The Pros and Cons of Benzoyl Peroxide for Baby Acne
Benzoyl peroxide is the most commonly used treatment for disinfecting pimples. A series of clinical tests show that it kills about 99% of acne bacteria in about 48 hours.
While this common chemical treatment is a terrific disinfectant, it has some serious limitations from a cosmetic point of view. Benzoyl peroxide does not "get the red out." It's not anti-inflammatory. It does not correct the baby's transient hormonal imbalance that is causing the acne, and it does not treat whiteheads and blackheads.
Benzoyl peroxide just stops the bacteria that can clog more pores. Since the infant's skin is growing rapidly, it will naturally open up clogged pores if the skin infection is checked.
Getting the Right Strength Is Essential
This product is available in prescription and non-prescription strengths from 2.5 to 20%. The 2.5% strength most doctors recommend for babies is an over-the-counter treatment, and finding the right strength in a product that stays on the skin is the key to success.
Stronger products can dry out baby's skin, creating tiny passages for other kinds of infection. That is why it is keenly important to get the right strength product. It's also why it is essential to test first by using just a little dab on the back of baby's arm and waiting 24 hours to see if there are any adverse reactions.
Some Benzoyl Products That Work, and Some That Don't
With those precautions in mind, it's not hard to find a product that works, although prices vary by nearly 800%. Here are some appropriate (and inappropriate) products parents can easily find.
- Jan Marini Skin Research Benzoyl Peroxide 2.5% Wash would seem to be the right product (even if it is pricey at $30 a bottle) except for one thing. It's a wash. The benzoyl peroxide goes right down the drain without staying on the skin long enough to do any good.
- Neutrogena On the Spot Acne Treatment is by far the least expensive of any commonly offered over-the-counter benzoyl peroxide products in a 2.5% strength. It contains clay, so it can dry out skin, but it should be OK for treating single pimples, just not large areas of baby's skin.
- Paula's Choice CLEAR Acne Fighting Treatment 2.5% Benzoyl Peroxide offers the right strength in a product that stays on the skin. The 2.25-oz container retailing for $16.95 is probably more than you will need before blemishes go away.
- Proactive Solution Renewing Cleanser is problematic for two reasons. It can cause eye irritation, and even though it is in the recommended 2.5% strength, it's a wash, and the antibacterial part of the produce goes right down the drain.
- Skin Medica Acne Care Treatment Lotion also offers the right strength in a formula that stays on baby's skin. The only cause for concern is the tiny amount of witchhazel used to give the product a nice scent, so be sure to do a test spot first. The willow bark in this product will "get the red out" and also stop itching and inflammation. At $50 for 2 oz., this product is pricey, so it would not be the first I would try.
Want to read the medical literature on benzoyl peroxide for babies? Here are two places to start:
- Katsambas AD, Katoulis AC, Stavropoulos P. Acne neonatorum: a study of 22 cases. Int J Dermatol. 1999;38(2):128–130.
- O'Connor NR, McLaughlin MR, Ham P. Newborn skin: Part I. Common rashes. Am Fam Physician. 2008 Jan 1;77(1):47-52. Review.