Is benzoyl peroxide really safe to put on your face?

Benzoyl peroxide is often touted as one of the best treatments available for acne, killing bacteria and killing it quickly. "Benzoyl peroxide is a powerful ingredient that is effective against all kinds of acne lesions (blackheads, whiteheads, and big red pimples). It is bactericidal, meaning it kills bacteria, rather than simply slowing down their growth. It also works very quickly, improving acne as early as five days after starting treatment," dermatologist Dr. Whitney Bowe told Teen Vogue

New York City dermatologist Jessica Krant agrees, telling Allure, "Benzoyl peroxide is so effective and reliable for acne because it works via several different mechanisms at once. It is both antimicrobial, killing bacteria and other organisms, and an exfoliant, helping to unclog pores and gently debride the surface layer of skin." But is benzoyl peroxide really safe to put on your face?

Benzoyl peroxide can cause irritation and skin peeling

According to Bowe, benzoyl peroxide can "cause drying, peeling, and redness if it's not delivered in the right amount, surrounded by the right mix of ingredients." While it is considered safe for skin, it's worth noting that this drying effect can be harmful for those with naturally dry or sensitive skin. If that's the case for you, Allure suggests sticking to a product with a low percentage of benzoyl peroxide product or avoiding it altogether. As the National Health System in the United Kingdom warns, if your skin becomes swollen or blistered, you should discontinue use immediately. 

Allure also points out that benzoyl peroxide actually has a pregnancy category C safety warning, meaning that if you're pregnant, you really shouldn't be using the product at all either. "There have been risks when tested on animals, but no studies have been done on humans or pregnant women," Kimberly Jerdan, a dermatologist in California, explained. Be cautious and if you have any doubts, speak to your doctor.