Benzoyl Peroxide Allergy Symptoms

Benzoyl peroxide allergy
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Could you have a benzoyl peroxide allergy? It can sometimes be hard to tell. Benzoyl peroxide can make your skin dry and red, and cause it to itch, flake, and peel even if you are not allergic to it.

Knowing how to differentiate between a true benzoyl peroxide allergy versus typical side effects will help you save your skin, and keep your acne treatment on track.

Benzoyl Peroxide Allergy Symptoms

True benzoyl peroxide allergies are not quite as common as you might imagine.

Some people may think they are allergic to benzoyl peroxide, but in all actuality, they are experiencing normal side effects of benzoyl peroxide treatment.

Benzoyl peroxide does cause dryness, redness, and peeling to some degree. How do you know when you've crossed the line from normal side effects to a true allergic reaction

Symptoms of a true benzoyl peroxide allergy are:

  • Severe redness, burning or itching of the skin
  • Serious skin irritation, peeling or cracking
  • Scabbing, blistering, oozing or crusting of the skin
  • Swelling of the skin, lips, eyes, or tongue
  • Rash or hives

These symptoms will continue to worsen until you stop using benzoyl peroxide. If you have any of these problems, stop using your benzoyl peroxide treatment immediately and call your physician for advice.

Normal Benzoyl Peroxide Side Effects

Typical benzoyl peroxide side effects are less severe than an allergy, and usually aren't anything to worry about.

Normal side effects of benzoyl peroxide are:

  • Dry skin
  • Minor to moderate peeling and flaking
  • Minor redness, itching, stinging or burning, especially immediately after application

Side effects are generally worse during the first few weeks you're using benzoyl peroxide. As your skin builds up a tolerance to the medication, you should notice the worst of the redness, peeling, and flaking diminish.

Benzoyl peroxide always causes dryness to some degree, though, for the entire time you're using the medication. Applying a moisturizer daily will go a long way in controlling normal side effects, but won't help at all if you are allergic to benzoyl peroxide.

Not sure if what you're experiencing is a normal side effect or a true benzoyl peroxide allergy? It's always safest to err on the side of caution—stop using your medication and give your dermatologist a call.

If you're not truly allergic to benzoyl peroxide but are just having a bad time with the side effects, you don't have to give up your treatment altogether. A few tweaks in your routine can help you diminish benzoyl peroxide side effects considerably, all while letting the medication do its job.

Knowing what to expect from your benzoyl peroxide treatment can put your mind at ease, and help you determine what is normal and what is not.

Benzoyl Peroxide-Free Acne Treatment Medications

If you are truly allergic to benzoyl peroxide, you're not out of luck when it comes to treating your acne.  There are many benzoyl peroxide-free acne treatment options to help clear your skin, both over-the-counter and prescription.

Salicylic acid is a common OTC acne-fighting ingredient, as is glycolic acid and sulfur.

If you need a prescription medication to get your acne under control you have even more options. Topical retinoids, antibiotics (both topical and oral), and oral medications like Amnesteem (isotretinoin) and birth control pills (for women only) may also be an option for you.

A Word from Verywell

Always be careful when choosing and using any over-the-counter acne treatment or skin care product, since benzoyl peroxide is a common if ingredient. Also make sure to let your dermatologist know if your skin can't tolerate benzoyl peroxide. It's also included in many combination acne medications. Read those ingredient lists carefully before using any new product.

If you need help choosing the right acne treatment product for you, make an appointment with a dermatologist.

Sources:

Baldwin HE.  "Pharmacologic Treatment Options in Mild, Moderate, and Severe Acne Vulgaris."  Seminars in Cutaneous Medicine and Surgery. 2015 Sep;34(5S): S82-S85.

Kim C, Craiglow BG, Watsky KL, Antaya RJ.  "Allergic Contact Dermatitis to Benzoyl Peroxide Resembling Impetigo."  Pediatric Dermatology. 2015 Jul-Aug;32(4):e161-2.

Mohammad TF, Burkart CG.  "Acne therapeutics: a closer look at benzoyl peroxide."  Skinmed.  2015 Mar-Apr;13(2):94-6.

Veraldi S, Brena M, Barbareschi M.  "Allergic contact dermatitis caused by topical antiacne drugs."  Expert Review of Clinical Pharmacology. 2015;8(4):377-81.

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