Benzoyl peroxide is a golden standard when it comes to acne treatments. Although generally good for your skin, there’s a popular concern regarding the ingredient – the benzoyl peroxide burn.

In this article, I’ll shed some light on the various side effects that BPO has.

We’ll go into the reasons why benzoyl peroxide burns skin, what you should do if you experience this side effect, how long the reaction will last, and how to prevent irritation.

What is benzoyl peroxide?

Before we get into all the spicy details, it’s worth understanding what benzoyl peroxide is in the first place.

Benzoyl peroxide (BPO) falls under the category of active skincare ingredients and is a popular substance used for the treatment of acne. It can be found in the ingredient list of many cleansers, spot treatments, and gels that come in different concentrations.

It’s considered one of the most effective ways to get rid of acne as the ingredient successfully eliminates acne-causing bacteria, excess sebum, and dead skin cells, which often lead to pore clogging.

The compound works by introducing oxygen to the acne-causing bacteria which effectively kills them. It’s especially efficient for inflammatory acne with cysts, nodules, and pustules.

It acts as an anti-inflammatory agent by soothing inflammation – one of the causes of acne bacteria proliferation.

It also dissolves the blockages inside your pores, which contributes to cleaner, more healthy pores.

It’s common for your skin to become dry and irritated as a result of benzoyl peroxide. Your skin can also start to peel.

Why does benzoyl peroxide burn the skin?

As mentioned above, benzoyl peroxide tends to dry out the skin. And dry skin equals sensitized skin.

We’ve talked before on this blog about sensitive and sensitized skin. Suffice it to say, if your skin is dry, you may feel burning when applying any skin care product and especially benzoyl peroxide.

The more concentrated your BPO product is, the more severe the side effects you can expect, especially if your skin is generally sensitive.

Additionally, if you’re using a leave-on product and not a benzoyl peroxide face wash, it means that the ingredient will spend more time on your skin. This can also contribute to how severe the side effects are.

Let’s go through the different stages of using a benzoyl peroxide treatment.

As you start applying benzoyl peroxide-infused products, you’ll notice that the skin becomes progressively more itchy, dry, and red during the first week.

You may also experience breakouts that could accompany the burning. This is completely natural and shouldn’t worry you.

During the second and third weeks of the treatment, the skin will remain dry, it can start peeling, and it will likely be red. Again, this is part of the process of using a PBO treatment, and nothing you should stress over – it will pass.

During the fourth to sixth weeks, the dryness and peeling will start to fade away as your skin learns to balance things out. The breakouts will continue to appear but will be much less severe.

The real change takes place after the eighth and tenth weeks of use. This is when some serious skin improvements occur as your acne gets diminished. You’ll be left out with some acne scarring, which is normal.

From the twelfth week of use, the skin will appear bright and clear, with acne fully under control. This is provided that your acne can be managed with BPO as there are some cases when even this mighty ingredient doesn’t fully clear things up (at which point it’s time to turn to a dermatologist if you haven’t already).

So, now you know what to expect and in the following lines, I’ll explain how to mitigate some of the side effects and the burning from benzoyl peroxide.

Benzoyl peroxide: burns, swollen eyes, other side effects

Benzoyl peroxide burns under the eyes

So there’s this other bunch of people reporting benzoyl peroxide caused swollen eyelids or a benzoyl peroxide burn under the eyes.

Indeed, there is a chance to experience benzoyl peroxide swollen eyes if you use products containing the ingredient around this delicate zone, and you shouldn’t!

Benzoyl peroxide is not supposed to be used for the area around the eyes.

For one, acne doesn’t even form there and moreover – the zone really is extremely delicate.

A lot of people confuse milia with acne and try to address the problem with benzoyl peroxide, which is part of the reason why so many people complain of a burn under the eyes and even suffer from swollen eyelids.

I’ve gone into detail about what milia is and how to solve the problem in a different article that I’m welcoming you to read.

Could you have an allergic reaction to benzoyl peroxide?

Perhaps one of the biggest concerns people have regarding benzoyl peroxide is whether they can be allergic to it.

After all, if the mentioned above side effects are normal, how can you tell whether you’re having an allergic reaction that’s more serious or you’re just going through the normal stuff?

Let’s draw out the differences between a typical side effect situation and a benzoyl peroxide allergy.

While the normal side effects include itching, dryness, peeling, redness, and burning, the allergic reactions cause difficulty breathing, dizziness, hives, and swelling.

If you’re experiencing any of the latter, contact your doctor or physician.

Should I stop using benzoyl peroxide if it burns?

Burning is part of the standard side effects related to the benzoyl peroxide treatment. As such, I wouldn’t recommend stopping the treatment if you experience burning. However, if you notice that the situation is escalating and you’re also feeling dizzy or you’re swelling up, perhaps it’s time to look for another solution.

Do take a closer look at your overall skincare routine when using a benzoyl peroxide treatment regularly. You may need to temporarily stop some of the other harsher actives if your skin is too sensitive and can’t handle all of them at once.

Strong acids are the biggest culprit behind sensitized skin in a skincare routine.

If you’re using anything prescription based, consult with your doctor.

Can benzoyl peroxide permanently damage skin?

So is the benzoyl peroxide burn permanent? Can you get a lasting benzoyl peroxide burn mark?
How long does the benzoyl peroxide redness last?

In short, the effects of benzoyl peroxide are only temporary and won’t cause any permanent damage. However, it’s important to note that for this statement to be accurate, you must put in the effort and adequately take proper care of your skin.

If you notice that the burning is too strong, take a pause from your treatment and consult with a dermatologist.

How long does benzoyl peroxide burn last?

You may be wondering how long benzoyl peroxide burn last. The truth is that the duration of the side effects will differ from person to person.

However, the classic scenario is that after the fourth week of the treatment, the burning starts to fade away and the skin becomes accustomed to the ingredient. After the twelfth week of use, all side effects should be completely gone.

If you take good care of your skin and use soothing products, it will help to restore things back to normal faster.

How do you fix benzoyl peroxide irritation?

We’ve now reached the most important part of this article – how to fix a benzoyl peroxide burn.

Here are my recommendations for getting rid of the typical benzoyl peroxide irritation:

1. Stop using benzoyl peroxide

If you notice that the skin is not coping well with the ingredient, simply stop using it and look for another acne treatment. You can use a combo of azelaic acid, niacinamide, and salicylic acid to curb your zits.

2. Try a lower concentration of BPO

The problem may be related to the concentration of BPO – perhaps the product you’re using is too aggressive as it contains a higher percentage of the ingredient. In this case, try a lower concentration of benzoyl peroxide.

3. Try a wash-off form of benzoyl peroxide

Your benzoyl peroxide burn might be related to a leave-on treatment that stays for hours on your face. Try and replace that with a wash-off product that doesn’t remain on the skin for long.

I like to use the PanOxyl 10% Acne Foaming Wash and leave it on for 5 minutes before rinsing it off. It’s effective enough due to the higher percentage of BPO, yet gentler than any other treatment as you wash it off more quickly.

4. Start slowly

Take a gradual approach and don’t stress your skin by going all in. Introduce your benzoyl peroxide product slowly into your routine and build it up gradually. This will help you minimize the side effects.

5. Minimize the strength and amount of other actives in your skincare routine

Benzoyl peroxide is stressful enough for the skin. I suggest that you either stay away from or cautiously use other aggressive ingredients like AHAs, BHAs, retinoids, and others when you’re using a BPO product, especially leave-on.

6. Cleansing products & tools

Be cautious about the cleansing products and tools that you use as they can also cause partial skin damage or dryness, leading to additional discomfort, irritation, and purging.

If you’re using any manual scrubbing tools such as konjac sponges or brushes, this is a good time to stop, and let your skin rest and heal.

I also recommend that you change your facial cleanser if it’s stripping your skin of natural oils and you feel your skin squeaky clean. Go for a gentler, yet effective cleanser such as the Aveeno Calm + Restore Nourishing Oat Cleanser or the Naturium Multi-Calm Cream Cleanser

7. Soothe & heal your skin

When my skin is suffering from irritation and burning, I find it very healing to use skin-soothing products that help with my skin’s hydration. Ingredients such as panthenol, aloe vera, ceramides, Centella Asiatica, and many others are just godsend in times of irritation. Aloe vera for benzoyl peroxide burns is particularly popular amongst people.

My personal recommendations in terms of products include:

Moisturizer: Avene Tolerance Control Soothing Skin Recovery Cream or the Naturium Marshmallow Root Barrier Balm
Soothing serum: Aveeno Calm + Restore Triple Oat Serum

I hope that the information provided in this article will help you approach your benzoyl peroxide treatment with more comfort and confidence, knowing all of the potential side effects and being aware of the thin line between an allergic reaction and your expected side effects.

Do you have any experience with benzoyl peroxide products? If so, I’d love to hear your thoughts and feedback in the comments below!