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What are the Most Common Benzoyl Peroxide Side Effects?

Autumn Rivers
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Benzoyl peroxide is often used to clear up acne, but many patients experience some side effects during treatment. The majority of the most common benzoyl peroxide side effects are topical, affecting only the facial skin. For example, it is considered normal to observe dry skin that feels tender and appears red after applying this type of acne treatment. More serious side effects include blistering and crusting, along with acne that seems to actually get worse after the application of benzoyl peroxide. On the other hand, those who are allergic to this medication may notice more than just topical side effects, as they might even find it difficult to breathe.

Certain side effects of benzoyl peroxide only show up at the beginning of treatment, and will disappear as the skin gets used to the medication. For example, it is considered typical for the skin to feel dry and slightly irritated after this drug is applied. It may feel tender and look red during this time, as well. Unfortunately, some people also notice that their skin begins peeling as it slowly gets used to the medication, though they should also observe that their acne is gradually disappearing at the same time. Due to the occurrence of these mild benzoyl peroxide side effects, many patients are advised by their doctor to only apply the medication every other day until their skin becomes accustomed to it.

There are patients who notice more extreme side effects that are difficult to ignore. The skin may begin to blister or crust, and may have a constant red shade to it. Not surprisingly, a red face may be accompanied by a feeling of warmth, as well as a stinging sensation. These side effects of benzoyl peroxide should typically be reported to a doctor, especially if it seems that the acne has not started clearing up. In fact, some people notice that their acne becomes even worse, which may indicate that this is not the best medication for them.

While some benzoyl peroxide side effects are considered minor, and even to be expected, others are signs of an allergy, meaning that certain patients should stop taking the drug immediately. For instance, developing hives, a red rash across the face, or a constant feeling of itchiness is not typically considered normal. This is especially true if these side effects are accompanied by a tight sensation in the chest that makes it difficult to breathe, as well as dizziness. Such benzoyl peroxide side effects usually indicate an allergy, and typically call for immediate medical attention.

The Health Board is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Autumn Rivers
By Autumn Rivers
Autumn Rivers, a talented writer for The Health Board, holds a B.A. in Journalism from Arizona State University. Her background in journalism helps her create well-researched and engaging content, providing readers with valuable insights and information on a variety of subjects.

Discussion Comments

By anon950246 — On May 09, 2014

@zaty: I think what's happened is you've succeeded in making your skin angry, for lack of a better term. I've always had good skin, but I've had my share of pimples along the way. It's going to happen. You will *never* be pimple-free forever! So don't stress out about a couple of zits. They will go away.

You probably don't need to use the benzoyl peroxide every day, anyway. It's kind of harsh. I'd stop using altogether, at least for a while.

I'm not a professional, but I do have sensitive skin, and it sounds like you may, also. Here's what I'd do. First, over a weekend when you're not doing much, don't wash your face with anything but plain water. When you shower, rub your face with your washcloth. This will help exfoliate it gently. You need to give your skin a rest from any products. If you get pimples, so be it. And don't wear makeup, either.

Second, if you wear makeup, make sure you wash your face *every* night to get it off. Also, make sure you use products for sensitive skin.

Third, get a cleanser (not a mask) made especially for sensitive skin, like the Simple line or Neutrogena. If you're not in the US, look for products especially for sensitive skin. Also, get a moisturizer for sensitive skin. I know what you're saying: you have oily skin. Why do you need a moisturizer? Using it after you wash your face before bedtime will help soothe your skin.

If you get a big zit, get some over-the-counter cortisone cream and dab it just on the zit. Don't use it on your whole face or you'll be right back where you were! The cortisone will help reduce the redness and swelling.

Depending on how annoyed your skin is, if you can go a whole week without makeup and just washing with plain water, your skin will thank you. I try to have at least one make-up free day a week. All I wear is moisturizer and lip gloss.

If you wear makeup, check your products and get rid of everything for your face that's over a year old. Bacteria gets in there. Replace with cosmetics for sensitive skin. If you can find Clinique, their products are awesome for fussy skin. But other drugstore lines have cosmetics for sensitive skin, too.

Don't worry about that scar. It will go away.

Treat your skin gently and good luck!

By zaty — On May 08, 2014

I've been using benzoyl peroxide for a couple of months and it doesn't have any effect on my skin (the itching, burning, reddening). It’s really suitable for my skin and my acne is also reduced, but lately I stopped using it like, for a few weeks, to give other products a try.

I used a product that contained Vitamin C, but it didn't give me any results so I stopped using it. Then I tried a Shiseido mask for sensitive skin and then the next morning I got two pimples. I tried a mask contain sulphur after that to see if it reduced the blemishes, but they just keep popping up on my face. Now I'm having my period and it just keeps getting worse, so I stopped using everything and returned to using benzoyl peroxide, but now it just feels uncomfortable when I apply it. It just burns when I apply it, and I feel a constant itch throughout the day. It doesn't itch that badly, but it just feels uncomfortable.

I don't know now if I should stop using this or not because I didn't have a problem when I first used it back in the day. Someone who is a professional, please help me! I don't pick on my acne, but it left a dark spot – a scar -- and I don't know how to handle this. Things kept getting out of control. I just regretted using new products, although I found a suitable product for my face.

By ddljohn — On Apr 22, 2013

Another side effect of benzoyl peroxide is sensitivity to sunlight and other skin products.

I think that benzoyl peroxide is great for acne but when I use it, my skin peels and fresh skin comes up. This fresh skin is very sensitive so if I go outside without protecting my face with a hat and sun protection cream, I get a terrible sunburn.

I also cannot use any other harsh product on my face when I'm using benzoyl peroxide because it will irritate my skin. I only use a very mild face wash when I'm using benzoyl peroxide.

By bluedolphin — On Apr 21, 2013

@anamur-- Swelling, itching and hives are symptoms of allergies. Most serious side effects of benzoyl peroxide are symptoms like redness, mild peeling and irritation. Swelling and itching are sure signs of an allergy. You should stop using it.

By serenesurface — On Apr 20, 2013

Are swelling, itching and redness symptoms, side effects of benzoyl peroxide products or is it an allergic reaction?

I started using benzoyl peroxide three days ago and my face is red, slightly swollen and itchy ever since. I know that benzoyl peroxide has a lot of side effects but I'm afraid that I'm having allergic reaction. I don't know if I should continue the treatment or stop.

Does anyone have experience with benzoyl peroxide products? What do you think I should do?

Autumn Rivers

Autumn Rivers

Autumn Rivers, a talented writer for The Health Board, holds a B.A. in Journalism from Arizona State University. Her background in journalism helps her create well-researched and engaging content, providing readers with valuable insights and information on a variety of subjects.
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