Posted on by Paul WebDev

Benzoyl Peroxide: Safe Or Not Exactly ?


Acne is one
of the most common skin concerns, affecting more than 17 million people in the
US only. When it comes to treating it though, the skin care
market, basically, offers 2 solutions (or at least these are the most popular ones) – salicylic acid and benzoyl peroxide. While
both have proven to be effective in the treatment of
acne vulgaris, benzoyl peroxide’s safety is still questionable. Let’s see why..

What Is Benzoyl Peroxide?

Benzoyl
peroxide is a topical antibacterial agent that controls the growth of
acne-causing bacteria and at the same time causes the skin to peel, reducing
the risk of formation of scars and appearance of dark spots. Though it’s proven
to indeed suppress outbreaks and keep acne at bay, the use of products containing
benzoyl peroxide has its downsides.

The Side Effects Of Using Benzoyl
Peroxide

The most
common safety concern when it comes to benzoyl peroxide is that even low
concentrations can cause redness, itchiness and irritations. And this doesn’t
apply only for individuals with hypersensitive skin. The chemical itself is pretty aggressive and not all skin types can tolerate it.

Another fact
worth mentioning, is that  regular use of benzoyl peroxide, especially in high concentrations, causes oxidative stress to the skin, resulting in sun-burn like red spots, flakiness and dryness. Just like any other peroxide, benzoyl peroxide is a free
radical-generating component. And what do we know about free-radicals? They damage
the cells, slow down the natural healing processes, break down collagen (making
your skin less firm and elastic) and cause wrinkles and hyperpigmentation. Do
we want any of these? Nope.
If the price
of getting rid of acne is premature aging, I am not willing to pay it. Plus, I
know there are better and safer ways to help your skin heal!

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While it is
true that benzoyl peroxide aids in the prevention of scarring and appearance of
marks/spots, by destroying the upper epidermal layer, it also makes the skin more
susceptible to infections and sun damage, hence more likely to become victim of
the monster we all fear –
photo-aging.
Apart from that, even though benzoyl peroxide controls outbreaks, hence reduces
the risk of getting spots, the ones that you have from already healed blemishes
will stay on your face much longer than they would normally do, because of the
fact that benzoyl peroxide suppressed skin’s own regenerating abilities. 

Is Benzoyl Peroxide Cancerogenic?

In 1995, after the
publication of several studies, investigating
the cancerogenic effect of benzoyl peroxide on skin cells, the FDA
changed the compound’s “status” from Category I (safe) to a Category III (safety is
uncertain). After reading most of these articles I got to the realization that none of them actually claimed benzoyl peroxide was carcinogenic by itself. All studies were investigating the tumor promoting tendency of benzoyl peroxide on already cancerous tissues i.e tissues where
cancer has been initially caused by certain chemicals. Nevertheless, knowing that it affects the cells in such way makes me doubt its safety (despite all that I’ve read). And If I have to choose whether to take
the risk of putting it on my skin, without being 100% sure it’s not going to do any harm, I’d
prefer to stay away from it.

At the present moment FDA classifies benzoyl peroxide as GRAS (generally
recognized as safe). Is it going to keep its “safe status “in the next 3-5 years? We’ll see…

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