benzoyl peroxide


Considered the most effective over-the-counter choice for a topical antibacterial agent in the treatment of acne. [1]

The amount of research demonstrating the effectiveness of benzoyl peroxide is exhaustive and conclusive. [1,2,3] Among benzoyl peroxide’s attributes is its ability to penetrate into the hair follicle to reach the bacteria that cause the problem, and then kill them—with a low risk of irritation. It also doesn’t pose the problem of bacterial resistance that some prescription topical antibacterials (antibiotics) do. [4]

Research has also shown that benzoyl peroxide is more effective than some other prescription treatments for acne, such as oral antibiotics and topical antibiotics. [1,2,3]

Benzoyl peroxide solutions range in strength from 2.5% to 10%. It is best to start with lower concentrations because a 2.5% benzoyl peroxide product is much less irritating than a 5% or 10% concentration, and it can be just as effective. [1,2,3]

Although once thought to be a problem if applied at the same time as products with retinol or prescription retinoids (such as Renova, Retin-A, Differin, Tazorac, and generic tretinoin), recent research has shown that not to be the case. [5]

References Cited:

  1. Bowe W, Shalita A. Effective Over-the-Counter Acne Treatments. Semin Cutan Med Surg. 2008;27(3):170-176.
  2. Sagransky M, Yentzer B, Feldman S. Benzoyl peroxide: a review of its current use in the treatment of acne vulgaris. Expert Opin Pharmacother. 2009;10(15):2555-62.
  3. Simonart T. Newer approaches to the treatment of acne vulgaris. Am J Clin Dermatol.. 2012;13(6):357-64.
  4. Bowe W. Antibiotic Resistance and Acne: Where We Stand and What the Future Holds.. J Drugs Dermatol.. 2014;13(6):S66-S70.
  5. Del Rosso J, Pillai R, Moore R. Absence of Degradation of Tretinoin When Benzoyl Peroxide is Combined with an Optimized Formulation of Tretinoin Gel (0.05%). J Clin Aesthet Dermatol. 2010;3(10):26-28.

«Back to Ingredient Dictionary

About the Experts

Paula Begoun is the best-selling author of 20 books on skin care and makeup. She is known worldwide as the Cosmetics Cop and creator of Paula's Choice. Paula's expertise has led to hundreds of appearances on national and international television including:

View Media Highlights

The Paula's Choice Research Team is dedicated to busting beauty myths and helping you solve your skincare frustrations with research-supported expert advice—so you'll have the facts you need to take the best possible care of your skin.

Skip to Top of Page

Free Email Sign-Up

- (Less Frequent)
- Expert Advice Newsletter (twice a month)
- New reviews on Beautypedia (twice a month)

Birthday (Fill out to receive a birthday surprise)



Paula’s Choice Auto Delivery is a quick and convenient way to make sure you never run out of your favorite products again. Just select the products you can’t live without, choose how often you’d like them delivered and we’ll take care of the rest.

Get 10% off your first order when you sign up today.