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For more than five decades, benzoyl peroxide has been one of the most common over-the-counter (OTC) acne treatments.1 Research shows that this ingredient works by helping to reduce a type of acne-causing bacteria known as Propionibacterium acnes (or P. acnes).1,2 Benzoyl peroxide may also help promote the shedding of dead skin cells that can lead to clogged pores (and acne breakouts). When used consistently, CeraVe’s benzoyl peroxide wash and facial cleanser can help improve the appearance of acne-prone skin by clearing acne breakouts and helping prevent new acne blemishes from forming.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Benzoyl peroxide is an organic acid (of the peroxide family) that can be found in many over-the-counter products for mild to moderate acne. When applied topically, benzoyl peroxide works by helping to minimize a type of acne-causing bacteria known as P. acnes. It does this by releasing pure oxygen, which studies show can have a lethal effect on P. acnes bacteria.2,3 Benzoyl peroxide is also considered a mild peeling agent, which may help keep your pores clear by promoting the shedding of dead skin cells, bacteria, and excess sebum.
  • You can find benzoyl peroxide in a wide variety of over-the-counter acne treatments, including acne gels, facial cleansers, body washes, lotions, and creams. When choosing an acne product with benzoyl peroxide, it’s important to read the label carefully so that you can select the right OTC formula for your needs. The label will tell you where, how, and when to use each specific product for best results. There are also prescription options, which may be suitable for those with more severe acne. Your dermatologist might recommend a prescription-strength benzoyl peroxide acne medication that contains a higher concentration (above 10%) or additional acne ingredients (such as salicylic acid).
  • Benzoyl peroxide has been considered an effective acne treatment since the 1930s.1,4 Using benzoyl peroxide products can help support healthier-looking skin by clearing acne and helping to prevent new acne pimples from forming. According to the Mayo Clinic, most people 12 years and older can use benzoyl peroxide as part of their at-home acne routine.5 However, it’s important to remember that everyone’s acne is unique, and the best acne treatment can vary depending on your skin’s unique needs. We recommend consulting with a board-certified dermatologist to see if benzoyl peroxide is the right option for your acne routine.
  • In general, you can find benzoyl peroxide products that are suitable for use on the face, body, or both. Always read the product label carefully before applying products with benzoyl peroxide and apply per the instructions on the packaging (or as directed by your dermatologist). If you have ongoing acne breakouts on your face, we recommend using a gentle benzoyl peroxide cleanser—such as CeraVe Acne Foaming Cream Cleanser—as the first step in your acne routine. This foaming facial cleanser is designed to thoroughly dissolve dirt and excess oil while treating and helping to clear acne with 4% benzoyl peroxide.

    Our Acne Foaming Cream Wash, on the other hand, may be ideal for treating acne on your body. This acne cleanser is formulated with 10% benzoyl peroxide, the highest strength available without a prescription. The formula is gentle on skin and is designed to clear, treat, and help prevent new acne breakouts on the face and body without dryness or flaking.
  • While this ingredient is suitable for most people, there are several factors to consider when using benzoyl peroxide. For starters, benzoyl peroxide has the potential to cause skin irritation, dryness, or redness, particularly when you first start using it. To help avoid this, it’s generally recommended to start with a lower concentration (such as 2.5% or 4%) as your skin adjusts to the treatment. You can also begin with less frequent applications (such as every other day) and work your way up to daily application. Lower concentrations can also be good choices for those with sensitive or dry skin that’s prone to redness or irritation.

    If you experience any side effects that are painful, such as burning, stinging, or peeling, stop using benzoyl peroxide and consult a board-certified dermatologist. Benzoyl peroxide is intended for topical use only, so it’s important to avoid areas such as your eyes, mouth, and nose when applying. This ingredient can also have a bleaching effect that may stain your hair, clothing, bedding, or towels. We recommend washing your hands after using skincare products with benzoyl peroxide. Apply products carefully to avoid transferring the product onto your clothing or other fabrics.
  • Benzoyl peroxide is FDA-approved for use in over-the-counter acne products at concentrations up to 10%.4,6 This means you can find many benzoyl peroxide acne products online or at your local drugstore or pharmacy. Two over-the-counter benzoyl peroxide cleansers you can consider without a prescription are CeraVe Acne Foaming Cream Wash and CeraVe Acne Foaming Cream Cleanser. If you believe that your acne-prone skin may require a prescription-strength benzoyl peroxide product, schedule an appointment with a board-certified dermatologist.
  • There are several different types of acne, including blackheads and whiteheads (comedonal acne), papules, pustules, nodules, and cysts. In general, benzoyl peroxide is considered to be especially effective at clearing existing acne pimples. More severe types of acne, such as nodules and cysts, should always be assessed and treated under the supervision of a board-certified dermatologist.
  • Benzoyl peroxide may increase photosensitivity and cause your skin to be more vulnerable to sun damage. For this reason, it’s important to avoid unprotected sun exposure when using benzoyl peroxide. We recommend using a broad-spectrum sunscreen with SPF 30 (or higher) daily and reapplying it at least every two hours during the day. It’s also essential to practice other sun protection measures, such as avoiding exposure during peak hours and wearing protective clothing like hats and sunglasses. Benzoyl peroxide shouldn’t be applied if you have a sunburn or injured skin.
  • Caring for acne-prone skin requires consistency and a bit of patience. It’s important to set realistic expectations when using acne treatments like benzoyl peroxide, as no acne product can clear pimples overnight. According to the Mayo Clinic, you may have to use benzoyl peroxide washes or gels for several weeks or months before noticing visible improvements (when used as directed).5 If your acne has not improved after approximately six weeks of consistent at-home treatment, schedule an appointment with a board-certified dermatologist for personalized guidance.
  • Our Acne Foaming Cream Wash and Acne Foaming Cream Cleanser are both formulated to clear acne and help prevent new acne pimples from forming. They’re also developed with dermatologists, fragrance-free, feature three essential ceramides, and do not disrupt the skin’s protective barrier. With that said, there are a few key differences that can help you choose the ideal option for your skin’s needs.

    If your skin is prone to irritation or you’re using benzoyl peroxide for the first time, we suggest starting with our benzoyl peroxide face wash, CeraVe Acne Foaming Cream Cleanser. This foaming facial cleanser features a lower percentage of benzoyl peroxide (4%). Or, if you’re looking for an acne cleanser that can be used to help treat acne on your body, try CeraVe Acne Foaming Cream Wash. This benzoyl peroxide acne treatment offers the highest strength of benzoyl peroxide available over the counter (10%). Because the skin on your body is generally thicker and less sensitive than facial skin, a higher concentration of benzoyl peroxide can be helpful when treating acne on your body. For additional recommendations, head to our Skincare Solution Finder.
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