Why Should You Avoid Using Over the Counter Creams for the Treatment of Acne and Scars?

There are many over the counter products sold in the offline stores as well as in online word for the topical treatment of acne.

Such products are marketed by big companies earning them billions of dollars. Many established health websites like WebMD and Mayo clinic recommend such products.

Most of these products contain ingredients like benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid which pose serious and life threatening allergic reactions or severe irritation.

According to many well-known health sites, benzoyl peroxide, salicylic acid and sulfur containing products are effective to kill the acne causing bacteria. They maintain that it is ok to use these OTCs on acne but most of these sources fail to mention any adverse reactions or side effects associated with these products.

The Food and Drug Administration confirms harmful reactions to topical treatments that contain benzoyl peroxide, salicylic acid and sulfur.

According the Food and Drug Administration these cases are rare but severe and life threatening.

The real danger is that conditions are not listed on the product labels among the side effects which keep users ignorant of the possible adverse reactions.

Hence, FDA warns that these severe conditions are not mentioned on the product labels and consumers should know what to do in case they occur.

FDA Warning

Source: FDA

Check Out for Benzoyl Peroxide or Salicylic Acid

These two ingredients are included in most topical acne treatment as active ingredients. According to medical doctors and health sites, these ingredients kill the bacteria that cause acne and hence help to get rid of the condition.

According to Drugs.com benzoyl peroxide can cause certain allergic reactions which may need medical attention. The site further advises to check with your doctor immediately if any of the side effects occur.

Drugs.com warning

Burning, blistering, severe redness, swelling, skin rash, painful irritation of skin, difficulty in breathing, fainting, hives, swelling of the eyes, tightness of the throat are some of the reactions caused by benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid.

Drugs.com also mentions that salicylic acid also causes the same conditions of burning, severe redness, swelling, blistering and other serious conditions associated with the use of benzoyl peroxide.

Similar statements are also found on the official website of Medline Plus (National Library of Medicines and National Institute of Health).

Rxlist.com advises to seek emergency medical help if any of the above reactions are seen by using benzoyl peroxide.

NHS reports that more than 1 in 10 people who use Benzoyl peroxide can get skin reactions such as peeling, stinging, itching or burning. The trust further advises to seek medical advice if you see peeling of the skin.

FDA has warned that these very ingredients can cause severe side effects. FDA has already issued a Drug Safety Communication DSC to create awareness among consumers and health professionals about the potential dangers of the products containing these ingredients.

H-acne formulaAccording to the National Library of Medicines and National Institute of Health, topical application of salicylic acid can cause the following side effects and for medical attention should be sought.

  • Skin irritation
  • Stinging
  • Diarrhea
  • Confusion
  • Vomiting
  • Extreme Tiredness
  • Nausea
  • Extreme Weakness
  • Hearing Loss
  • Headache
  • Ringing in the ears
  • Buzzing in the Ears
  • Fast Breathing

The Institute further warns that in case of swallowing salicylic acid or applying too much, you must call your local poison control center.

Which Products Contain Salicylic Acid?

Almost all famous and popular brands of OTCs, gels and solutions use salicylic acid in their products.

Here is a list of the most popular brands using it as an active ingredient.

  • Akurza® Cream
  • Clearasil® Ultra Daily Face Wash
  •  Compound W® products
  • Akurza® Lotion¶
  • DuoPlant® Gel
  • Dr. Scholl’s® products
  • DHS Sal® Shampoo
  • Hydrisalic® Gel
  • Mediplast® pads
  • Ionil® products
  • MG217® products
  • Neutrogena® products
  • Noxzema® products
  • Oxy® Maximum Cleansing Pads
  • Oxy® Clinical Advanced Face Wash
  • Propa pH® Peel-Off Acne Mask
  • Salex® Lotion
  • Stri-Dex® products
  • P&S® Shampoo
  • Salex® Cream
  • Trans-Ver-Sal®¶

Source: National Library of Medicines

Which Brands are Included?

Products which contain the above ingredients and which can cause severe reactions are marketed under different brands. According to FDA these include:

  • Proactive
  • Neutrogena
  • MaxClarity
  • Oxy
  • Ambi
  • Aveeno
  • Clean & Clear

According to the National Library of medicines and National Institute of Health there are more than 40 topical products that contain these substances.

  • Acnigel®
  • Acne-Clear®
  • Benzac®
  • Ben-Aqua®
  • Benzagel®
  • BenzEFoam®
  • Benzashave®
  • Benziq®
  • Brevoxyl®
  • Clear By Design®
  • Clearplex®
  • Clearasil®
  • Clearskin®
  • Clinac BPO®
  • Desquam®
  • Del-Aqua®
  • Ethexderm BPW®
  • Inova®
  • Fostex®
  • Lavoclen®
  • NeoBenz®
  • Loroxide®
  • Neutrogena®
  • Oxy 10®
  • Oscion®
  • Pacnex®
  • Peroderm®
  • PanOxyl®
  • Peroxin A®
  • Seba-Gel®
  • Persa-Gel®
  • Soluclenz®
  • Triaz®
  • Theroxide®
  • Vanoxide®
  • ZoDerm®
  • Zaclir®
  • Zeroxin®

Source: Medline Plus

Brand Names of Combination Products

  • Face Up® (containing Benzoyl Peroxide, Sulfur)
  • Bencort® (containing Benzoyl Peroxide, Hydrocortisone)
  • Inova 8-2® (containing Benzoyl Peroxide, Salicylic Acid)
  • NuOx® (containing Benzoyl Peroxide, Sulfur)
  • Vanoxide-HC® (containing Benzoyl Peroxide, Hydrocortisone
  • Sulfoxyl® (containing Benzoyl Peroxide, Sulfur)

What Forms are They Available?

Most over the counter products are sold as cream hence called over the counter creams OTC. However, products containing this severe condition are not limited to creams. Thy are sold in other forms such as:

  •  Gels
  • Lotions
  • Face Washes
  • Solutions
  • Cleansing Pads
  • Toners
  • Face Scrubs
  • Creams

What Types of Reactions Can Occur?

Reactions can differ from case to case. These can be severe to most severe. According to FDA, 44% or the cases reported were so severe that they require hospitalisation.

Generally the symptoms were like:

  • Throat tightness
  • Face and Lips Swelling
  • Shortness of breath
  • Swelling of Eyes
  • Hives
  • Low blood pressure
  • Fainting
  • Collapse.

Entering the Blood

According to Dr. Segal some OTC products contain that can enter the blood streams and may cause problem if not used as directed. Segal further says that sometimes ingredients in OTCs can interact with medication you are taking. If OTCs are not in a pill form, it does not mean they do not pose any risks.

Alternative to Products Containing Benzoyl Peroxide and Salicylic Acid

Are there any alternatives or substitutes? Most conventional medication contains some type of harmful chemicals. So substituting one type of these OTC for another is substituting one type of harmful ingredient for another.

The best course is to turn to alternative or natural medication. Home remedies, natural treatments, herbal medication and homeopathic remedies are generally considered to be harmless because they do not contain any harmful substances.

However, you must bear in mind that all that is in nature is not safe. If you use any of these alternative home remedies or homeopathic treatments make sure that you use products that do not contain any harmful substances and that these have been manufactured under strict quality control which meet all mandatory regulations and standards.

It is also very important to talk to your doctor before taking any self-treatment to avoid any potential risk.

H-Ace and H-Scars Homeopathic Formula

These products are manufactured by Natural Healing Oils under the GMPs i.e. good manufacturing practices. They are purely homeopathic products that contain only natural ingredients.

They work gently on the skin to help eradicate acne and wipe out scars from the skin.

For more information click here.


  •  http://www.fda.gov/ForConsumers/ConsumerUpdates/ucm402441.htm
  • http://www.drugs.com/sfx/benzoyl-peroxide-topical-side-effects.html
  • http://www.drugs.com/sfx/salicylic-acid-topical-side-effects.html
  • http://www.rxlist.com/benzagel-drug/patient-images-side-effects.htm
  • http://www.nhs.uk/medicine-guides/pages/MedicineSideEffects.aspx?condition=Acne&medicine=benzoyl%20peroxide/clindamycin%20phosphate&preparation=
  • http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/druginfo/meds/a601026.html#brand-name-1

Remove Acne Scars, Keloids & All Scarring.


Back to Top