Acne blemishes can be filled with oil, bacteria and dead skin cells--therefore acne treatments must flush out and/or dry these contents. One such treatment is benzoyl peroxide, which is an over-the-counter medication available to treat acne breakouts. When applied to an acne blemish, benzoyl peroxide works to reduce the pore's contents, thus creating clearer skin.
Benzoyl peroxide acts as an antiseptic when applied to the skin. Because p. acnes bacteria can live in and on the skin, benzoyl peroxide works to reduce the amount of bacteria, according to Acne.com. Benzoyl peroxide also performs two additional functions: the first is oxidization. This means that when applied to the skin, benzoyl peroxide works to inject air into the pore, according to The Acne Resource Center Online. This loosens the material inside the pore, helping to remove the "plug" of bacteria, dirt and oil. The second function is to act as an anti-inflammatory, reducing the redness and soreness that can accompany an acne lesion.
As an acne treatment product, benzoyl peroxide is available in many forms. These include soap, lotion, cream, gel, liquid, pad and foam, according to the Mayo Clinic. The type of benzoyl peroxide treatment you utilize may be determined by your acne lesions. For example, if you are prone to breakouts all over your face, a wash may be more appropriate. If you experience only small incidences of acne lesions, a spot cream or gel can be ideal.
In its over-the-counter forms, benzoyl peroxide is sold in increments of 2.5, 5 and 10 percent, according to Acne.com. The higher the amount used, the more irritation the benzoyl peroxide application is likely to cause. Using a higher percentage does not necessarily increase success, however--2.5-percent concentrations are often just as effective as 10-percent concentrations.
With continued applications, benzoyl peroxide can help to reduce acne lesions, including whiteheads, blackheads and pimples. Benzoyl peroxide does not, however, cure acne. Instead, it treats the acne and reduces the amount of bacteria. If you cease using the benzoyl peroxide, the acne-causing bacteria can return to your skin and your acne may re-appear.
Benzoyl peroxide used to treat acne is associated with some side effects, according to Medline Plus. These include dryness, irritation and tingling. These symptoms should cease after using for several days in a row. However, if you experience more severe symptoms, such as burning, blistering, itching, irritation or redness, you should cease using the benzoyl peroxide.