Although I prefer to address the "root cause" of acne and provide real solutions to the acne challenge, there are just going to be times when you haven't followed an effective anti-acne dietary regimen or your hormones have gone haywire, and your skin has suffered for it. During those times, please think twice about rushing out to pay a king's (or a queen's) ransom on expensive topical treatments that may take weeks to show improvement to your skin anyway. Worse, many of these products can dry out your skin and cause skin sensitivity, redness, and less-than-appealing peeling.
During those times, reach for humble hydrogen peroxide. Hydrogen Peroxide (H2O2) is a common OTC health care product that has been used for years in homes and hospitals as an antiseptic. The 3% solution is cheap and effective, and you probably already have it next to the rubbing alcohol in your medicine cabinet. The good - no, great - news is that this humble workhorse can fight acne symptoms better than most pricey topical acne treatments, containing harsh ingredients such as benzoyl peroxide, salicylic acid, and sulfur - which, by the way, wins the award for the worst-smelling acne treatment on the market.
Get Clear Skin - 15 Natural Beauty Tips
So Why Does It Work?
Hydrogen peroxide works to clear acne by killing the bacteria on the skin that causes acne and by oxygenating the pores, which helps prevent future pimples by fostering an aerobic ("with oxygen") environment in the skin, in which bacteria cannot live. If you kill the existing bacteria on the skin and prevent new bacteria from taking up residence, you are going to be successful at eliminating your acne problem. A word to the wise, for those that think if a weaker formula is good, then a stronger formula is naturally preferable, please do NOT use 10% or higher H2O2 solutions - they are caustic and can actually burn the skin!
Hydrogen peroxide used in this manner is very effective at killing the bacteria that leads to the inflammation, so that the body can begin healing the acne on its own. Nevertheless, it is intended to be used as an emergency measure after a breakout. Other natural measures, including dietary modifications, adequate sun exposure (I know - it's contrary to what you've had preached at you for years), and strengthening your immune system are much more effective at not only healing existing acne, but in preventing future breakouts. For more information on natural and effective strategies to treat acne, see the link to my detailed article on the subject below.
Caution: Hydrogen peroxide is also the bleaching formula used by many errant "self-serve cosmetologists" to lighten their hair / become a blond. A really unusual shade of orange usually results unless the user is already a true blond. The moral of this lesson is NOT to use hydrogen peroxide on and around your hair and eyebrows unless you really like your hair that shade of orange.
Good Quality H2O2
It's important to use good quality hydrogen peroxide on your skin. The H2O2 you buy at the drug store is of inferior quality, so let's not use it on our faces. Below is a link to a video by Craig Brockie that will show you how to make your own H2O2 from food grade hydrogen peroxide. It's simple and, yes, cheap. Recall my caution about a stronger solution of hydrogen peroxide? Good. Follow the directions carefully to make a 3% solution.
Bonus: You will find many other uses for H2O2 in your personal care routine and in your home.
- Hydrogen Peroxide Therapy -- H2O2 Therapy
Hydrogen peroxide therapy, also known as oxygen therapy, is a simple process of either ingesting or injecting hydrogen peroxide into the body, which in turn releases free radicals of oxygen into the system...
- Hydrogen Peroxide Teeth Whitening Guide
Hydrogen peroxide is a weak acid with oxidizing properties which act like a bleaching agent when used in teeth whitening solutions. It's also often found in tooth pastes, disinfectants, and mouth washes. ...
- Top 10 uses for Hydrogen Peroxide
Remember as a kid when you got scraped and brused and how your mom or dad got the bottle of peroxide out and poured some on the open wound? This may sound crazy, but I liked seeing it foam up. Anybody else do...
- Spa-At-Home: Recipes for Effective Acne Remedies
Here are some basic, yet effective acne-fighting recipes. No outlandish ingredients, no chemicals, no infomercials needed! Incorporate these easy-to-make recipes into your regular facials, and see the results!
- Over the Counter Acne Scar Treatments
As if dealing with years of acne isn't insult enough, many people are left with acne scars from the trauma, leading to continued self-consciousness and embarassment. There are numerous solutions from...
FRANCIS JASON S MIRASOL from PHILIPPINES on September 11, 2017:
wow I'm gonna try that
Lin on June 23, 2014:
Having really bad scares and acne on my face since 4 years now.Can i use hydrogen peroxide direct on skin, after wash it of with my normal face wash??
ratnaveera from Cumbum on July 08, 2013:
Great News for the people suffering from acne. I think it should be more effective economical than any other allopathic and natural treatments. Thanks a lot for sharing this useful information. Voted Up!
Joe from north miami FL on November 16, 2012:
I had no idea clean air could help clear acne
Staci-Barbo7 (author) from North Carolina on July 16, 2012:
The best way to use hydrogen peroxide on the skin is to apply it to the affected area with a Q-tip and leave it.
Anonymous on May 31, 2012:
I just recently started developing horrendous back acne... mind you, I've never had acne in my life, so this was a huge surprise. I've been using H2O2 for the past week, and my acne is practically gone. After going from product to product, using alcohol, practically everything, h2o2 has seriously worked its magic. Thanks science! :)
January Moon from NY, Now Living in Atlanta Ga on May 15, 2012:
After spending a ridiculous amount of money acne treatments, I read an article on natural acne cures and Hydrogen peroxide was one of them, it worked liked a charm and cleared up all my acne scars, I would spend endless about of money on bleaching creams as well, that never worked. Well great hub, voted up.
JuliaC on March 19, 2012:
Great article! :) One question- how long to you leave Hydrogen Peroxide on your pimple for?
sam on February 29, 2012:
Hydrogen peroxide is a miracle!My dad introduced it to me and now am using it to clear acne.so far so good.
shell on September 22, 2011:
when I was 16 I used to wipe my face with rubbing alcohol (gets the dirt off) and then wipe it with peroxide, blott my face with a wash cloth, then wear Clearasil to bed. This worked the best for me. In the morning though I would have to rinse my face free of clearsil, exfoliate with a little buff and some cleanser, then moisturize X2times (because all that can dry out the skin. I have no scars, as sometimes the clearsil can cause a peel, which is mild. Note:Peroxide/Clearsil will dye things, hair, eyebrows, and towels. Be careful
Aling_jeprox on September 15, 2011:
I'm 31yo and a mother of two who's still suffering from acne! I've had acne all my teen years and tried topical rx and rx pills. NONE OF THEM worked! I thought, hydrogen peroxide is a good antiseptic regimen I use for my son's minor "booboo's". I thought Same wonders should work wonders on my acne infested face. So i did, today!! Then I realized, I didn't ask anyone about this. What if it's too strong for m sensitive skin? I've decided to search google and it pulled up this article.
I feel much better now. I'll keep you guys updated on my results :)
Didn't know hydrogen peroxide bleaches hair though.. I'll take orange eyebrows with clear skin though :)
WillSteinmetz on July 11, 2011:
Very interesting hub.
momwhocares on December 01, 2010:
Hydrogen Peroxide will also cause the scarring on your face from the acne to disappear over time.
bojanglesk8 on October 18, 2010:
mylittlejonny on August 18, 2010:
What a neat idea!
James on August 16, 2010:
I got rid of my cold sore completely in 2 days with hydrogene peroxide. It's a miracle!
immab from Long Island, NY! on July 13, 2010:
that's great news! i'll try this out tonight...
acne on chin on June 29, 2010:
great acne blog!!!! really enjoyed reading it. Found out loads of great tips and tricks and info. This miracule acne cure sounds top notch!!!
Kate on June 22, 2010:
I've had to deal with minor (and some more severe) breakouts of acne for about a year and a half now. I just recently went on birth control (2 weeks ago). It's messing with my hormones a lot since I've never had normal hormone levels anyway. So now I have a couple spots on my cheeks. As for popping it before using hydrogen peroxide, I recommend yes. I have a few minor scars from acne but I wear makeup anyway and you cannot even tell. I have a nice chunk out of my top layer of skin from the last flareup I dealt with. I seriously killed this spot...rubbing alcohol, apple cider vinegar, popping...I popped it yesterday and put hydrogen peroxide on and its so much better today...I mean yeah its still visible if you know its there but hey, OH WELL.
I'm much more of a quick solution person than longterm. I can't think longterm right now since my hormones are being screwed with because of the birth control. Do whatever works for you and don't let anyone else tell you its wrong IF IT WORKS. Now if it doesn't work, that's a different story.
We're all different and different methods work for different people. If your diet is key to your acne, great. If a BP regimen works for you, awesome.
For me, hydrogen peroxide works a lot so good luck!
james brettson on June 01, 2010:
i am a 13 year old an i have major body acne. i have tried body wash solutions but they never work!!!!! i am going to try hydrogen peroxide because i hear it is effective and works. i really need something that will do the acne clearing job fast and i hope this is it!
Guy on May 27, 2010:
Just FYI, if you pop your acne this increases the chance of scarring greatly. Even worse, if you pop your acne and then apply Hydrogen Peroxide, then there is almost definitely a chance of scarring, so I wouldn't recommend popping your zits/pimples at all, especially if you use HP as an acne regimen.
anony mouse on April 27, 2010:
I love Hydrogen Peroxide!!!!!!!!!!!
Thanks for the article; very informative.
TS on March 23, 2010:
Neutrogena and Clearasil does nothing for my skin. I have hormonal acne. I get acne each month before my period and it's getting on my nerves. I never had it as a child or a teen. I'm an adult now over thirty and it's happening every month. And every month it scars. My chin is so scarred up now, and I don't wear makeup, but may have to start to hide the dark spots. I don't scratch, pick or bust them with my fingers, I disinfect with alcohol, peroxide, anything I can get my hands on and they still scar. I have two really big bumps under the skin right now and they are so sore. I am going to try the peroxide as the topical acne treatment (Clearasil and another product) has not worked at all. I'm looking for something I can use daily to help prevent the flareups without going on a birth control pill. Any advice?
K Tannahill from Canada on February 24, 2010:
I used Hydrogen peroxide when I had acne - I found it helped calm my skin down. One thing to make sure you do though is use a great moisturizer so your skin doesn't dry out.
E Amundsom on February 14, 2010:
Hydrogen peroxide is a very inexpensive and excellent solution with many applications around the house. Try it on your feet if you have problems with chronic calluses. My teenagers used to use it to bleach streaks in their hair.
hms86 on January 17, 2010:
I had tried countless acne products and none really deliver the results that I desired. However I took the holistic approach and my acne condition improved drastically. The holistic way of treating acne is a way of prevention and prevention is definitely better than cure.
Keith Schroeder from Wisconsin on December 29, 2009:
Excellent article. I like the precautionary advice.
Staci-Barbo7 (author) from North Carolina on September 16, 2009:
Mzoghori, Great advice, especially for weekend warriors and those of us who work out like we all need to!
mzoghori on September 15, 2009:
Prevention is always better than cure, thus i will just give an advice on the natural ways of dealing with and avoiding acne;
Cloth; You should avoid garments made exclusively of Lycra and nylon if you are prone to body acne since some synthetic fabrics can strap the heat and moisture against your skin. This creates a fertile breeding ground for the bacteria that contribute to acne.
Sport equipment may cause acnes to some people or even get their lesions aggravated. The best way to solve this friction related breakout is a good outfit. Make sure your wetsuit isn’t too tight under your arms or your helmet doesn’t slide around your forehead.
Wear as little make-up as possible when exercising.
After exercise shower using medicated exfoliant cleanser, but always be gentle on your skin
Incase you have the acne already, you can use a cream.
wolvie1881 from Canada on September 02, 2009:
Thanx for the informative article. Do you think that hydrogen peroxide is a good answer for back acne, some people call it bacne.
Staci-Barbo7 (author) from North Carolina on July 07, 2009:
JPSO138, thank you for dropping by my Hubs.
Steve, I'm not surprised - I can tell that you value natural alternatives that make us more self-sufficient.
Steve Andrews from Lisbon, Portugal on July 07, 2009:
I never go without hydrogen peroxide and use it for all sorts of things.
JPSO138 from Cebu, Philippines, International on July 04, 2009:
I never know that this is also good for such situation. Great article.
Staci-Barbo7 (author) from North Carolina on June 25, 2009:
Edith, I'd be interested to know your results. With a chronic health symptom like acne, ideally it should be addressed internally at a 'root cause' level for best long-term results, but H2O2 is a wonderful topical help for flare-ups as a short-term solution.
Edith on May 31, 2009:
I'm currently doing an H2O2 treatment internally... (drinking it). I read a lot of good about it, and also heard much good about it from friends who've used it. I also have an acne problem, and I hope it will clear it up. There is a whole website on how to use H2O2, and how to do the treatments: www.drinkh2o2.com
Staci-Barbo7 (author) from North Carolina on May 19, 2009:
Willpower, thank you! I'd love to hear from others who have used the remedy or H2O2 for other practical uses.
Staci-Barbo7 (author) from North Carolina on May 04, 2009:
Jim, yes, the 3% solution is much less harsh than most of the topical tratments on the market. Also, I agree - I'd love to get it advertised in a magazine that targets teens, but with the product's small profit margin and lack of proprietary product rights, it might be difficult to find a sponsor. :D
jim10 from ma on May 01, 2009:
That is a great and much cheaper solution. I'm guessing since it isn't as harsh it also won't dry out your skin like the typical acne treatments found in stores. It is a little depressing that so many great cheap and safe solutions for common problems got tossed to the side when expensive prepackaged treatments get advertised. We just need to get hydrogen peroxide advertised in Teen magazine.
Staci-Barbo7 (author) from North Carolina on April 28, 2009:
Thank you, Noelmix. I appreciate your stopping by.
noelmix on April 26, 2009:
Shalini Kagal from India on April 13, 2009:
I remember my grandmother reaching for the hydrogen peroxide bottle too everytime one of us had a cut and I just loved the way it hissed and bubbled up! It went into our ears too of ever we had an earache - but acne now - oh wow! I must try it on my teenage daughter!
Staci-Barbo7 (author) from North Carolina on April 13, 2009:
Yes, I have found it to be very helpful, too. Our grandparents always used it to help prevent tetanus from setting in after a scrape or cut. Tetanus is a life-threatening infection in the body that can result from even minor cuts to the skin, and it was a serious health threat up until the development of the tetanus vaccine.
LeatherBella from On Your thoughts. on April 10, 2009:
I always also used peroxide on scraped knees and small wounds. worked like a wonder.
willpower123 on March 28, 2009: