The Dangers of Benzoyl Peroxide

It’s sad but true.  Manufacturers often look for the quickest solution to meet the immediate needs of consumers and help their own bottom line.  Case in point, benzoyl peroxide.  Benzoyl peroxide used in acne-treatment medications has proven to be a cancer-causing agent and is tarnished with FDA warnings about potential harsh and life-threatening side-effects.  Moreover, benzoyl peroxide takes a vicious approach of attacking skin to reduce problem areas rather than nourishing it with nutrients, hydration and all-natural ingredients. 

What is Benzoyl Peroxide?

Benzoyl peroxide is an antibacterial used in topical medications designed to treat acne, rosacea and other skin conditions.  It works to reduce the bacterial source of these problems by causing skin to become dry and peel.  It is sold under many prescription and non-prescription brand names and is often one of many ingredients in over-the-counter products that treat light to mild acne. 

Why is Benzoyl Peroxide Dangerous?

In recent years the FDA issued a warning for benzoyl peroxide and related acne-treatment ingredients.  Some people experience extreme and life-threatening hypersensitivity to products containing benzoyl peroxide.  Symptoms include severe allergic reactions, skin irritation, facial swelling, difficulty breathing and lightheadedness.  It can also cause adverse interactions when taken with medications or other acne-reducing products.

Beyond the latest FDA warning, benzoyl peroxide products include their own warnings regarding potential symptoms such as redness, dryness, light swelling, peeling and a burning sensation on the skin. 

Benzoyl peroxide takes a harsh approach to treating skin problems.  By drying skin and causing it to peel, the epidermis is forced to regenerate new skin cells faster.  The hope is that new cells will be healthier and free of the bacteria causing the original condition.  However, by over-drying skin and eliminating natural oils, skin cannot replenish itself in a healthy manner.  Some amount of oil on the skin is normal and is itself a protecting agent against further bacterial damage. 

Perhaps most startling is the long-term deleterious effects of benzoyl peroxide on the body.  Studies have shown that benzoyl peroxide generates free radicals in skin. Free radicals cause oxidative stress on cells and damage DNA, both of which may result in cancer.  Because of this genetic code degradation, benzoyl peroxide has been linked to cancer, especially skin cancer, and has been deemed a “tumor promoter.” 

Moreover, even when benzoyl peroxide may succeed in reducing acne or other skin conditions, it may impede overall skincare goals.  Oxidative stress on cells damages them and slows the healing process.  It can result in a lengthier recovery from acne than other skincare methods.  But worst of all it can produce premature signs of aging.  The more benzoyl peroxide that is used, the more damage it can do to skin on a long term basis.