I have been trying to get rid of my pimples for the past two years. It has gone worse and I have tried multiple acne removal products. I was using one product in Shanghai and when I went to India for Christmas break, I switched my acne gel again. My grandma, who claimed that she had never experienced acne breakouts in her life, told me that I’ve been putting too many products on my face and this is actually making things a lot worse for my skin. For the first time, it hit me. I was putting way too many products on my face and didn’t even think about what I was putting and how much I was putting. That got me thinking about what are truly in these products and how they are affecting my skin. I thought about Laurie’s blogpost about petroleum jelly and realized that many of us have a lot of misconceptions about face cream and gel. I wanted to clear things up for myself, so I did my own research. I found out that most acne products have this chemical called benzoyl peroxide. My question is to what extent is benzoyl peroxide effective for acne treatment?
Acne is caused by the overproduction of sebum, which is an oil produced by the sebaceous glands in our body. The oil travels from the sebaceous glands to the follicle, where the skin hair grows. When there is too much oil in the follicle, the pores on your skin gets blocked and forms a bump on your skin. This area becomes an ideal place for bacteria to grow, exacerbating the bump on your skin. (Chase, B.).This bump is known as a pimple.
I’m sure some of you have heard of brands like Neutrogena, Ponds, and Garnier. They offer topical products to help fight those acne on your skin. If you’ve used some of these products, your skin has definitely been exposed to a chemical called benzoyl peroxide or BP (May, E. 2013). You’re probably wondering, how does this chemical work to remove pimples? BP works like an antibiotic as it kills the bacteria in your clogged pores. When BP comes into contact with your skin, it decomposes into benzoic acid and oxygen (Chase, B.). This is because the oxygen-oxygen bond in the structure has a very weak bond and can easily break when it comes into contact with the skin. When this bond breaks, free radicals form from the oxygen atoms. These free radicals are then attached to the sebum lipid. The bacterium that causes acne is called Propionibacterium Acnes and it is known to be anaerobic, which means it can only thrive in the absence of oxygen. The oxygen derived from BP causes the bacteria to die as it provides an oxygen rich environment within the infected area (G, Susan 2010). Pimples grow because the sebum blocks the pores, and therefore, oxygen and allows for these bacteria to infect the pimples.
Looking at the mechanism of BP surely tells us that it is an effective chemical for killing the bacterial growth within our pimples. However, I’ve been using products that contain BP but am still not experiencing any changes in my skin. I still get pimples. With that being said, I realized that perhaps it’s not about how much BP and what brand I need to put on my skin. I must understand my skin characteristics and what my skin needs in order to fight acne. Since every skin is different, not everyone can cure his or her acne with BP.
BP can cause skin irritation, dryness, and peeling which are some of the things I have experienced but have just ignored because the problems were so minor. Regardless, they did happen and never solved my acne problems. I recently experimented the amount of acne gel I put on my skin and how much dryness it would cause. I found that when I do put more and more acne gel, my skin would feel even dryer. This tells me that BP isn’t entirely bad, but I just needed small amounts of it to protect my skin from getting too dry. This speaks to some of us who naturally have dry skin. Do not use too much acne gel (ones with higher BP concentrations) if you have dry skin! If you don’t have skin that is too dry, BP can be an ideal medication for your pimples since it does remove the mixture of sebum and exfoliate the dead skin cells (Chase, B.).
It’s crucial for us to truly get to know the types of skin products we use as they can have a significant impact on our skin. I was simply putting on lots and lots of BP on my skin and causing my skin to experience unnecessary stress. One thing I learned for sure is that during puberty, which a lot of us are still experiencing now, our hormonal changes encourage sebum production and thus pimples are quite inevitable. However, getting to know your skin type is the first step to solving your acne problems.
Chase, B. (n.d.). Salicylic Acid vs Benzoyl Peroxide for Acne. Retrieved from http://www.progressivehealth.com/benzoyl-peroxide-vs-salicylic-acid.htm
G, S. (2010, September 6). The Chemistry of Acne Medication: Benzoyl Peroxide. Retrieved from http://voices.yahoo.com/the-chemistry-acne-medication-benzoyl-peroxide-6780822.html?cat=69
May, E. (2013, May 21). Why Benzoyl Peroxide is Bad for Acne Skin. Retrieved from http://theskinnutritionist.net/blog/why-benzoyl-peroxide-is-bad-for-acne-skin/
Okamoto, L. (2013, February 23). You put WHAT on your face?!. Retrieved from http://blogs.saschina.org/chemicalparadigms/2013/02/25/you-put-what-on-your-face/
Puusa, S. (2013, January 23). Why You Should Not Be Afraid Of Benzoyl Peroxide – And My Experience In Quitting. Retrieved from http://www.acneeinstein.com/why-you-should-not-be-afraid-of-benzoyl-peroxide-and-my-experience-in-quitting/