white background with skincare products in lower right corner with title stating "Should I Use Benzoyl Peroxide Before or After Moisturizer?"

Should I Use Benzoyl Peroxide Before or After Moisturizer?

Benzoyl peroxide is a topical acne treatment that can be applied one to two times per day. Depending on your skin sensitivity, benzoyl peroxide can be applied before or after moisturizer. Either way, this treatment will still be an effective way to kill acne-causing bacteria. 

Why You Should Apply Benzoyl Peroxide After Moisturizer 

graphic of hand holding acne tube containing benzoyl peroxide

The skin is a delicate network of collagen fibers, structural proteins, and water that work together to form a sturdy skin barrier.

Everything you do in your skin care routine should be geared towards supporting the skin’s barrier.

This is how the skin fights against environmental pollutants and bacterial contamination.

One way to support the skin barrier is to apply moisturizer regularly.

Moisturizers provide hydration and retain water in the skin.

With consistent use, you can strengthen the skin’s barrier and heal inflammation.

The best way to apply moisturizer is on damp skin.

This involves applying moisturizer immediately after washing your face.

This makes it convenient to apply your moisturizer first and then benzoyl peroxide.

This is done for two reasons: For one, you can reap maximum benefits from your moisturizer by applying it immediately after washing.

And two, applying a moisturizer first can create a thin barrier to the benzoyl peroxide.

This helps to decrease the severity of the side effects of this acne treatment.

Side effects can include inflammation, dryness, and flaking. Some may experience itchy skin and persistent redness. Some may even feel a burning sensation after application.

These are signs that the skin is extremely sensitive and not ready to have the benzoyl peroxide applied directly to the skin.

Using a moisturizer first will lessen these side effects significantly.

Not only will applying a moisturizer soothe dry skin, but it will retain water in the skin, increase hydration, and soften skin cells.

This is beneficial so that your skin can adequately absorb the benzoyl peroxide and have it work effectively.

A weakened skin barrier will only cause your skin to become worse if you add harsh treatments to it. Using a moisturizer ensures that you have a strong barrier that can decrease inflammation. 

Should You Apply Acne Treatment Before Moisturizer?

In some cases, you may want to apply an acne treatment before your moisturizer.

For example, some may feel uncomfortable to apply moisturizer on damp skin, so they would rather pat the face dry before proceeding with their skincare routine. In this case, applying benzoyl peroxide on dry skin before moisturizer may be more convenient for you.

Secondly, the acne treatment can have closer contact with the skin and may be able to penetrate more easily when applied before moisturizer. This way, the treatment may be able to work faster, but with more side effects.

It is important to not apply too much acne treatment directly onto the skin. This leads to increased inflammation and may exacerbate your breakouts in the short-term.

It is always better to apply very thin layers of the acne treatment, especially if applying before a moisturizer. 

How Long Should I Wait To Apply Moisturizer After Benzoyl Peroxide?

If you do choose to apply moisturizer after benzoyl peroxide treatment, then it is important to know when to apply the rest of your skincare products.

Once applied, benzoyl peroxide should be left on the skin for a few minutes until it is completely dry.

You need to ensure that skincare products, including acne treatments, are properly absorbed by the skin before applying more products.

The reason for this is that you do not want to risk mixing the benzoyl peroxide with any other skin care product. This can affect its formulation, integrity, pH, and/or efficacy (ability to work).

Therefore, always ensure that the treatment is completely dry before applying moisturizer. 

Should I Use Benzoyl Peroxide Before or After Sunscreen?

Sunscreen is an incredibly important part of your skincare routine.

The sun accounts for a large majority of the aging seen on the face and body.

Being out in the sun for long periods of time exposes your skin to harmful UVA and UVB rays. They damage the DNA, decrease collagen production, destroy structural proteins, and increase inflammation in the skin.

This leads to a weakened skin barrier, excess redness, and worsening of skin conditions like post inflammatory erythema.

When using an acne treatment such as benzoyl peroxide, it is imperative that you apply it strategically as though not to irritate the skin further, especially when it is being exposed to the sun’s rays.

Sunscreen should always be the last step in your skincare routine.

This allows it to come into direct contact with the sun’s rays so that it can either reflect or absorb these rays effectively to protect your skin from the UV rays.

Using a sunscreen underneath acne treatments or any other skincare products can reduce the efficacy of the sunscreen. It may dilute the sunscreen filters, and/or change the pH of the product, making it less effective in UV protection.

Therefore, if using in the morning, benzoyl peroxide should be applied before sunscreen is applied.

The best time to use benzoyl peroxide is at nighttime, when the skin is repairing itself and the treatment can work more effectively. 

The Best Way To Use Benzoyl Peroxide

Follow the steps below to get the most out of your acne treatment at nighttime:

  1. Apply moisturizer on damp skin
  2. Wait a few minutes. Apply benzoyl peroxide on completely dry, moisturized skin. 
  3. Wait a few minutes. Apply any occlusives or barrier-repairing creams. 


Moisturizers – StatPearls – NCBI Bookshelf (nih.gov)

Benzoyl Peroxide – StatPearls – NCBI Bookshelf (nih.gov)

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