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What Are the Signs of an Allergic Reaction to Benzoyl Peroxide?

K.C. Bruning
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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An allergic reaction to benzoyl peroxide is rare. If it does happen, the most common signs are extreme cracking, peeling, irritation and swelling of the skin. Other symptoms might include the development of hives or a rash and intense itching, redness and burning on the treated area. If these symptoms appear, a doctor should be consulted, and the patient should immediately discontinues use of the medication. Often, stopping the use of benzoyl peroxide will halt many — if not all — of the symptoms.

Most people who think that they are having an allergic reaction to benzoyl peroxide are simply sensitive to the side effects of the medication. These include mild peeling, drying and redness in the areas where the product has been applied. A good moisturizer usually will alleviate most of these symptoms. Some drying and peeling is actually desirable, because this is one of the ways that the medication helps treat acne. Often, side effects will also subside at least somewhat after the patient has used the product for a while.

There are a lot of similarities between the symptoms of an allergic reaction and common side effects. The key to determining the difference usually is severity. If the condition of the treated area does not improve with the reduction of use and regular moisturizing, then an allergy — or at least hypersensitivity — is possible.

The effects of using too much of the medication can also lead a patient to believe that he or she is experiencing an allergic reaction to benzoyl peroxide. Applying an excessive amount of the product or using it more frequently than advised can result in red, scaly skin. It also might become extremely dry. Usually, cutting back on applications and moisturizing will take care of these problems.

Benzoyl peroxide is a popular treatment for acne. The two primary ingredients work together to create an inhospitable environment for bacteria. Benzoyl helps deliver peroxide to the pores, and its high oxygen content kills bacteria. The medication works only with regular use. It comes in several forms, including creams, gels, body washes, face washes and medicated pads.

This medication should be used with care because of the bleaching properties of the peroxide. It should be kept away from fabric on items such as clothing, furniture and linens. Benzoyl peroxide can also bleach hair with extended contact. To avoid irritation or an allergic reaction to benzoyl peroxide, it should also be kept away from or rinsed off of broken skin, eyes and the inside of the mouth or nose.

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.
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K.C. Bruning
By K.C. Bruning
Kendahl Cruver Bruning, a versatile writer and editor, creates engaging content for a wide range of publications and platforms, including The Health Board. With a degree in English, she crafts compelling blog posts, web copy, resumes, and articles that resonate with readers. Bruning also showcases her passion for writing and learning through her own review site and podcast, offering unique perspectives on various topics.
Discussion Comments
By anon997134 — On Nov 19, 2016

I used a benzoyl peroxide product for 10 years with no problems, and randomly developed an allergy to it now. I get bright red patches and streaks on my face, like raw skin, which are very itchy and burn and are impossible to cover with makeup.

By anon941641 — On Mar 23, 2014

I used an acne product called Acne Free and it was 10 percent benzoyl peroxide. I was fine at first, but then a month later after using it every day, I became allergic to it. But the weird thing is is that my eyes became swollen and red and raw and very itchy and burning as well as the place I used it (most of the time my my chin). I don't understand why it would make my eyes swell and become red. I didn't use it on my eyes.

By ddljohn — On Apr 21, 2013

@turquoise-- I'm allergic to benzoyl peroxide. The first time I used it on my face and my back, my skin became swollen and sore to the touch. My skin was burning and itching at the same time. If you experience anything like that, I would assume that it's an allergy.

I personally think that most of us are sensitive to benzoyl peroxide even if we're not allergic. It's a very harsh treatment. And if you're using it for acne, you probably already have sensitive skin.

By fify — On Apr 20, 2013

@turquoise-- Did you start experiencing burns after your skin peeled and you went out in the sun?

If so, it's probably just a side effect. Skin becomes more sensitive after using benzoyl peroxide and peeling will definitely make you more prone to getting sunburns. You might want to dilute your benzoyl peroxide with water if you're using it as a toner. And definitely avoid the sun.

If you're developing redness, irritation and burns on your skin without going out in the sun, then that's an allergic reaction and you have to stop using it immediately.

By turquoise — On Apr 20, 2013

I have sensitivity to sunlight and burns. Are these side effects of benzoyl peroxide or is this an allergic reaction?

K.C. Bruning
K.C. Bruning
Kendahl Cruver Bruning, a versatile writer and editor, creates engaging content for a wide range of publications and...
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