Today’s post is can you use benzoyl peroxide with antioxidants? This is a really important question, because they essentially do two opposite things. But guess what? We all need vitamin A when you’re dealing with acne, which is an antioxidant. So imagine wearing benzyl peroxide at the same time as vitamin A. Is that something you can do? What happens? Because they’re doing opposite things. So if that sounds good to you, give me a thumbs up, let’s dive right in. And do share this with everybody who’s got acne.
Now, benzoyl peroxide is a very effective ingredient for treating acne. It does three things. It enters the pore, it is an exfoliator, and it’s a antimicrobial. So essentially kills the bacteria in the pore. The problem is that it can be very drying, very sensitizing, very irritating. And this is actually one of the culprits for people who have acne but now have dry skin. So imagine you’ve got dry skin with acne, often it’s because you’ve applied ingredients like benzoyl peroxide that might be at too high of a percentage, or overused it, which has then led to a lot of flaking. And now you’re in a situation where you’re dealing with dry skin and acne. In fact, I’ve just made a video for you about an hour ago on how to deal with acne for dry skin. So do watch that video if that’s one of your problems.
So what I would recommend with benzoyl peroxide is to start at 2.5%, so a low percentage. Because basically, with skin of color, what we want to do is to first of all, minimize the chance of irritation, and then make sure we’re getting the efficacy that we need. Don’t go in high and think you’re going to get the efficacy, because if you’re getting irritation, I promise you you’re setting your skin back months, because now you have to deal with the irritation and then the issue. So I don’t want that to become a vicious cycle for you. So start at 2.5%. And I would say put it just on the areas that are either about to form a pimple or have formed a pimple, because this is not something you apply everywhere. It’s just unnecessary.
So let’s go through the step-by-step routine. So you start off with washing your face with something like [inaudible 00:03:02]. So it’s got your salicylic acid wash. Or you can use a benzoyl peroxide wash, such as Acnecide. And in fact, Acnecide, I don’t even mind using 5% because it’ll wash off, it’s not a leave on product. If you have used the salicylic acid wash, then you can move on to using a benzoyl peroxide leave on product, 2.5%, spot treatment only on the developing spot, not everywhere. Now, the most important thing to do here at this point is to let it dry. Let the benzoyl peroxide dry. It takes a few minutes, but this is important. The way benzoyl peroxide works is it’s essentially poisoning the bacteria with oxygen. Don’t forget that P acnes, the bacteria that’s causing the acne, or C acnes, they’re interchangeable, thrives in an anaerobic environment. That’s why when that pore becomes clogged and there’s no oxygen, oh, that bacteria loves it. It replicates and replicates and replicates very rapidly.
When you insert oxygen into that environment, it kills the bacteria. It only survives in an anaerobic environment. So that is the mechanism of action of benzoyl peroxide. The downside of this, however, is that the benzoyl peroxide is essentially depleting your antioxidants that are in your skin. And as we age, we have less antioxidants in our skin to be able to buffer this action. And so we do want to replenish the antioxidants on our skin. However, the mistake people make is that they put the benzoyl peroxide on, and then they go straight in with the antioxidant. And that’s a mistake, because why would you want to oxygenate the antioxidant? You don’t want to do that. You want to do the exact opposite. So you basically want the benzoyl peroxide to go on, let it dry, let it do its thing. And then you apply your antioxidant, so that that can mop up any free radicals and prevent any premature aging.
So the next question I then get asked is, “Well Dr. V, okay, that makes sense. But which antioxidants are suitable for acne prone skin for skin of color after you’ve used benzoyl peroxide,” which would be an excellent question, and those are the sorts of questions I want to be doing more of on this channel. So these, I’ve written a list out for you. So I would either use vitamin C, so that’s your tetrahexyldecyl ascorbate. Fat soluble vitamin C, my favorite for skin of color, because it has the best penetration of our waxy layer because it’s fat soluble. It enters the dermis and stimulates collagen. So love, love, love.
Then my second favorite is sodium ascorbyl phosphate or magnesium ascorbyl phosphate. I do tend to use the two together. So for example, in my facial pigmentation kit, which by this point you should know all about, I would put both in the ingredients. Both tetrahexyldecyl and sodium ascorbyl phosphate work really well together. And they’re non-irritating. Also, I would probably avoid ascorbic acid if you’re using benzoyl peroxide, because imagine your skin is now sensitive, it’s a quite irritating ingredient, why would you then put on another irritating ingredient? It’s a little bit like you put benzoyl peroxide on and then you think, “Oh, let me exfoliate the skin.” You would never do that. As it is, the skin’s already inflamed, so let’s treat it with love and kindness.
The other ingredients I love, love, love in terms of antioxidants are vitamin E. Vitamin E you’re going to find in the majority of the products that you use. Vitamin E happens to be the most used ingredient in the world of cosmetics. So you’re going to find it everywhere. Resveratrol is also an outstanding antioxidant. You find it in red grapes. And this is why people think it’s a good idea to drink lots of wine, but I’m not going to encourage you to do that. Then the other one is green tea extract, which is very soothing. It’s a fantastic antioxidant. I love, love, love it for skin of color. And the other one you’re most likely to be using anyway, because you have acne, would be your vitamin A. So I love retinyl palmitate. Retinaldehyde is my favorite vitamin A. Why is it my favorite vitamin A? It’s because it’s only one step removed from retinoic acid, so you have a high conversion rate, but also minimal chances of reaction.
And the other one is retinol. So retinol is the one that everybody’s heard of. But don’t forget, retinol is an alcohol, ol at the end, so it also can be quite irritating. I tend to actually use all three vitamin As together. So even in the facial pigmentation kit you’ll see it’s got retinaldehyde, retinol and retinyl palmitate. But with retinol I would always use it as a fraction of a percent, just that, with skin of color, it’s not a good idea to use very irritating ingredients. And often 1% retinol is going to be too irritating for skin of color, unless it’s encapsulated.