The Best Over the Counter Benzoyl Peroxide for the Face – Most mild to moderate cases of acne can be treated effectively with drugstore cleansers and ointments.
The strongest and most effective over the counter acne treatments contain benzoyl peroxide.
Benzoyl peroxide works to both prevent and treat inflammatory acne (cysts, red pimples, and zits) and non-inflammatory (blackheads and whiteheads).
It has 3 major acne-fighting actions:
- It’s a very effective exfoliant – it clears pores of clogged oils and dead skin which are the root causes of blackheads and whiteheads. This exfoliation action also expedites cell turnover, which helps heal the spot.
- It’s anti-bacterial – specifically against acne-causing bacteria, p. acne.
- It promotes healing – by supplying oxygen to the skin.
It comes in varying strengths and can be found in ointments, gels, creams, cleansers, and lotions.
Before including this in your regimen however, you need to be aware of its possible side effects including:
- Extreme skin dryness – If you use it as a spot treatment, the skin surrounding the spot will start to flake off. If you use it all over the face, your skin will start to crack and peel off in blotches (sounds scary, I know!)
- Redness and skin irritation
Now for the catch-22: dry skin can clog pores and irritated skin practically guarantees breakouts in acne-prone skin.
Use a gentle cleanser before application to avoid further irritations and after application, use a hypoallergenic, non-comedogenic moisturizer to counter the side effects and restore the skin’s pH.
This is a very, very crucial step — after applying benzoyl peroxide, let is absorb for a few minutes and follow up with a gentle and deeply hydrating moisturizer. Moisturizing is truly not optional if you want to have clear and healthy skin. We want the benefits of benzoyl peroxide, not any of its side-effects.
Be sure to find a moisturizer that is gentle and won’t irritate your skin (opt for formulations for sensitive skin). Also check that it is lightweight and non-comedogenic so as to not further aggravate your acne.
If used in daytime, complement with a broad spectrum sunscreen.
You also need to set your expectations when using over the counter products like these. I’ve had acne since my teens until well into my twenties and have tried almost every acne product I can get my hands on in hopes of finding that miracle product that will end my suffering. (I know this sounds overly dramatic but when you’ve had acne for more than a decade, ‘suffering’ and ‘agony’ really isn’t an exaggeration. 🙁 )
Benzoyl peroxide has been very effective for me but it is by no means a cure-all. If you’re suffering from persistent acne, its best to undergo a program that will help you get to the root of the problem and address the causes. Acclaimed programs like Mike Walden’s Acne No More and Acne Remedies Guide can be a great start.
Video: What is Benzoyl Peroxide? by Dr. Schultz, MD
- 1 Editor’s Choice: The Best Over the Counter Benzoyl Peroxide for the Face
- 1.1 Step 1: 2.5% Benzoyl Peroxide
- 1.2 Step 2: 5% Benzoyl Peroxide
- 1.3 Step 3: 10% Benzoyl Peroxide
Editor’s Choice: The Best Over the Counter Benzoyl Peroxide for the Face
These are our choices for the best over the counter benzoyl peroxides based on value for money, specifications, and consumer reviews over the years.
Step 1: 2.5% Benzoyl Peroxide
When using as a topical treatment, ie. lotions, ointments, gel, etc., always start with the lowest concentration to allow your skin to adopt to the medication.
This is one of the key steps that most people easily overlook, which causes the misconception that the product isn’t working whereas it was just used incorrectly.
Use a small amount once a day, every other day for the first two weeks and gradually increase dosage in the succeeding weeks.
You need to observe your skin for any stinging or severe redness. This usually means you need to step back lower either the dosage or frequency of use.
Video: Applying Acne.org Benzoyl Peroxide on The Acne.org Regimen
Step 2: 5% Benzoyl Peroxide
If the 2.5 formulation is no longer cutting it and you feel like you can opt for a stronger concentration, you can step up to 5%.
This works best on large, inflamed cystic acne.
After going through 2.5%; your skin should have acclimated to the medication, making it safe for you to use this daily.
Apply it every night before bed and your acne should start to subside in about 2-3 days.
If you can avoid picking on the bump, it will eventually flatten and not leave any physical scarring. 🙂
Step 3: 10% Benzoyl Peroxide
The 10% concentration is the strongest you can get without a prescription.
Move onto this if you can consistent, inflamed acne or would like to keep breakouts at bay.