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Benzoyl peroxide, like most peroxides, is a powerful bleaching agent. Contact with fabric (including clothing and bed linens) or dyed hair can cause permanent color dampening almost immediately. At high concentrations, benzoyl peroxide is highly flammable and explosive and should be handled with care. In the United States, use of any medication that contains more than 10% benzoyl peroxide requires a prescription.
Benzoyl peroxide is highly effective in the treatment of most forms of acne. It is typically placed over the affected areas in gel or cream form, in concentrations of 10% and lower. However, it can cause dryness and irritation. A small percentage of people are sensitive to it and this is characterised by burning, itching, peeling or possibly swelling. It is best to use a little at first and build up as the skin becomes accustomed to the treatment. To avoid this, it is worth looking for a treatment that contains around 2.5% benzoyl peroxide, which studies show is as effective as the 10% options but with fewer side effects. While it is not fully known how benzoyl peroxide works in fighting acne, it is presumed that benzoyl peroxide is easily absorbed into pores where it works by interfering with acne bacterial metabolism through oxidation.
Other common uses for benzoyl peroxide include dyeing hair, and as a common active ingredient in teeth whitening systems (especially in Europe where hydrogen peroxide is highly regulated). It is also used in the preparation of flour, and can be used as an initiator and catalyst for polyester thermoset resins (as an alternative to the much more hazardous methyl ethyl ketone peroxide).
- IARC Monograph "Benzoyl peroxide."
- MedLine Drug Information: Benzoyl Peroxide
- Benzoyl Peroxide