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Ingredients 101: Benzoyl peroxide


I haven’t been updating my beauty segment since forever. Since I’m pretty nitpicky when it comes to cosmetic ingredients, I’d like to introduce a new section under the segment that explores just that (mainly to divide and conquer future blog posts so you won’t have to scroll so much … ehhehehe). You might ask, why do I feel propelled to write looong posts in the first place? Well, I feel the more we’re educated about what we’re putting on our skin, the wiser we get when choosing one product from another. So to kickstart with this post, let’s discuss the nits and grits on benzoyl peroxide, otherwise known as the ingredient that’s secured itself as industry’s tried-and-true acne treatment.


Natural or synthetic?


Best for?

Treating mild to moderate acne, although those with sensitive skin are recommended to only use it as a spot treatment.

The story

BPO is the world’s most frequently used acne treatment. It’s usually found in OTC acne-targeting cream, gel, lotion, wash, and salve at concentrations 2.5%, 5%, and 10%.

The science

BPO works by getting inside the pores and irritate those acne-causing bacteria that are feeding off your sebum. This deprives them of the necessary nutritional resources to reproduce and thrive. Since bacteria have a short lifetime (up to 48 hours), this nutrient-deprived environment eventually kills them.


You will feel a slight burning sensation at first, so always start small (sunflower seed-sized) with fewer applications (say, once a day). If your skin doesn’t dry up/become itchy/form rashes/starts swelling, work up to three times a day – no more. Keep your BPO product away from your hair, towel, and any form of clothing as it may bleach them. If you have rosacea, BPO may cause irritation and trigger new small pimples to form. If you’re a fellow Asian and you don’t use sunscreen, BPO may result in pigmentation/discoloration as it makes you more sensitive to the sun.

Is it safe?

Well, there was a study a while ago that shows benzoyl peroxide promotes the growth of skin tumor, but the experiment was done on mice. Whether or whether not BPO poses the same issue on human skin, up to this day dermatologists are still prescribing it as a long-term acne medication.




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