In a recent consumer warning, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) said over-the-counter acne products that contain benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid can cause serious and potentially life-threatening allergic reactions or severe irritation.
These products come in a variety of forms: gels, lotions, facial washes, cleansing pads, and facial scrubs. The FDA received 131 reports of serious allergic reactions from these products, according to Health Hub (of the Cleveland Clinic). Consumers and manufacturers made the reports between 1969 and January 2013. Those reports included such severe symptoms as
- Throat tightness
- Shortness of breath
- Low blood pressure
Benzoyl peroxide, an antibiotic, removes bacteria from the skin. Bacteria do not become resistant to benzoyl peroxide even if it is used frequently, Health Hub says. Benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid can irritate the skin and produce redness, itching, burning, dryness, peeling and slight swelling, says dermatologist Carol Slover. Because all acne medications can cause irritation to the skin, Dr. Slover says consumers need to distinguish between ordinary side effects and serious allergic reactions, according to Health Hub. The FDA warning concerns the serious allergic reactions.
The FDA said about 42 percent of users who had reactions to the products experienced them within minutes to a day after using the products. Though no deaths were reported, 44 percent of the people who had severe reactions required hospitalization, according to Health Hub.
The FDA advises consumers to first test new acne products on a small area of their skin for three days before using the product more widely. The FDA will encourage manufacturers to update their labels to include such precautions, Law360 reports.