Products which address only some part of the problem are doomed to be insufficient. According to the same review, the most effective regimens for acne are those who treat inflammatory and comedonal acne lesions, combined with antibacterial and retinoid drugs.
Pretty big cocktail. Anyway let’s see what hydrogen peroxide has to offer and if it is useful for acne scars and acne.
Hydrogen peroxide, What is it and how it works
Hydrogen peroxide is a strong oxidizing agent commonly used as a bleach and disinfectant. Humans and many other organisms produce minor quantities of hydrogen peroxide, mainly as part of the immune system.
It is believed that it acts as a signal to the blood white cells, which tend to accumulate in wherever hydrogen peroxide exists. Also, immune cells called phagocytes produce hydrogen peroxide to kill various pathogens. Hydrogen Peroxide can also be formed as a by-product of cellular metabolism. Some alternative medicine prescriptions also include hydrogen peroxide for various diseases and causes.
In general hydrogen peroxide can be used to clean the skin from acne bacteria and other pathogens. It acts as an antiseptic. In that form, it helps kill some of the bacteria that cause and proliferate in your spots.
In some studies, including asthma and acne, scientists have found that in the “damaged” area there is hydrogen peroxide accompanied with increased levels of white blood cells. In one study, patients with acne inflammation were given minocycline hydrochloride orally, which decreased the ability of immune cells to produce hydrogen peroxide and that in turn lead to decreased inflammation.[¹] The absence of hydrogen peroxide in the inflamed lesions lead to reduced inflammation, a fact that contradicts a bit the use of hydrogen peroxide for acne, especially inflammatory.
But what happens in the long run? Is it possible that hydrogen peroxide provides some benefit if you use it for a long time? The answer is complicated, yes and no. Hydrogen peroxide indeed can be beneficial by killing bacteria for example, but at what cost?
As we’ve said before hydrogen is a strong oxidizer for clothes, paper, hair, but also for tissues, organs, and cells. Hydrogen peroxide damages every living thing it touches via Oxidative Stress. This is how it kills pathogens and it does not kill selectively pathogens, it kills everything!
But would you want this stuff running through your veins? I wouldn’t. Hydrogen peroxide is also linked with the proceeds of aging via the damage it causes to mitochondria inside the cells.
Do you see now why our bodies use this chemical with extreme precautions? If you go to an alternative doctor and he or she tells you to take hydrogen peroxide orally or even worse by intravenous injections, think twice before you agree to proceed with this treatment.
Dosing is crucial when using hydrogen peroxide and acne scars
Because HP (hydrogen peroxide) just like many other antiseptics is cytotoxic, large concentrations should be avoided. For example use of 3% hydrogen peroxide is believed to kill fibroblasts, which play an important role in scar formation and wound healing.
When it comes to acne, the concentration of the creams is about 1%. In this concentration, HP is as good and effective as the more famous benzoyl peroxide 4%. In larger concentrations up to 4% you have a small risk of scarring and in very large concentrations above 4%, you have a higher risk of scarring.
HP, when used in minor quantities, has been shown to increase the speed of wound healing, but as the quantity increases the effects are the exact opposite. Scientists haven’t found yet the appropriate dosing to speed up the healing process. 1% is believed to be pretty close though.
Hydrogen peroxide for acne
As we’ve said before HP plays a role in inflammatory acne. Reducing the ability of our immune to produce hydrogen peroxide results in reduced inflammation of acne lesions. This is normal because HP acts as a signal for the immune system.
The great question comes when hydrogen peroxide is used to reduce acne. Because HP works as an antiseptic it seems that it can bring some results. Best results are achieved when using an HP cream together with a retinoid such as adapalene in patients with mild to moderate acne.
Furthermore, HP also has better tolerability profile compared to Benzoyl peroxide accompanied by adapalene. So if you are between benzoyl peroxide and hydrogen peroxide, prefer the second one, it’s usually better for the skin.
Hydrogen peroxide for acne scars
Last but not least is the treatment of acne scars with hydrogen peroxide. I’ll split the section to acne and post acne period.
Hydrogen Peroxide for Acne Scars – While you still have Acne
If you still have acne and looking for ways to avoid scaring good for you, you belong to the minority of highly proactive people. Using Hydrogen peroxide to avoid scaring from acne is still a vague spot though.
On the one side, HP has been shown to reduce healing time, in the correct quantities. But when crossing the limits and overdosing HP can have the exact opposite effects and may cause worse scarring. This limit is not yet established, even the 1% HP cream might be too much, even though it seems to work fine.
In any case the best you could do is to control your diet so you don’t eat foods that trigger inflammation and if your skin can handle the cream cocktail use some pure aloe gel on your spots, aloe acts as an extra anti-inflammatory agent, together with a retinoid cream and a low concentration HP cream you should be ok. In this way, you will avoid scarring as much as possible and you will minimize the negative impact HP might have on your skin.
Hydrogen Peroxide for Acne Scars – Post Acne Period
If you are thinking of using Hydrogen Peroxide to treat scars after you have cleared from acne you should rethink. It is good only as an antiseptic, which is something you don’t need so bad since you are now acne free.
Better tactics would be exfoliating creams, scrubs or some procedure such as microdermabrasion. Overall hydrogen peroxide for acne scars is not what you should look for. Too much pain and too little gain.