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Acne health centre

Benzoyl peroxide gel, cream, or face wash

BMJ Group Medical Reference

You can buy benzoyl peroxide over the counter from a pharmacy. Its brand names are Brevoxyl and PanOxyl. It comes as a gel, cream, or face wash.

Benzoyl peroxide is probably the best treatment to try first. You can get different strength products, with 2.5 percent being the lowest and 10 percent the highest. It's a good idea to start with a lower strength. You can always switch to a stronger version if the weaker one doesn't work for you.

Benzoyl peroxide helps to kill bacteria, unblock pores, and make your skin less oily. It can be used for different types of acne: blackheads; whiteheads; and red, inflamed spots. [22] You use the cream or gel once or twice a day, usually after you wash.

We found two summaries of the research (called systematic reviews) that looked at the research on benzoyl peroxide. [20] People who used it had fewer spots after four weeks to 12 weeks.

Side effects of benzoyl peroxide include dry, red, or peeling skin, and a burning or tingling feeling. About 1 in 3 people get these side effects. [30] [31]

Benzoyl peroxide is a kind of bleach, so it's best to avoid getting it on your hair, clothes, or sheets. You should also avoid getting too much sun. [22]

You can also get benzoyl peroxide gel combined with an antibiotic called clindamycin. The brand name is Duac Once Daily. You can only get it on prescription from your doctor.

One study found that a combination of benzoyl peroxide and clindamycin worked better than either treatment individually. [32]



These medicines are used to help your immune system fight infection. There are a number of different types of antibiotics that work in different ways to get rid of bacteria, parasites, and other infectious agents. Antibiotics do not work against viruses.


Bacteria are tiny organisms. There are lots of different types. Some are harmful and can cause disease. But some bacteria live in your body without causing any harm.


Inflammation is when your skin or some other part of your body becomes red, swollen, hot, and sore. Inflammation happens because your body is trying to protect you from germs, from something that's in your body and could harm you (like a splinter) or from things that cause allergies (these things are called allergens). Inflammation is one of the ways in which your body heals an infection or an injury.

systematic reviews

A systematic review is a thorough look through published research on a particular topic. Only studies that have been carried out to a high standard are included. A systematic review may or may not include a meta-analysis, which is when the results from individual studies are put together.

For more terms related to Acne


For references related to Acne click here.
Last Updated: June 20, 2012
This information does not replace medical advice.  If you are concerned you might have a medical problem please ask your Boots pharmacy team in your local Boots store, or see your doctor.

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