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Is Benzoyl Peroxide Aging Your Skin?
by Emily Linehan on July 20, 2020
While it is understandable why the myth that benzoyl peroxide ages the skin more rapidly is perpetuated, you can rest assured it is inaccurate. This stems from the misunderstanding of how benzoyl peroxide works and its effect on the skin.
How does benzoyl peroxide work?
Benzoyl Peroxide is truly the greatest discovery for acne sufferers as it is the best ingredient to target acne bacteria. The way that it works is that it creates an oxygen-rich environment to suffocate acne bacteria, as acne cannot survive in oxygen.
I like to share this visual example with my clients: Benzoyl Peroxide and Hydrogen Peroxide are like cousins since they both create an oxygen-rich environment to suffocate bacteria. If you have ever put hydrogen peroxide on a cut and watched it bubble up, those bubbles are the oxygen that kills the bacteria making it an effective antiseptic. However, the reason we do not like using hydrogen peroxide on acne is that it also turns the skin surrounding the cut white which indicates that it also kills living tissue. Of course, this is not ideal and could lead to additional scarring, therefore, hydrogen peroxide is not the best choice for acne treatment.
Benzoyl Peroxide, on the other hand, does not kill living tissue. Instead, it simply targets the bacteria by delivering oxygen into the pores, killing the bacteria at its source.
In addition to its effective bacteria-fighting power, it also assists in clearing the pores of the debris that creates clogged pores, including blackheads. This is why it is also very effective for non-inflamed acne such as blackheads, milia, and clogged pores.
Lastly, it has anti-inflammatory properties to help reduce redness and tenderness that commonly accompany breakouts.
So why does benzoyl peroxide get a bad rap?
First, it is mostly in part to the fact that everyone is sensitive to benzoyl peroxide as it is drying and potentially irritating on the skin when first used. This is why I instruct my clients to slowly acclimate the skin with my Acne Eraser when starting on the Clear Skin Program to minimize any dryness or irritation. Most everyone* will acclimate if used correctly and consistently and any dryness/irritation will subside. However, skin that is dry/dehydrated does give the illusion of aged skin as it can look creepy as if lots of instant fine lines appeared overnight. This dehydrated skin condition is only temporary and does not affect the skin’s collagen and elastin or age the skin in any way.
Second, while benzoyl peroxide does create an oxidative environment, which creates free radicals, it's important to understand that not all free radicals are bad for you. In fact, free radicals serve a critical purpose and we actually need them to stay alive. Hydroxyl radicals, which are produced by hydrogen peroxide, react quickly and lead to immediate and lasting damage to the skin. However, the types of free radicals created by benzoyl peroxide, called benzoyloxyl radicals, are different. This type of free radical creates no more damage to the skin than being surrounded by oxygen in the air as we go about our normal day.
So, as you can see, the reasons why this myth is believable are quite understandable. But when you truly know how benzoyl peroxide works and that not all free radicals are created equal, as an acne sufferer, you will definitely want benzoyl peroxide in your arsenal of products.
If that isn’t convincing enough, I have personally been a daily benzoyl peroxide user for nearly ¾ of my life! My acne struggle began when I was 11 and I am now 41 and still use my Acne Eraser every night to keep my skin clear and acne free!