How To Use Hydrogen Peroxide For Skin: All You Need To Know

Written by Arshiya Syeda

Hydrogen peroxide is a very commonly used antimicrobial and germicidal agent. Thanks to its cleansing and disinfecting properties, it is routinely used for cleaning at homes. It is also a powerful bleaching agent.
But are you aware that hydrogen peroxide is fast becoming popular in skin care too? It is now being included in various skin care products. Why is that? Here, we discuss the benefits hydrogen peroxide can have for your skin and how you can use it. Keep reading.

What Is Hydrogen Peroxide?

Hydrogen peroxide is a colorless liquid used in a wide range of products, including hair dyes, toothpaste, mouthwashes, bathroom cleaners, and stain removers. It is made of two hydrogen atoms and two oxygen atoms. At room temperature, hydrogen peroxide is a stable liquid. It turns brown upon exposure to sun, and hence is always stored in a brown plastic bottle.

Hydrogen peroxide liquid foams or bubbles and breaks down into hydrogen and oxygen. This reaction allows hydrogen peroxide to repair damaged skin cells when applied to a wound. Hydrogen peroxide also has antiseptic effects. In some cases, it prevents the multiplication of bacteria (bacteriostatic effects) and keeps the infection from spreading. Hydrogen peroxide may also have similar effects on certain fungal species that may cause infections.

Benefits Of Using Hydrogen Peroxide For Skin

While hydrogen peroxide may seem to cause a stinging sensation on skin, it also offers certain advantages. Topical application of 1% to 45% hydrogen peroxide may offer a few benefits:

  • Acts As An Antiseptic

Hydrogen peroxide is commonly used as an antiseptic. Concentrations between 1% to 6% of hydrogen peroxide have antimicrobial properties and can be used to debride wounds.

  • Acts As An Effective Disinfectant

Hydrogen peroxide is used in cleaning wounds because it can kill certain types of bacteria and fungal spores. It works as an effective disinfectant.

  • May Lighten Skin Tone

Hydrogen peroxide is a bleaching agent used on hair, teeth, and skin. It helps cause de-pigmentation. Hydrogen peroxide may lighten the skin and reduce acne scars and blemishes when used on skin in recommended concentrations. However, more research is warranted to further understand this phenomenon.

  • May Help Treat Acne

Hydrogen peroxide, in concentrations as little as 1%, may help treat acne. It is said to have similar efficacy as that of benzoyl peroxide. Hydrogen peroxide kills bacteria and prevents their multiplication, and may help clear the infection around acne lesions.

Another combination of 4% hydrogen peroxide, 0.5% salicylic acid, and 4% D-panthenol (into a gel) was shown to be remarkably effective in treating mild to moderate acne vulgaris.

  • May Treat Seborrheic Keratoses (Non-Cancerous)

Research suggests that a 40% concentration of hydrogen peroxide may help treat seborrheic keratoses (a non-cancerous growth on the skin). This procedure is said to cause lesser pigment changes to the skin as compared to cryotherapy.

However, ensure you do not use hydrogen peroxide more than 2 to 4 times per day to prevent skin damage.
These are the few important advantages of hydrogen peroxide for skin. But how can you make use of it?

How To Use Hydrogen Peroxide For Skin?

You should always consult with your doctor or dermatologist before trying hydrogen peroxide for your skin. Remember to always dilute it before application. Ensure you purchase hydrogen peroxide in the required concentrations. The permissible concentration of hydrogen peroxide available varies in all countries.

  • For Skin Lightening

You can dilute hydrogen peroxide with the required amount of water. For example, to achieve a concentration of 3% hydrogen peroxide, you can combine 3 tablespoons of water with 1 tablespoon of hydrogen peroxide. Mix well and use a cotton ball to apply the mixture to your face as a thin layer. Keep away from your eyes, eyebrows, and the hairline to avoid bleaching. Let it sit for 5 minutes before washing it off. Pat your face dry and follow it up with an oil-free moisturizer to keep your skin from drying out.

Other ways to use hydrogen peroxide include:

  • Clean and dry your face. Add 1 tablespoon of baking soda to 1 tablespoon of hydrogen peroxide and mix. Apply this mixture to your face using a cotton ball without touching your eye area, eyebrows, or hairline. Leave it on for 5 minutes and rinse your face with cold water. Pat your face dry and apply a gentle moisturizer. You can apply this combination to your face once a week.
  • Combine 1 tablespoon of aloe vera and 1 to 2 teaspoons of hydrogen peroxide. Mix and apply this mixture to your clean and dry face using a cotton ball. Leave it on for five minutes and rinse it well with cold water. Aloe vera soothes the skin while hydrogen peroxide helps disinfect it. You can use this combination once a week.
  • Combine 5 teaspoons of 3% concentration of hydrogen peroxide with 3 powdered aspirin tablets. Mix well and apply the mixture to your face using a cotton ball or pad. Leave it on for five minutes and rinse thoroughly. Pat your face dry and follow up with a gentle moisturizer. Aspirin, when used topically, may offer anti-inflammatory benefits.

Hydrogen peroxide does have its advantages when used on skin. However, it also may cause some adverse effects.

Side Effects Of Using Hydrogen Peroxide For Skin

The most common side effects of hydrogen peroxide on skin include skin irritation and redness at the site of application. Following are a few other adverse effects as per anecdotal evidence.

  • Higher concentrations of hydrogen peroxide may cause skin burns, blisters, and swelling.
    Improper use of hydrogen peroxide may cause skin loosening and peeling.
  • Hydrogen peroxide may also cause itching, pain, rashes, and a stinging sensation in the area of application.
  • Despite hydrogen peroxide’s effectiveness on cuts and wounds, dermatologists do not recommend using it on open wounds. The chemical may also kill healthy cells around the wound along with the harmful bacteria and fungi. It may kill fibroblast cells (a type of connective tissue) essential for wound healing. This may delay the wound healing process.
  • Hydrogen peroxide, upon coming in contact with the cells in the wound, may create oxygen bubbles that can block blood flow and cause embolisms (obstruction of arteries). An embolism could be fatal.
  • Another risk of using hydrogen peroxide on the skin is a serious allergic reaction to the chemical. This risk increases when higher concentrations of undiluted hydrogen peroxide are used on the skin. Exposure to lower concentrations of hydrogen peroxide causes only transient symptoms like blanching and blistering, whereas exposure to higher concentrations (like 9% to 45%) may lead to epidermal necrosis, erythema, and bullae formation. However, more information is warranted in this regard.

Some less common side effects of hydrogen peroxide on skin include:

  • Cracking or scarring of skin
  • Thinning, weakness, or wasting away of skin

Some other rare side effects include:

  • Swelling of eyelids
  • Painful blisters over the body

Certain minor side effects usually subside by themselves and do not require medical attention. If you plan to use hydrogen peroxide on your skin, consult your healthcare provider prior and understand the precautions to be taken. It may be a good idea to consult with your doctor if any of the following side effects persist:

  • Darkening of skin in the area of application
  • Dryness or peeling of skin
  • Crusting of skin
  • Abnormal lightening of skin
  • Lightening of normal skin color

If you experience any other abnormal symptoms, stop use and consult with your dermatologist immediately.

There is very little information about the long-term effects of using hydrogen peroxide on skin. Research is underway to determine if topical hydrogen peroxide application may increase cancer risk or affect the reproductive system in any way. Speak to your doctor for more details.

Precautions To Take When Using Hydrogen Peroxide On Skin

  • Avoid hydrogen-peroxide-based mixtures from entering your eyes. If you accidentally get hydrogen peroxide into your eyes, thoroughly wash them with cold, running water for at least 20 minutes, and immediately visit a doctor.
  • If the application of hydrogen peroxide causes your skin to itch or sting, wash your skin with lots of water. Follow this by applying an emollient to relieve your symptoms and allow the skin to heal. You can also wash the area with soap and seek immediate medical counsel.
  • A lot of care must be taken when storing hydrogen peroxide at home. You must always keep it in a tightly closed, air-tight container and away from sources of heat, moisture, and ignition.
  • Keep hydrogen peroxide away from materials it is incompatible with, including metals, acids, alkali compounds, combustible materials, oxidizing agents, and other organic materials.
  • Hydrogen peroxide or its products must not be used on children. Always keep hydrogen peroxide at home away from the reach of children.
  • There is not enough data to suggest the safety of hydrogen peroxide in older individuals. Always consult with your dermatologist or doctor before using it for senior citizens.
  • There is insufficient data regarding the side effects of topical application of hydrogen peroxide in pregnant or breastfeeding women. Consult with your doctor prior to use.
  • Always ensure the medications you are taking do not interfere with topically applied hydrogen peroxide. Speak to your doctor regarding the same.

Summary

While high concentrations of hydrogen peroxide are used as powerful disinfectants in household cleaning, lesser concentrations of the chemical can have important topical applications. However, not everyone reacts to hydrogen peroxide the same way.

Applying it to skin may cause irritation, burns, blisters, etc. Always consult with your healthcare provider before using hydrogen peroxide on your skin. With the right methods and precautions, you may be able to reap the benefits.

Frequently Asked Questions

How long does hydrogen peroxide take to lighten dark spots?

Hydrogen peroxide can take anywhere between a few weeks to a year to lighten skin tone, scars, blemishes, acne marks, or dark spots. Hydrogen peroxide is always recommended to be used in low concentrations to ensure safety.

Sources

Articles on StyleCraze are backed by verified information from peer-reviewed and academic research papers, reputed organizations, research institutions, and medical associations to ensure accuracy and relevance. Check out our editorial policy for further details.

  1. Hydrogen peroxide and cutaneous biology: Translational applications benefits and risks
    https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31103570/
  2. Results of a Multicenter Randomized Controlled Trial of a Hydrogen Peroxide-based Kit versus a Benzoyl Peroxide-based Kit in Mild-to-moderate Acne
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5104312/
  3. Combination therapy with hydrogen peroxide (4%) salicylic acid (0.5%) and D-panthenol (4%): efficacy and skin tolerability in common acne vulgaris during the sun exposure period
    https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26875890/
  4. Safety and efficacy of hydrogen peroxide topical solution 40% (w/w)
    in patients with seborrheic keratoses: Results from 2 identical randomized double-blind placebo-controlled phase 3 studies (A-101-SEBK-301/302)
  5. Aspirin in dermatology: Revisited
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4693360/
  6. Hydrogen Peroxide (Topical Application Route)
    https://www.mayoclinic.org/drugs-supplements/hydrogen-peroxide-topical-application-route/precautions/drg-20406699?p=1
  7. Hydrogen Peroxide: A Potential Wound Therapeutic Target?
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/labs/pmc/articles/PMC5768111/
  8. Antifungal effects of peroxidase systems
    https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/5817553/

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Arshiya Syeda is an editor and certified counselor. Ever the lover of the written word, she served on the editorial boards of her school and college newsletters. Writing articles on hairstyles, hair care, and nutrition helped her combine her love for reading, writing, and research. As an editor, she helps her team members deliver polished and meticulously researched content. Arshiya is fluent in English, Urdu, and Hindi and aims to become a multilinguist by learning German and teaching herself American Sign Language (ASL).