Acne Treatment Alternatives If You Have a Benzoyl Peroxide Allergy

Benzoyl peroxide is an incredibly common acne treatment ingredient. It's the most effective acne treatment you can get over the counter so you'll find it in a huge variety of acne products, from cleansers to lotions.

But what if you can't use benzoyl peroxide because your skin is just too sensitive to it, or because you're allergic to it? Not to worry. There are plenty of other treatments that you can use to help clear your acne that is just as effective and are benzoyl peroxide-free.

Dermatologist and patient choosing a skin care product
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Benzoyl Peroxide Allergy

True benzoyl peroxide allergies are very rare. For people who are allergic, benzoyl peroxide can cause itching, swelling of lips, tongue, or throat, hives, and trouble breathing.

More common is a nasty rash called contact dermatitis. It causes redness, swelling, and oozing blisters. Some people are extra sensitive to benzoyl peroxide. If you have sensitive skin or a history of eczema, take care. You're more likely to have a bad reaction to benzoyl peroxide.

Dry, Peeling Skin Isn't Necessarily an Allergy to Benzoyl Peroxide

Here's something to note: dry, red, and flaky skin doesn't necessarily mean you're allergic to the medication. Benzoyl peroxide side effects like dryness, slight redness, and itching, minor peeling are actually quite normal and typically don't mean that you have to stop using the medication.

Not sure if what you're experiencing is normal or something to be worried about? Find out if you are allergic to benzoyl peroxide. Of course, if you're concerned you should make a call to your physician.

Read Ingredient Lists Carefully

But when you just can't tolerate benzoyl peroxide, you'll be glad to know you have other options.
When choosing an over-the-counter acne product, take a careful look at the ingredient listings. Typically, benzoyl peroxide will be listed as the active ingredient, but it is sometimes included further down the ingredient list so be sure to read the entire ingredients. Be aware also that occasionally benzoyl peroxide is listed as "BPO".

If you're buying a three- or four-step kit, make sure you check the ingredients on every product in that kit before putting it on your skin. Benzoyl peroxide may not be included in the cleanser but may be the active ingredient in the coordinating treatment lotion, for example.

Benzoyl Peroxide-Free Acne Treatment Options

So, now that we've successfully ruled out benzoyl peroxide, it's time to rule in alternatives. You will want ingredients that have proven track records to successfully improve your acne. Specifically, you're looking for over-the-counter acne treatment products that contain these ingredients:

These ingredients will give you the best results you can get with an OTC product, without using benzoyl peroxide.

Of course, you can always hit the dermatology office for an effective benzoyl peroxide-free acne treatment. In fact, this is the preferable option if your acne is moderate to severe because OTC products just won't help acne of this severity.

Just let your derm know you can't tolerate benzoyl peroxide, and let them do the rest. Some prescription options that are benzoyl-peroxide free include:

For women, oral contraceptives and hormone regulators like Aldactone (spironolactone) may also be options.

Be aware that some prescription medications contain benzoyl peroxide, even though the names don't give it away. Duac (clindamycin and benzoyl peroxide), Acanya (clindamycin and benzoyl peroxide), Epiudo and epiduo forte are examples that come to mind. This is why it's important to let your dermatologist know about any allergy or sensitivity you have.

A Word From Verywell

Even though you can't use benzoyl peroxide, you can still get effective acne treatment products without benzoyl peroxide. No matter what acne treatment you use, though, expect to get some side effects.

Ask your dermatologist what to expect from your new acne treatment. It will take three to four months to see really good results from your treatment, so stick with it and ask your dermatologist if you have any questions.

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3 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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  2. Sevimli dikicier B. Topical treatment of acne vulgaris: efficiency, side effects, and adherence rate. J Int Med Res. 2019;47(7):2987-2992. doi:10.1177/0300060519847367

  3. Tan AU, Schlosser BJ, Paller AS. A review of diagnosis and treatment of acne in adult female patients. Int J Womens Dermatol. 2018;4(2):56-71. doi:10.1016/j.ijwd.2017.10.006

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