A benzoyl peroxide face wash is an acne treatment that kills the bacteria that cause acne by introducing oxygen into the facial pores. Most benzoyl peroxide face washes contain between 2.5 and 10 percent benzoyl peroxide in a cleansing base, and they are designed to be used one to three times each day.
Propionibacterium acnes, the bacteria that cause acne, live in hair follicles and die when exposed to oxygen. Benzoyl peroxide removes dead skin cells from the pore area and adds oxygen to the follicle. The bacteria die, and over time, the inflammation that causes acne diminishes. Treatment with a benzoyl peroxide face wash takes several weeks. Regular use of a quality moisturizer minimizes the common side effects, such as skin irritation, flaking and peeling. Acne patients should choose moisturizers labeled noncomedogenic because they do not clog pores. Other options to reduce side effects include choosing a face wash with a lower concentration of benzoyl peroxide and using the product less frequently.
Although benzoyl peroxide face washes clear up acne breakouts, they do not cure acne. Long-term use is necessary to keep the condition under control. Benzoyl peroxide bleaches clothing, and care should be taken during use. Some people are allergic to benzoyl peroxide. Use of the product should be discontinued if the patient develops severe redness, itching, burning, swelling or a rash.