One of the many questions I get lately is: "Should I be afraid of an allergic reaction to benzoyl peroxide and should I use it?"
Good questions! This product has been used for decades and is available over the counter and perscription strength. So, enquiring minds want to know! How good is it, how does it work and are there allergies?
Ok. Let's talk a little bit about benzoyl peroxide and how it works. It's a great product so lets check it out. Benzoyl peroxide, Resorcinol, salicylic acid and sulfur are all FDA approved over the counter active ingredients designed particularly to fight your acne. They all work quite well. Benzoyl peroxide should be generally thought of as an antibiotic of sorts which is topically applied as an acne treatment. It is rated just below the number one treatment, oral tetracycline in it's effectiveness.
The "benzoyl" part acts like a propellant for the "peroxide" to get deep into the follicle where it releases oxygen that effectively kills the Anaerobic Acne P. bacteria. This is the bacteria that is specifically responsible for causing all the pain and suffering you experience from acne lesions. Specifically acne vulgaris. Anaerobic just means that the Acne P. bacteria cannot survive in an environment that is rich in oxygen. Oxygen is what we what then! It will provide a toxin environment.
Keep in mind that since your body provides the living quarters and food for the bacteria to survive, you can pick a treatment designed to follow suit. There are products such as Retin-A, azelaic acid or glycolic acid (consult your physician on these) that will actually help clear the follicle and prevent unsuitable living quarters. A product such as benzoyl peroxide actually kills off the bacteria thereby keeping the them in check or even eliminating the breakouts altogether.
If you are using the topical antibacterial method in fighting your acne you must remain diligent. Missing even a day or two can result in a whole new onslaught of acne by allowing the bacteria to regroup. You don't want that to happen. One of the really great attributes of benzoyl peroxide is that the bacteria cannot become resistant to the treatment. Where there is oxygen, they will die. This is the "toxic" effect it has on the bacteria rather than a "true" antibiotic effect. Because of this the bacteria cannot develop resistance to it.
It is also a great anti-inflammatory preparation which also helps to reduce swelling and redness associated with it. This is of course unless you are hypersensitive to the product. That is not the same as an allergy and I will discuss that in another article. Depending on the severity of your acne outbreak, it could take weeks or even a couple of months for improvement to occur so don't give up! Just use the product as directed. You should start to see results within a few days.
Now, let me ask you a question. Do you really think you can eliminate your acne overnight buy some of the "miracle" products I see selling all over the net? Huh? Come on people. Don't buy into that scam.
Now that we have defined exactly what and how benzoyl peroxide works lets talk about the side effects just briefly. Some people experience them and some don't.
If you use a very high concentration of benzoyl peroxide you may experience very dry, red or scaly skin. This will also happen if you apply it way more often than is necessary. Now, if these type of symptoms become severe it may signal an allergic reaction to the product. Allergic reaction of this type will usually include some swelling and itching and most probably some tenderness of the affected area. If that should occur try using an over the counter hydro cortisone based cream. This usually works wonders in counteracting minor allergic reactions.
Overall clinical studies have shown that less than one percent of the population actually shows any type of contact sensitization to benzoyl peroxide over time at low strength levels. It has been proven to be one of the most effective acne treatment there is and these clincal tests have occurred over many decades. That doesn't mean that you cannot be that one person who does experience some type of reaction. So, be aware of how the product is working for you. If you do experience swelling or severe crusting of your skin after using benzoyl peroxide discontinue it's use and consult your physician. There are many other products you can try and something will work for you.
Hope this answers your question on this topic. Stay tuned as my next post will deal more specifically on the long term effects of benzoyl peroxide. If you have suffered from acne for many years you need to be aware of the latest finding on long term use.
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