Acne sufferers get all kinds of recommendations for treatments and the process of finding out what really works can be frustrating. Many people have tried several things without getting relief and they will try just about anything else if it means they will get clear skin. One common suggestion is hydrogen peroxide. Some people swear that it helps to fight acne.
Since it’s cheap and commonly found around the house, many acne sufferers give it a go. However, hydrogen peroxide may not be all its hyped up to be. While it may bring some relief, it can also cause problems. Ideally, you should speak to a dermatologist to get professional advice. However, if you want to give one more at-home treatment a try, read on for the pros and cons.
What is Hydrogen Peroxide?
Hydrogen peroxide is a clear, viscous liquid. It is an antiseptic which is used to prevent infection in minor cuts, burns, and scrapes. It is also used as a mouthwash in cases of irritation from gingivitis, cold sores or canker sores. Hydrogen peroxide works by releasing oxygen which causes foaming, the removal of dead skin cells, and cleaning.
Hydrogen peroxide is also used as a bleach and in industry, and it comes in varying concentrations. Common household hydrogen peroxide usually contains three percent while hair bleach is around six to ten percent.
What Causes Acne?
Acne is a skin condition which occurs when hair follicles become blocked by dead skin cells and oil. It can be caused by excess oil production, bacteria or excess hormonal activity. Acne results in pimples, blackheads or whiteheads which tend to show up on the face, chest, shoulders, and upper back.
While acne occurs most often in teenagers, it can affect people of all ages. Some women get flares about a week before menstruation begins. Acne can be very persistent and frustrating for sufferers since the pimples take long to heal and before one is gone, another pops up. The scarring can also be significant.
Stress, certain medications, and some foods including skim milk and carbohydrate-rich diets may worsen acne symptoms. Genetics also play a role since you’re more likely to develop acne if both parents had it.
Concerns Around Hydrogen Peroxide as an Acne Treatment
Hydrogen peroxide can kill bacteria and help get rid of excess sebum. This is based on the fact that it is an oxidizing agent which can kill cells through a process called oxidative stress. This is an imbalance between the production of free radicals in the body and your ability to counteract their harmful effects.
While hydrogen peroxide may kill those harmful cells which cause acne, it may also damage healthy cells including fibroblasts. These help to heal wounds and repair connective tissue. If your skin can’t heal properly, you are more likely to get acne scars. People with acne know scarring is already a major problem.
To compound this, one study found a link between naturally occurring hydrogen peroxide and acne inflammation. People with acne were found to have higher levels of hydrogen peroxide produced by a type of white blood cells (neutrophils) when compared to control subjects. When they were given a drug that inhibits the production of this type of hydrogen peroxide, inflammation decreased.
How to Use Hydrogen Peroxide Safely
If you do decide to try hydrogen peroxide on your acne, make sure you dilute it. Mix one tablespoon of the solution with three tablespoons of water and apply a thin layer to the face, avoiding your eyes. Leave it on for five minutes and then rinse it off. You can do this a couple times each week. Make sure you moisturize your skin well afterward, so it doesn’t get dry. Hydrogen peroxide can cause irritation and redness, but serious side effects are rare.
Alternatives to Hydrogen Peroxide
There is no evidence that hydrogen peroxide can cure acne although it may bring short-term relief. Given the possibility that it can cause irritation and increase scarring, it may be best to use a different product. One option is benzoyl peroxide which has been proven to be effective. Several products containing this ingredient are available. Salicylic acid can also be used to help clear the skin.