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About benzoyl peroxide - Brand name: Acnecide

Benzoyl peroxide is used to treat acne. It works as an antiseptic to reduce the number of germs (bacteria) on the surface of your skin.

It's usually one of the first treatments recommended for mild to moderate acne.

It comes as a gel or face wash containing 5% benzoyl peroxide. This is available to buy from pharmacies or shops with the brand name Acnecide.

Benzoyl peroxide is sometimes mixed with potassium hydroxyquinoline sulfate. This is an antimicrobial ingredient that kills micro-organisms on your skin. It's sold in pharmacies as Quinoderm cream.

Some benzoyl peroxide products are available on prescription only. This is because they contain other medicines such as antibiotics or retinoids (exfoliants). For example, Duac Once Daily contains benzoyl peroxide and clindamycin, an antibiotic. Epiduo gel contains benzoyl peroxide and adapalene, a retinoid.

Many popular skincare brands also make products that contain benzoyl peroxide, but at a lower strength. These are available to buy in pharmacies, supermarkets and shops. Brands include Clean & Clear, Neutrogena and Clearasil.

Key facts

  • Benzoyl peroxide 5% gel or wash takes around 4 weeks to start working. It can take 2 to 4 months to have full effect.
  • You'll usually use it 1 or 2 times a day.
  • The most common side effect is skin irritation. If this happens it's better to use it less often at first, then build up as your skin gets used to it.
  • Try to avoid strong sunlight while using benzoyl peroxide gel. Use an oil-free sunscreen with SPF30 or above. Ask a pharmacist for advice on which sunscreen is right for your skin type.
  • Keep benzoyl peroxide away from your hair and clothes, as it can bleach and discolour them.

Page last reviewed: 30 September 2022
Next review due: 30 September 2025