Benzoyl peroxide is a medication used to treat mild to moderate acne. It works by killing P. acnes, the bacteria that cause pimples to form. Medline Health indicates that it could take about four to six weeks for the medication to take effect. Benzoyl peroxide is sold as a gel for spot-on treatment, a cream or a lotion to use on larger areas, and in combination cleansing bars or liquid soap.
CNN Health reports that benzoyl peroxide is one of the most effective acne fighting medications. A spot-on cream comes in three strengths: 2.5, 5 and 10 percent. You apply benzoyl peroxide directly to existing lesions. You can find benzoyl peroxide in brand name products like Clearasil and ProActiv, as well as a variety of generic store brands. No matter which brand you buy, it's the active ingredient, in this case the benzoyl peroxide, that matters.
If you suffer from moderate to severe breakouts and have not had success controlling your acne with over-the-counter medications like benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid, your doctor may prescribe erythromycin or clindamycin. Known as antibiotics, topical erythromycin and clindamycin have antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties that reduce P. acnes. While antibiotics can lose their potency when used over a long period of time, the American Association of Dermatology explains that when combined with benzoyl peroxide, your risk of developing a resistance to antibiotics is reduced.
Soaps and exfoliating cleansers are formulated with benzoyl peroxide so that they can be used as two-in-one or three-in-one systems. For example, a soap containing benzoyl peroxide is used to cleanse skin and fight P. acnes. It can be used for your face, chest and back. An exfoliator with benzoyl peroxide will also have a cleanser and mildly abrasive ingredient that helps loosen dead skin cells. While some exfoliating manufacturers will tell you that it&rsquo;s safe to use their product up to two times a day, exfoliating often can irritate your skin, notes the CNN Health.
Skin-care systems to treat pimples or blemishes contain a variety of different acne medications, including benzoyl peroxide. The reasoning behind using a kit rather than one cream or spot-on treatment is that treating acne is a process that involves cleansing, fighting bacteria, and preventing the formation of pimples and inflammation. Acne treatment kits are also designed to stop acne before lesions even appear.
In some acne kits, for example, you get a cleanser that contains benzoyl peroxide to use twice a day, an oil-free moisturizer that won't clog pore pores, an exfoliating cleanser with benzoyl peroxide, and other products containing acne fighting salicylic acid and alpha hydroxy acid.