Why Does Hydrogen Peroxide Turn Skin White?

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Skincare is a hot topic in today’s world. New products are always introduced to the market, and people are discovering new ways to incorporate them into their routine. However, before using any product, it’s wise to know its ingredients and how they react to the skin. Hydrogen peroxide is an ingredient used in some skincare products. But why does hydrogen peroxide turn the skin white?

Hydrogen peroxide causes capillary embolism, a process in which blood doesn’t flow to the capillaries temporarily. So, the skin turns white. This compound is an oxidizer. Therefore, it works the same way as bleach, only that the effects are milder. It decomposes to make water and a free oxygen atom, which reacts with the skin.

Read more about this popular ingredient in this guide.

Hydrogen peroxide is a compound containing water and a single oxygen molecule. When it decomposes, it loses the oxygen molecule, acting like bleach and disinfectant. Through this process, free radicals are released, which attack pathogens and germs.

You may experience weaker or stronger effects depending on the hydrogen peroxide concentration. But generally, hydrogen peroxide used for medical purposes has a 3% concentration and 97% water. You can get higher concentrations, but it is not advisable as they can be toxic. Household cleaners mainly have a 3-9% concentration of hydrogen peroxide.

What is Hydrogen Peroxide?

Hydrogen Peroxide Uses on Skin

Hydrogen peroxide can kill germs and pathogens easily. People used it to treat acne, wounds, and dark spots in the past. But nowadays, it is not recommended as a safe skincare ingredient because of its side effects and toxicity.

However, those using it claim it helps in:

  • Skin lightening: Hydrogen peroxide acts the same way as bleach. So, it helps lighten dark areas on the skin caused by acne, hormonal changes, scars, sun damage, and medications. But, using hydrogen peroxide on your skin increases the risk of breakdown and irritation.
  • Treatment of wounds: Since hydrogen peroxide is a germ-fighting compound, people use it on cuts and scrapes. It helps clean and disinfect surfaces. Sure, this sounds helpful. But there are some reasons you may not want to use it on your skin. Various studies suggest that hydrogen peroxide can worsen wounds and blister the skin.
  • Acne treatment: Acne is a common skin condition affecting both men and women. It affects up to 50 million Americans. Acne occurs when dirt and bacteria build up on the skin, clogging the pores. Hydrogen peroxide kills these germs and bacteria, thus helping treat acne. However, the risks are greater than the benefits. Applying hydrogen peroxide to the skin is highly discouraged as it can irritate the skin and cause inflammation, which worsens the symptoms.

Why Does Hydrogen Peroxide Turn Skin White?

When you apply hydrogen peroxide to the skin, you may notice the skin turning whiter. That is because it works using a process called capillary embolism. This process temporarily prevents blood flow to the capillaries, which turns the skin white.

Therefore, the skin area that comes in contact with this compound will be whiter than the rest, but only for a short time. When blood begins flowing back to the capillaries, the white color fades, and the skin returns to normal.

Side Effects of Hydrogen Peroxide on the Skin

Like any other skincare ingredient, Hydrogen peroxide has side effects, which you may experience even in low dosages. Higher concentrations of hydrogen peroxide are completely discouraged. If you apply hydrogen peroxide on your skin, you may experience blistering or burning, even if you use the 3% medical grade.

Some of its potential side effects include:

  • Redness
  • Skin burning and itching
  • Skin peeling
  • Stinging
  • Rashes

How Long Does the Skin Stay White After Hydrogen Peroxide?

The exact time depends on the concentration and the period it sits on your skin. Of course, if the concentrations are higher or you let it sit for a long time, the white effect will last longer. However, don’t worry since the skin returns to its normal color once the blood starts flowing back to the capillary. The white effect is temporary and should fade within minutes of use.

Does Hydrogen Peroxide Bleach Skin Permanently?

Hydrogen peroxide isn’t a permanent bleach. Therefore, its effects will subside after some time. So, you shouldn’t use it as a skin whitener, as it can kill normal skin cells or cause injuries. Remember that the capillary embolism process is only temporary. Once the effects are over, your skin will return to its original color. So, it is a bad idea to use hydrogen peroxide daily on the skin. Consider other safe products if you want to whiten or brighten your skin.


Why Does Hydrogen Peroxide Turn Skin White?

Is hydrogen peroxide safe for skin?

No. Hydrogen peroxide isn’t safe on the skin, especially the face. It may cause irritation, burning, and other unwanted effects. Plus, if you have an existing skin condition, it can worsen. Therefore, please avoid using it if you can.

Does hydrogen peroxide cause permanent damage?

Hydrogen peroxide can cause irritation, blisters, ulcers, and burns. While most of these side effects will resolve with time, some may be permanent. For instance, it can cause permanent scarring if used in high concentrations. For this reason, it’s not recommended to use it daily or for a long time.

Can I put hydrogen peroxide on my pimple?

Yes, you can. But you shouldn’t. Some people use hydrogen peroxide to treat pimples as it has antibacterial and drying properties. But, there’s no evidence proving that it can clear acne. In fact, it may worsen acne and acne scarring.

Does hydrogen peroxide clear dark spots?

Hydrogen peroxide can help fade dark spots. However, it isn’t recommended as it is a chemical and can cause a reaction. But if you still want to use it, mix one teaspoon of hydrogen peroxide with a teaspoon of milk. And apply the mixture to the dark spots. Leave it for 15 minutes, then rinse with lukewarm water and moisturize.

Can hydrogen peroxide irritate the skin?

Yes. This is a common side effect reported by 95% of the people who’ve used this product. How severe the irritation is depends on your skin. But generally, it is severe in people with sensitive and acne-prone skin. Sometimes the itchiness can be unbearable, forcing you to seek medical assistance.

Final Thoughts: Why Does Hydrogen Peroxide Turn Skin White?

Hydrogen peroxide whitens the skin due to a chemical reaction that occurs when it is applied to the skin. But this is temporary, and the skin should return to its natural shade. However, hydrogen peroxide for skin whitening is highly discouraged as it may have severe side effects.

Judy Rose

Hi, it’s Judy!

I’m a passionate skincare specialist and writer. I have more than 7 years of experience as a beauty, fashion, and lifestyle writer and editor, and I’m extremely passionate about what I do.