Benzoyl Peroxide and Antibiotics for Acne

For decades, doctors have prescribed antibiotics as a core treatment for acne. Today they are still considered a powerful treatment to quell breakouts, however the combination of benzoyl peroxide (BPO) and antibiotics is considered even more effective as well as healthier in the long term. We break down everything you need to know about BPO and antibiotics below:


What the research says:

In a recent study, the Global Alliance to Improve Outcomes in Acne confirmed that topical antibiotics combined with benzoyl peroxide is a highly useful treatment of mild to moderate acne. The same study explains that oral antibiotics should be substituted for topical ones in cases of moderate to severe acne.

How they work together:

Antibiotics systematically target and destroy the Propionibacteria acnes (or P. acnes), which are the bacteria responsible for breakouts. This greatly reduces comedones (white/blackheads) as well as the likelihood of a full blown pimple. However, when just using antibiotics, the strongest bacteria survive and replicate. This creates what’s called “antibiotic resistance” as more and more bacteria are able to withstand the antibiotics.

As we explained in our previous post on benzoyl peroxide, BPO also kills P. acnes. The bacteria can’t survive in an oxygen-rich environment, and by introducing oxygen into the pore, benzoyl peroxide suppresses strains of antibiotic-resistant P. acnes, reducing the chance of breakout.

Tips for using benzoyl peroxide with antibiotics:

  • To help you remember to use both treatments, apply your prescribed antibiotic and benzoyl peroxide around the same time every day.
  • Taking more medication doesn’t mean your acne will go away faster. Do not apply either medication more frequently than prescribed by your dermatologist.
  • Contact your dermatologist immediately if you experience skin irritation or unusual problems while using your prescribed medication.

Bottom Line.

Benzoyl peroxide has been shown to maximize the effectiveness of antibiotics, the combination of the two treatments proving superior efficacy to either product when used alone. If you’re suffering from more than the occasional pimple, we suggest consulting with a dermatologist to determine if a combination of antibiotics and benzoyl peroxide might be the optimal treatment for you.

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  1. Topical Benzoyl Peroxide and Antibiotic Combinations. Rep. N.p.: University of Massachusetts Medical School, 2012. Letters to the Editor: Topical Antibiotics and Benzoyl Peroxide for Treatment of Acne – American Family Physician. University of Massachusetts Medical School. Web.<>.
  2. Dutil, Maha. “Benzoyl Peroxide: Enhancing Antibiotic Efficacy in Acne Management.” Medscape Multispecialty, 2010. Web.  <>.
  3. “Antibiotics and Benzoyl Peroxide Topical: MedlinePlus Drug Information.” Medline Plus. U.S. National Library of Medicine, 1 Aug. 2010. Web. <>.
  4. “Benzoyl Peroxide for Acne.”, 09 May 2012. Web. <>.
  5. Thiboutot, Diane, Harald Gollnick, Vincenzo Bettoli, and Brigitte Dréno. “New Insights into the Management of Acne: An Update from the Global Alliance to Improve Outcomes in Acne Group.” Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology 60.5 (2009): S1-S50. Web. <>.


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