What Are The Side Effects of Benzoyl Peroxide?

Updated April 28, 2014.

Question: What Are The Side Effects of Benzoyl Peroxide?

What are the side effects of benzoyl peroxide? Can I do anything to prevent these side effects from occurring?


It seems like many acne sufferers have a love-hate relationship with this common acne treatment — love the results but hate the side effects. Most benzoyl peroxide users will experience at least some drying.

Besides dry skin, benzoyl peroxide can also cause:

  • Peeling and flaking
  • Burning
  • Redness and irritation
  • Itching
  • Swelling (rarely)

You can’t ever completely prevent side effects from occurring, but you can take measures to lessen your chances of developing them.

Using too much, too quickly is probably the biggest mistake benzoyl peroxide users make. If you jump right in with a several-times-a-day application, you’re going to get the worst of it. Make sure you’re following the usage directions, and don’t use more than recommended (it won’t clear your skin any faster.)

It takes a bit of time for the skin to get used to benzoyl peroxide. Starting slowly with a once a day or every other day application will cut down on the amount of dryness you see. Gradually build up to a two or three times daily application, or as directed.

Start with a lower concentration first, and move up if needed. There is no reason to use a 10% benzoyl peroxide if a 2.5% will do. Using higher percentages increases your chance of developing side effects.

Expect to develop some dryness. Dry skin can be kept in check by applying a moisturizer daily.

Usually, side effect from benzoyl peroxide aren’t too serious. But talk to your dermatologist if your skin is extremely irritated, red, swollen, or cracking.

Some people just can’t tolerate benzoyl peroxide, no matter how carefully they use it. If this is the case for you, don’t worry. Plenty of other treatment options will work better for you.