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Is Benzoyl Peroxide Safe?

Benzoyl Peroxide, an ingredient used in many acne products, generates free radicals and skin damage. It promotes skin damage in a manner similar to unprotected sun exposure. The redness caused by the application of Benzoyl Peroxide to the skin is a visible demonstration of "oxidative stress" or free radicals causing skin damage to the components and chemistry of the skin. Repeated unprotected sun exposure causes skin damage and premature skin aging, which promotes the potential of skin cancer. Repeated application of benzoyl peroxide has been found to have the same result. The extent of skin damage from Benzoyl Peroxide is determined by the concentration of the Benzoyl Peroxide, the frequency of application, and the duration of its use.

Benzoyl Peroxide is used in acne products because it effectively kills P. acnes, the bacteria which causes acne. On the other hand, benzoyl peroxide generates free radicals that interfere with and slow the skin's healing process. The red and brown marks that are a part of the acne healing process may last weeks longer when Benzoyl Peroxide is a regular part of the daily acne products regimen.

Benzoyl Peroxide has been linked to skin cancer for a number of years. In fact, many research journal entries state "Benzoyl Peroxide is a free radical-generating skin tumor promoting agent." Performing a word search of the words "Benzoyl Peroxide cancer" in PubMed in the National Library of Medicine produces 102 articles from medical publications dealing with the research aspects of Benzoyl Peroxide and cancer. About two-thirds of the research supports linkage between Benzoyl Peroxide and skin cancer.

In 1995 the FDA changed Benzoyl Peroxide from a Category I (safe) to a Category III (safety is uncertain) ingredient. It stated this action (56 FR 37622) was based on new information that raised a safety concern regarding Benzoyl Peroxide as a tumor promoter in mice. Additionally, the FDA charged manufacturers of acne products and acne treatments with the responsibility of providing this information to consumers so they could make educated decisions. Many manufacturers and product marketers have not provided this information so consumers can be advised of the potential dangers of skin cancer. A more complete FDA statement is at the bottom of this page, for your reference.

The use of Benzoyl Peroxide in acne products and acne treatment may involve side effects and risks that should be considered in making decisions on acne treatment. This is why Dr. Edwin Ishoo, the Director of Boston Acne Specialists, has given particular attention to providing effective acne treatment without Benzoyl Peroxide with safe and effective skin clearing.


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