Benzoyl peroxide is a topical antiseptic that reduces the quantity of bacteria in the skin. Naturally occurring skin bacteria including P.acnes contribute to the formation of acne lesions. Benzoyl peroxide also helps to reduce blockage of hair follicles that leads to whiteheads and blackheads.
5% benzoyl peroxide is available in gel and face-wash formulations without prescription and is present at lower concentrations as an ‘active’ ingredient in a number over the counter products such as cleansers. It is additionally included with other prescription-only topical treatments such as retinoids (e.g. epiduo) or antibiotics (e.g. duac).
Benzoyl peroxide can be an effective treatment for mild acne, however it takes several weeks until you start seeing the effects. On its own It is not a suitable treatment for moderate or severe acne.
Benzoyl peroxide is a safe treatment, that is usually well tolerated, however it can irritate the skin - particularly if used in large quantities. It can also make your skin more sensitive to sunlight and can bleach clothes and hair.