Benzoyl peroxide causes dryness. There is no way around it. And while the drying and peeling effect of benzoyl peroxide is part of what makes it incredible at clearing acne, the dryness it leaves behind must be put in check for the skin to remain balanced and clear. We’ve been on the topic of how to cope with this dryness for a while, but we haven’t addressed specifically what chronic dryness is and what it does to the skin. Once you understand it, you may see more clearly why it is absolutely essential to keep your skin hydrated.

In short, chronic dryness signals the immune system that irritation is occuring. The body responds to chronic dryness as it does to any irritation. The murky process can be tough to understand, even for modern scientists, so let’s take a look at it from another point of view.

dryness and irritation

Our main characters:

Madge: This is YOU. You are the owner of the club.

Dryness: One of benzoyl peroxide’s effects on the skin. Benzoyl peroxide and its effects are necessary for clear skin, but when dryness is allowed to become chronic, irritation will follow.
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Okay, let’s imagine your skin is a dance club. [Yeah...we're going there...why not]

All the cool, laid back skin cells are at the club. The music is smooth, and the cells are groovin’. Everybody’s got rhythm. There seems to be just the right amount of cells on the dance floor all night. It never gets too crowded, and everyone is in a good mood.

Then, in walks Dryness. He always comes to the club. Shortly after he arrives, he starts drinking. Once he starts drinking he loses his rhythm and starts stumbling around the dance floor, bumping into the other cells. They get out of the groove too. Everybody starts to get irritated. Somebody calls the cops. A ton of cops arrive and turn off the music. The beat screeches to a halt, and everybody stops dancing and instead just start standing around. The club stops being fun. It gets ugly in there.

This is an extremely old-fashioned town. [Yeah...we're going even further with this...] The law in this town is that anything that even irritates people is a huge deal. It’s strict. Doing anything that irritates other cells ends up with somebody calling the cops, and the cops respond hardcore every time.

Madge (YOU), the owner of the club, decides that this is getting old. She’s tired of this one irritating drunk guy ruining the night. She makes a new rule that he’s allowed to come, but after 15 minutes, he gets only water to drink.

The moral of the story: Dryness will show up at the party, but he needs to be watched closely and after 15 minutes he needs to be chilled out. In other words, after you apply benzoyl peroxide, you’ll experience dryness. It is always going to be there. But keep an eye on your dryness and after 15 minutes, be sure to apply plenty of moisturizer to make sure the dryness doesn’t become chronic and turn into irritation. It’s a common misconception that dryness is good for acne. It can even seem to make common sense. But you will find that the opposite is true. Hydration prevents irritation, and helps keep you clear. The next time you think to yourself, “I’ll go light on the moisturizer,” think twice. Be generous with moisturizer and your skin will be clearer for it.

(Note: The above story & moral is simplified and dryness is mentioned after applying benzoyl peroxide. However, as many of you note, after washing your face you also experience dryness. Your cleanser does not produce the majority of this dryness, assuming you are using a gentle cleanser. Rather, the dryness is mainly from you being on a benzoyl peroxide regimen. The same advice applies. 15 minutes after applying benzoyl peroxide, be generous with moisturizer and get your skin back into balance.)