BMA Concise Guide to Medicine & Drugs

Benzoyl Peroxide

Brand names Acnecide, Brevoxyl, Oxy 10, Oxy On-the-Spot, PanOxyl

Used in the following combined preparations Duac Once Daily, Epiduo, Quinoderm


Drug group Drug for acne

Overdose danger rating Low

Dependence rating Low

Prescription needed No (most preparations)

Available as generic No


Benzoyl peroxide is used in a variety of topical preparations for the treatment of acne. Available over the counter, it comes in concentrations of varying strengths for mild to moderate acne.

Benzoyl peroxide works by softening and shedding the top layer of skin and unblocking the sebaceous glands. It can also reduce inflammation of blocked hair follicles by killing the bacteria that infect them.

Benzoyl peroxide may cause irritation due to its drying effect on the skin, but this generally diminishes with time. The drug should be applied to the affected areas as directed on the label. Washing the area prior to application greatly enhances the drug’s beneficial effects. Side effects are less likely if treatment is started with a preparation containing a low concentration of benzoyl peroxide, and changed to a stronger preparation gradually and only if necessary. Marked dryness and peeling of the skin, which may occur, can usually be controlled by reducing the frequency of application. Care should be taken to avoid contact of the drug with the eyes, mouth, and mucous membranes. It is also advisable to avoid excessive exposure to sunlight. Preparations of benzoyl peroxide can bleach clothing and hair.


Follow instructions on the label. Call your doctor if symptoms worsen.

How taken/used Cream, bodywash, gel, lotion.

Frequency and timing of doses 1–2 x daily (after washing with soap and water).

Dosage range Start with the lowest strength preparation (2.5 per cent) and, if necessary, increase gradually to highest strength (10 per cent).

Onset of effect Reduces oiliness of skin immediately. Acne usually improves within 4–6 weeks.

Duration of action 24–48 hours.

Diet advice None.

Storage Keep in original container at room temperature out of the reach of children.

Missed dose Apply as soon as you remember.

Stopping the drug Can be safely stopped as soon as you no longer need it.

Exceeding the dose A single extra application is unlikely to cause problems. Regular overuse may result in extensive irritation, peeling, redness, and swelling of the skin.


Application of benzoyl peroxide may cause temporary burning or stinging of the skin. Redness, peeling, and swelling may result from excessive drying of the skin and usually clears up if the treatment is stopped or used less frequently. If severe burning, blistering, or crusting occur, stop using benzoyl peroxide and consult your doctor.


Skin-drying preparations Medicated cosmetics, soaps, toiletries, and other anti-acne preparations increase the likelihood of dryness and irritation of the skin with benzoyl peroxide.


Be sure to tell your doctor or pharmacist before using this drug if:

· You have eczema.

· You have sunburn.

· You have had a previous allergic reaction to benzoyl peroxide.

· You are taking other medicines.

Pregnancy No evidence of risk.

Breast-feeding No evidence of risk.

Infants and children Not usually recommended under 12 years except under medical supervision.

Over 60 Not usually required.

Driving and hazardous work No known problems.

Alcohol No known problems.


Benzoyl peroxide usually takes 4–6 weeks to produce an effect. If the acne has not improved after 6 weeks, consult your doctor.