Benzoyl peroxide is a topical medication. It is available at lower strengths in over-the-counter lotions and gels. Of course, higher strengths are available by prescription. Over-the-counter products contain up to ten percent benzoyl peroxide. Some over-the-counter treatments combine this medication with an antimicrobial agent called potassium hydroxyquinoline sulfate. Prescription products may combine it with clindamycin, erythromycin, or adapalene. The appropriate dose depends on the specific product that the patient is using. Thus, patients should read and follow the recommended instructions. They should contact a doctor if their symptoms persist or worsen after several weeks. Patients should speak with a doctor before using benzoyl peroxide if they are using any other medicines.
Patients may use a clindamycin and benzoyl peroxide topical gel as a treatment for acne. Of course, over-the-counter acne treatments with benzoyl peroxide are quite common. However, patients should review how this type of acne treatment works so that they can pick the best benzoyl peroxide product for their needs.
How It Works
This medication works by killing Cutibacterium acnes. This bacteria, one of the major causes of acne, is located on the skin. When benzoyl peroxide is applied, it is absorbed by the skin. This is where it converts into benzoic acid. The patient's body absorbs approximately five percent of the benzoic acid. The kidneys excrete this through urination. Cysteine, located in the skin, metabolizes the remaining ninety-five percent of benzoic acid. This causes bacteria proteins to oxidize. It reduces acne by lowering levels of free fatty acids, lipids, and P. acnes. Benzoyl peroxide treats cutaneous ulcers by stimulating both the growth of granulation tissue and the epithelium's ingrowth.
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Uses And Benefits
Benzoyl peroxide is most commonly used to treat acne. It is found in many over-the-counter products intended for treating mild acne. Patients with severe acne may use prescription products that combine benzoyl peroxide with other medicines. Examples include retinoids and antibiotics. Benzoyl peroxide can help clear acne breakouts. It also helps reduce the frequency and number of acne breakouts. It may take up to ten weeks of consistent application to notice a significant improvement in the skin.
Benzoyl peroxide is used 'off-label' for conditions such as folliculitis, pitted keratolysis, decubitus ulcers, and certain forms of rosacea. Doctors may use it 'off-label' when treating progressive macular hypomelanosis or perforating diseases too. Patients should review the risks and benefits of benzoyl peroxide with their doctor. This is especially important for patients with underlying health conditions and those who use other medicines. When benzoyl peroxide is being considered for 'off-label' use, patients should ask their doctor about all of the possible treatments and why they are recommending this one.
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Potential Side Effects
Benzoyl peroxide can cause the skin to become red and dry. Patients may notice that their skin starts to flake or peel. These side effects tend to be most severe during the first few weeks of treatment. Benzoyl peroxide causes the skin to dry out more than some other acne medicines. Individuals who use treatments with higher percentages of benzoyl peroxide typically experience more skin dryness. Some patients notice rough patches of skin while using benzoyl peroxide.
It is common to have redness, burning, and itching immediately after applying the medicine. Patients should contact their doctor if they notice severe skin irritation, severe redness, or blisters. Allergic reactions to benzoyl peroxide are very rare. However, patients should get immediate medical care if they develop hives, breathing difficulties, or swelling of the lips or tongue while using this medicine.
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Precautions To Remember
Since treatment with benzoyl peroxide can cause significant skin irritation for some patients, dermatologists recommend beginning treatment slowly. Patients are advised to apply this medication every other day for the first one to two weeks. This will help their skin adjust to the medicine and reduce the severity of skin dryness. Patients should apply moisturizer to the treated skin at least twice a day. They can do so more often if their skin is very dry. If severe dryness develops, individuals can apply moisturizer to the treatment site first and apply the medication over the moisturizer. This technique allows the moisturizer to act as a buffer, reducing the side effects.
Since benzoyl peroxide increases sensitivity to the sun, patients need to wear sunscreen daily. Benzoyl peroxide stains fabric and clothing. Thus, patients should make sure that it does not make contact with their clothing during application. Patients should wash their hands with soap and water immediately after they apply this medication.
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Potential Medication Interactions
Patients should talk to their doctor about all prescription medications, over-the-counter drugs, and supplements they use. Doctors can determine the safest and most effective combination of medicines for the patient's needs. Benzoyl peroxide may interact with other topical medications used to treat skin conditions. It interacts with the topical forms of dapsone, adapalene, bexarotene, tretinoin, and trifarotene. It also interacts with isotretinoin. This is an oral medication used to treat severe acne.
Patients who use these medicines should check with a doctor about if they can safely use benzoyl peroxide. When these medicines are combined, there is an increased risk of skin dryness and other side effects. It may be necessary to adjust the combination of medications or doses to minimize side effects.