Benzoyl Peroxide

There has been much research conducted over the last fifteen years in order to determine whether there are any significant long term effects caused by the use of benzoyl peroxide as an acne treatment.

Benzoyl peroxide is used in a number of acne treatment products from cut price through to luxury brands. It is one of the more popular treatment products that can be purchased without a prescription. It is easily available, cheap to manufacture and has visible results on acne.

However, from the 1980’s onwards there have been reports indicating that there may be some side effects related to long term use of benzoyl peroxide. The most serious concern raised in these reports was that this product could potentially lead to the development of carcinoma (skin cancer). Despite this, upto 1995 the FDA indicated that it was safe to use the product.

One of the key finding of these reports is that benzoyl peroxide produces free radicals. Free radicals are a significant cause of skin damage, including premature ageing, and are directly linked to cancer.

To date research indicates that benzoyl peroxide has led to the rapid development of carcinoma in studies conducted on lab mice and hamsters. As a result warnings have been issued that long term use of benzoyl peroxide products may pose a risk to consumers. The FDA has now reversed its decision and classified benzoyl peroxide as ‘safety unknown’.


Science. 1981 Aug 28;213(4511):1023-5. PubMed Skin tumor-promoting activity of benzoyl peroxide, a widely used free radical-generating compound. Slaga TJ, Klein-Szanto AJ, Triplett LL, Yotti LP, Trosko KE