Use Benzoyl Peroxide

Benzoyl peroxide is a powerful ingredient, best used as a cleanser and washed off. I personally recommend a cleanser starting at 2.5% (for OTC you’ll find Benzoyl Peroxide products can go up to 10%) and incorporating it into your morning skincare routine.

You can also use it directly after prolonged mask use by applying the cleanser and leaving it on for over a minute before cleansing in luke warm water.

The trouble with when I first used Benzoyl Peroxide is that I tried too high of a percentage and applied too frequently.

The side effects were nightmarish!

What are the side effects of Benzoyl Peroxide and other factors to consider?

Benzoyl Peroxide may not be safe for sensitive skin, in fact it’s extremely drying and can lead to more severe irritation. Other possible side effects include dry skin, scaling, redness, peeling, burning and stinging; it can actually bleach your hair and clothing if you’re not careful during application. 

Your acne can also get worse and more severe before it gets better; you’ll begin to see improvements (if any) after 4-6 weeks of use.

As I alluded to earlier, when I first used Benzoyl Peroxide, I made the rookie mistake of not being careful during application. It got on my eyelids and the skin around my nose holes and mouth. The next four days were absolute hell. I had to apply eye cream every hour to combat the feeling of my eyelids feeling dry as the Sahara.

Benzoyl Peroxide demands moisturization, and if you don’t adjust your skincare routine to meet the side effects of Benzoyl Peroxide, your skin won’t last a week.

As with any new ingredient, it’s important to understand what Benzoyl Peroxide pairs well with, and what ingredients you should keep distance from Benzoyl Peroxide.

What ingredients synergize well (and terribly) with Benzoyl Peroxide?

Since Benzoyl Peroxide is a beast at stripping away skin, you’ll want to apply sunscreen after use (especially during the mornings) to combat your skin’s increased photosensitivity.

Topical Antibiotics containing ingredients like Clindamycin Phosphate are usually paired with Benzoyl Peroxide in skincare products as this combo of ingredients both kill and mitigate the growth of bacteria. 

My dermatologist (during my hilarious first visit to a dermatologist ever) had actually prescribed me this combination for my Mask Acne, and i must say, it’s been quite effective.

Something to avoid pairing Benzoyl Peroxide with is a Retinoid, more specifically Isotretinoin, which could actually decrease the efficacy of the Isotretinoin when applied together.

If you apply a Retinoid (such as a retinol cream) at night, try implementing Benzoyl Peroxide during your morning skincare routine to distance the application of ingredients.

Benzoyl Peroxide also serves as a great exfoliant, as does Salicylic Acid, and can potentially replace a chemical exfoliant like Glycolic Acid, especially since the combination of the two can cause over dryness.

I had an amazing Glycolic Acid Toner (8%) that I was using before Benzoyl Peroxide, however when it comes to using Benzoyl Peroxide, it’s best to keep your skincare routine simple.

I have since shelved toners in general as I continue to use Benzoyl Peroxide, and have toned down my skincare routine tremendously. 

As with any skincare recommendations, I implore you to do your own independent research when trying Benzoyl Peroxide. It can be a god send for your acne, but like all things in life, everything comes at a cost.

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