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If you've ever struggled with acne or pesky blemishes, chances are you've come across benzoyl peroxide (BPO) as a potential solution. In the realm of skincare, BPO is a well-known ingredient praised for its acne-fighting properties, and its popularity isn't waning! In this article, we asked our Research and Development Chemist, Samantha McIntosh, to shed some light on a few of the most common concerns regarding the powerful ingredient. Discover if this classic skincare additive suits your brand's next bar cleanser as you seek to provide your customers with a reliable solution for their face and body acne. 

How does benzoyl peroxide (BPO) bar soap work? What is it used for?

Benzoyl peroxide is an organic acid in the peroxide family that has antimicrobial properties. It reduces acne-causing bacteria, such as P. acnes, while calming inflammation. 

What is the recommended concentration of benzoyl peroxide in bar soap?

The FDA allows for 2.5 – 10 percent BPO in topical anti-acne products. 

How often should benzoyl peroxide bar soap be used? Can benzoyl peroxide bar soap be used on sensitive skin?

Usage rates depend on the person's skin type. It is best to avoid BPO products altogether for those with very sensitive skin. In general, you should start using BPO bar soap once daily and work up to two or three times daily as needed or as directed by a doctor. 

If you are a new user worried about sensitivity, apply the product sparingly to one or two small affected areas during the first three days. If no discomfort occurs, follow the directions as recommended. 

Can benzoyl peroxide bar soap be used with other acne medications?

For the everyday user: The American Academy of Dermatology Association (AAD) recommends a combination therapy to fight acne in most patients to target different aspects of acne pathogenesis. However, skin irritation and dryness are more likely to occur when using multiple products. If this happens, it's best to reduce your acne-fighting routine to include only one topical acne medication at a time.

For those with mild acne: The AAD recommends using BPO alone or with a topical antibiotic.

For those with moderate to severe acne: The AAD recommends combining BPO with a topical retinoid or topical antibiotic. If symptoms do not improve, an oral antibiotic (both genders), oral contraceptive (women only), and/or oral spironolactone (women only) may be added.  

It is recommended to use BPO separately from other actives (e.g., BPO soap in the morning and adapalene gel at night) as BPO has been shown to interact with other topical actives, decreasing their effects. 

Are there any side effects of using benzoyl peroxide bar soap?

As with most products, there are side effects of using BPO bar soap. Users of BPO products should avoid contact with hair and fabrics as these may be bleached by the product. Additionally, it is recommended that you should always apply sunscreen and avoid unnecessary sun exposure. 

Skin irritation may occur, including redness, burning, itching, peeling, or swelling. Irritation may be reduced by using the product less frequently or using a product with a lower concentration of BPO. Stop use and ask a doctor if the irritation becomes severe. 

Are you ready to take the next steps toward formulating your very own BPO bar? Get in touch with us today to learn how we can help you get there. ●


Acne Clinical Guideline. (n.d.). American Academy of Dermatology Association.

Over-the-Counter (OTC) Monograph M006: Topical Acne Drug Products for Over-the-Counter Human Use. (2021, November 23). US Food and Drug Administration.

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