If you’ve ever had an acne breakout and used an over-the-counter treatment to clear it up, there is a very good chance that you’ll have used a product containing benzoyl peroxide. Be it a scrub, a cream, or a benzoyl peroxide face wash, these products have been readily available and used for years by teenagers and adults with acne.
As far as skin products go, benzoyl peroxide is far from being new, vogue, or trendy, but what it is is powerful and effective. Time has moved on since it was discovered in 1856, but benzoyl peroxide remains as one of the most effective methods for dealing with the misery of this persistent skin condition.
So, we know that it works, but how does it work after it has been applied to your skin? Further to that, is it something that’s suitable for all types of acne? Well, that’s something we’ll be getting into, as we tackle the question in the title of this piece – what’s the difference between 4% and 10% when buying this kind of product?
Benzoyl Peroxide Wash Explained
To use industry terms, benzoyl peroxide is an organic compound that works as an oxidizing agent. In layman’s terms, ‘oxidizing’ refers to the process where the peroxide comes into contact with the skin, releasing oxygen and destroying bacteria. Chemically speaking, it’s quite similar to the hydrogen peroxide you’ll find in most family medicine cabinets that’s used for cuts and bruises.
As well as being effective at eliminating bacteria, benzoyl peroxide also possesses powerful comedolytic (pore-opening) and anti-inflammatory properties. So, when someone uses benzoyl peroxide for acne, it removes all the dirt and grime, whilst also keeping the pores open and reducing redness – everything you could possibly want when dealing with irritated skin.
Acne Manifests Differently from Person to Person
Benzoyl peroxide face wash is known to be highly effective at treating all types of acne, which is a complex condition that manifests differently depending on the person in question. For example, there are a number of different ways in which acne can develop, with some occurring on the surface of the skin and others affecting much deeper layers.
- Comedonal acne (Whiteheads & blackheads)
- Pustular acne (tiny red bumps that have white tips)
Generally speaking, benzoyl peroxide works for all kinds of acne, but it’s particularly effective against the redder and more inflamed areas. This means that it works best for surface acne; however, it’s also known to provide relief for those suffering with deeper cystic acne.
Reducing the Need for Antibiotics
Benzoyl peroxide is something of a godsend when it comes to dealing with the bacteria that causes acne, not least because it often means that the individual doesn’t need to resort to antibiotics to solve the problem. Antibiotics do represent a true 20th-century medical marvel and they’ve saved millions around the world from fatal infections, but…
…when used too regularly, the body can build up a resistance and stop working as well. However, using benzoyl peroxide provides a solution that’s able to reduce the reliance on antibiotics – great news for anyone suffering with chronic acne.
Ok, so that’s all great, but what about the differences between 4% and 10% benzoyl peroxide? What do the percentages actually refer to and what does it mean to the user?
4% & 10% Refer to the Strength of the Product
So, when you’re at the pharmacy and you’re having to choose whether you go for a 4% or 10% benzoyl peroxide wash, you’re really deciding on the overall concentration of the product. A benzoyl peroxide wash at a 4% or 10% concentration is freely available as an ‘over-the-counter’ solution that doesn’t require a prescription and the percentage is the total concentration of the active compound inside.
As you would expect, the lower the percentage, the lower the concentration of benzoyl peroxide active. The strength of benzoyl peroxide products available without a prescription ranges between 2.5% and 10%. They all essentially do the same job, but if you were to ask a dermatologist, they’re likely to recommend trying a lower strength to begin with. That’s because, the higher you go, the more chance there is that you’ll dry out the skin excessively and cause irritation.
As we mentioned earlier, everyone will see their acne manifest slightly differently, so there will be those who are better suited to the higher strengths, but it’s wise to test things out first, particularly if you’ve never used benzoyl peroxide before. Use a 10% benzoyl peroxide wash straight off the bat and you may suffer some discomfort as a result – something you’re actively trying to avoid.
So, How Can I Tell Which One’s Right For Me?
Caution relating to the concentration is rightly a priority when beginning to use benzoyl peroxide for acne, but how can you better discern which is right one for you without going through this trial-and-error process? There are many products on the market, so how do you know which strength to go for?
Here’s what we’d advise. Start off with a 4% strength and increase as per your tolerance to the maximum of 10% if needed. For this purpose, a popular choice is PanOxyl Acne Creamy Wash.
Again, this is all subjective, so different strengths will work better for some than others, so it’s a matter of finding the sweet spot, whilst also ensuring that you don’t cause any unnecessary irritation and discomfort.
Should Anyone Avoid Using Benzoyl Peroxide Wash?
Due to the nature of the compound in that it can cause skin issues like dryness and redness, anyone with sensitive skin should either use the lowest strengths or avoid it completely. Also, should you be pregnant, you’ll need to ask your doctor before use. Lastly, there is a small percentage (around 1%) of people who have an allergy to benzoyl peroxide, so if you suffer any sort of adverse reaction to using benzoyl peroxide face wash or anything like it, stop using it and speak to your dermatologist.
Effective Solutions for an Irritating Problem
So, as you can see, benzoyl peroxide wash is highly effective at breaking the acne cycle, allowing people to enjoy clear, unblemished skin. As with any kind of cosmetics or skin cleansing products, you just have to be careful so as not to cause any unnecessary irritation and redness. It’s not for everyone, but it is something that when used correctly can create the optimum conditions for less-angry, happier, more balanced skin.
PanOxyl acne washes act quickly to treat acne, clear pores and prevent new pimples and breakouts from occurring. We hope that our blog has gone a long way to showing you exactly how to approach buying products containing benzoyl peroxide for acne and which strengths you should be looking at for your own unique skin type.
Just remember to be cautious and listen to what your skin is telling you. If it’s clearing up and feeling calm and content, then great. If it’s becoming more irritated, you should drop down in concentration next time or use the wash less frequently. Follow this principle and you’ll hit your sweet spot before you know it and be enjoying healthier skin shortly after.