The Reason You Shouldn't Use Hydrogen Peroxide On Your Acne

The internet is a trove of tips offering us advice on what to do with hydrogen peroxide other than to clean up cuts and scrapes, which is most the likely reason it sits in our medicine cabinet in the first place. We've run across tips that call for hydrogen peroxide to be used to disinfect kitchen and bathroom surfaces (including countertops and floors, as well as for getting stains out). If you can get your hands on food-grade hydrogen peroxide, we've found hacks that say you can even use hydrogen peroxide as an ingredient to clean your teeth and to wash fruits and vegetables (via Byrdie). There are even tips on how to use hydrogen peroxide as a way of dealing with your acne — but beauty professionals and dermatologists are saying, "Wait, not so fast."

Healthline says that the reason hydrogen peroxide is being floated as a potential acne fighting aid is because, in theory, it can kill bacteria and dry up oils on your face. But because hydrogen peroxide can dispatch healthy cells like bacteria, it can also damage your own cells, including those that are responsible for healing. Once those healing cells (known as fibroblasts) are weaker, you are more likely to develop scars. It can also cause skin irritation and even blistering in higher concentrations.

Hydrogen peroxide cannot help hormonal acne

There are other reasons for giving hydrogen peroxide a pass. Cosmetic chemist Victoria Fu tells Byrdie, "There are a couple studies that suggest that at 1 percent level it [hydrogen peroxide] can be as effective as a 4 percent benzoyl peroxide treatment with less irritation. But these studies use a lipid-stabilized version under the product tradename crystacide and is not the same as buying a jug of hydrogen peroxide at the drugstore." 

Dermatologist Julie Russak says treating acne is not as simple as finding an over-the-counter solution like hydrogen peroxide (which may actually work as a quick, short-term spot treatment to help dry out a pimple). "You always have to know what is the underlying cause of the acne," Russak explained. "There's a lot of different sources for causing acne depending on the location, depending on what's happening internally with the skin. If hormones are your primary cause of underlying acne, then using hydrogen peroxide long-term will give you no benefit whatsoever." As Fu reminds us, when your skin is already in crisis, adding hydrogen peroxide on top of that is only going to cause more irritation and possibly delay healing further.