There is no doubt about it, benzoyl peroxide is widely used and one of the longest-tested anti-acne ingredients. It’s a mainstay for getting clear skin. However, while this powerhouse component is great at clearing breakouts, not all experts agree that it is the best treatment if you are worried about aging skin since the potential long-term effects may not be worth the quick results. The “Does benzoyl peroxide age your skin?” debate among dermatologists is a heated one to say the least.
Here are the pros and cons to consider:
Clears acne fast
The main advantage of benzoyl peroxide is that it clears blemishes fast by killing the acne-causing bacteria. “Initially it was used just on affected areas because it would dry up the pimples very quickly,” says Oakland, CA, dermatologist Katie Rodan, MD. Over time, new formulations and concentrations have been introduced, and today, products that contain lower concentrations are thought to be just as effective as those with higher concentrations. “This means you can get the same results without the dryness,” she says.
Acts as an anti-inflammatory agent
According to a study published in Cosmetic Dermatology, benzoyl peroxide acts as an anti-inflammatory agent by reducing oxygen in the skin. Because it reduces bacteria in the pore, it also works to reduce inflammation within the blemish.
Causes dehydration and could cause premature aging
Benzoyl peroxide has been associated with premature aging and dehydrated skin since it causes irritation to occur-anything irritating is usually dehydrating. The dryer the skin, the older it appears. “Although the skin may look prematurely aged, we don’t know if the effects are long-term. Once moisturizer is consistently used, the skin bounces back to normal,” says Washington D.C., dermatologist Tina Alster, MD.
Can lead to hyperpigmentation
Post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation (PIH) is a characteristic of acne, and benzoyl peroxide does little to help it. “It can create significantly more hyperpigmentation, especially in medium to darker skin because of the irritation that it can cause,” says Venice, CA, celebrity aesthetician Nacole Raphalian.
Induces sun damage
Benzoyl peroxide cleans the pore, but some say as it does this, it thins and decreases its ability to protect itself from the sun. “Benzoyl peroxide can cancel out the effects of your SPF and make the skin more sensitive to the sun,” says Beverly Hills, CA, dermatologist Debra Luftman, MD. The less protection, the quicker photoaging can set in.
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