- Hydrogen peroxide is a common home remedy for acne.
- Hydrogen peroxide kills acne-causing bacteria and encourages the skin to peel.
- The side effects of hydrogen peroxide for acne include possible irritation, blistering, and burning.
- Using hydrogen peroxide near your hairline or eyebrows can have a bleaching effect.
- Safer alternatives to hydrogen peroxide include benzoyl peroxide and retinol.
Hydrogen peroxide (H2O2) is an inexpensive, common household disinfectant and antiseptic with bleaching properties. It’s often used to clean minor wounds.
Some people believe hydrogen peroxide can fight acne breakouts. While hydrogen peroxide does have many acne-fighting properties, it may not be the safest bet for your skin.
Should You Use Hydrogen Peroxide on Your Skin?
Hydrogen peroxide kills the acne-causing bacteria on your skin and can dry up excess oil (sebum) on the skin’s surface. Bacteria and an overproduction of sebum can both contribute to breakouts.
While it’s true that hydrogen peroxide kills live cells, including bacteria, it can also kill beneficial skin cells. Some of these beneficial skin cells–fibroblasts–are meant to aid in wound repair and the health of your connective tissue.
Hydrogen peroxide is a long-established home remedy for cleaning out minor wounds because of its antibacterial properties. However, there is not much evidence that hydrogen peroxide can actually kill bacteria inside a cut or a scrape. Instead it could irritate healthy skin cells.
In order to properly repair itself, skin needs its fibroblasts to be in working order. If these cells are damaged, healing will be hindered. This increases your risk of developing acne scars.
Another type of skin cell called a neutrophil actually produces hydrogen peroxide. Research has shown that people with acne also have more hydrogen peroxide in their neutrophils than people who don’t have acne. This indicates that hydrogen peroxide may actually be related to inflammation.
Will Hydrogen Peroxide Clear Acne?
Hydrogen peroxide can help to dry out excess sebum and encourages exfoliation of the upper layer of skin. This could help to minimize the appearance of pimples and pustules. However, while hydrogen peroxide might help clear acne in the short term, it might actually cause damage to your skin when used long-term.
Although many people believe hydrogen peroxide can clear acne, there is no scientific evidence that it’s effective or safe. Hydrogen peroxide may actually irritate or burn the skin if its concentration is too high. It could also keep the skin from healing properly and make potential scarring worse.
How to Use Hydrogen Peroxide for Acne
Before using hydrogen peroxide to treat acne, check with your dermatologist. They’ll be able to provide more insight into whether this home treatment is appropriate for your skin type and condition.
Check the label before you begin. Hydrogen peroxide usually comes in a concentration of three percent. It should be diluted to one percent before it’s applied to the skin.
To use hydrogen peroxide for acne after your regular cleansing routine:
- Mix 1 Tbsp of hydrogen peroxide with 3 Tbsp water
- Dip a cotton ball in the diluted hydrogen peroxide solution
- Swipe the cotton ball lightly over your skin
- Wait for five minutes
- Rinse your face with lukewarm water
- Pat dry with a soft washcloth
- Follow with your moisturizer of choice
- Continue your regular skin care routine
Using hydrogen peroxide on the face
Use caution when applying hydrogen peroxide to your skin. It can bleach your hair, so keep it away from your eyebrows and your hairline. Also, keep the solution away from your eyes, as it could irritate them.
Should you use it on a popped pimple?
While hydrogen peroxide does kill harmful bacteria, including the bacteria that causes acne, it can also irritate a wound and slow healing. Because of this, it’s best not to apply hydrogen peroxide to a popped pimple.
Popping a pimple creates a small, open wound on the skin. Therefore, putting something like hydrogen peroxide on a popped pimple could slow the healing process and encourage a scar to form.
The primary side effect of using hydrogen peroxide for acne is skin irritation. Hydrogen peroxide can cause irritation, blisters and burns, especially in an undiluted or higher concentration. It’s also possible to have an allergy to hydrogen peroxide, so patch-test your skin before use.
If put into an open wound, the oxygen bubbles hydrogen peroxide creates can potentially cause an air embolism, which prevents blood from flowing and can result in death. However, it’s unlikely to experience this side effect from using hydrogen peroxide for acne.
Why does hydrogen peroxide turn white on the skin?
Hydrogen peroxide turns white because of a chemical reaction that occurs when it comes into contact with the skin. The solution oxidizes, and the resulting oxygen bubbles create a white, foamy appearance.
It’s possible that using hydrogen peroxide for acne could irritate the skin and cause scarring because it interferes with wound healing. It can also cause skin irritation and burns if used at too high of a concentration.
Hydrogen peroxide is a bleaching agent, particularly when it comes in contact with skin and hair. Proceed with caution if you are darker-skinned, and keep it away from eyebrows, eyelashes, and your hairline.
Individuals with sensitive skin or an allergy to hydrogen peroxide shouldn’t use it on their skin. Additionally, hydrogen peroxide should never be ingested and should be kept away from the eyes.
Instead of using hydrogen peroxide for acne, a more effective acne treatment is benzoyl peroxide. Benzoyl peroxide is available in multiple over-the-counter (OTC) and prescription formulations, including facial cleanser and spot treatments. It’s best used as a treatment for mild to moderate inflammatory acne.
Another safer alternative for acne is retinol, a vitamin A-derived topical medication that’s available in OTC and prescription formulations. Retinol encourages gentle removal of dead skin cells and regulates sebum production.
Using hydrogen peroxide for acne may be an inexpensive home remedy, but it could also harm your skin. Hydrogen peroxide can be harsh on skin and can cause irritation, burns or blistering. It can also inhibit the wound-healing process and encourage acne scars to form.
Talk to your dermatologist before applying hydrogen peroxide to your skin. If you choose to use hydrogen peroxide for acne, dilute the solution with water (3 Tbsp water to 1 Tbsp hydrogen peroxide) and rinse off before continuing your skin care routine.
It may be safer for you to use OTC acne medications such as benzoyl peroxide or retinol instead of hydrogen peroxide.
If you experience irritations or signs of an allergic reaction after using hydrogen peroxide for acne, contact your dermatologist.
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