If you’re looking for a product that will give you a lighter or more even skin tone, you may have heard that hydrogen peroxide is an effective natural remedy. Some people also extol the virtues of hydrogen peroxide in wound healing and clearing up acne and acne scars. Unfortunately, though, this is one at-home beauty regimen that could harm your skin more than it helps.

Woman washing her face

Uses of Hydrogen Peroxide

Hydrogen peroxide is a chemical compound used in industry and in the home as a bleaching agent. It has traditionally been used as a mild antiseptic to prevent infections in wounds, though many medical experts now say that hydrogen peroxide does more harm than good as an antiseptic because it can damage healthy cells around the wound. Although present in many commercial hair dyes, hydrogen peroxide is not, due to potential negative side effects, recommended for use on large areas of the skin.

Hydrogen Peroxide Warnings

Hydrogen peroxide is sold in a variety of strengths. The type in the familiar brown bottle that's sold over-the-counter for household use is a 3 percent solution. Some industrial solutions are as high as 35 percent. Since household-strength hydrogen peroxide is relatively weak, many are tempted to use stronger solutions for skin lightening. However, hydrogen peroxide should be treated as a poison at higher concentrations because it can be fatal if swallowed. Ingesting lower concentrations of hydrogen peroxide in large quantities can also be hazardous. In addition, high-strength hydrogen peroxide can burn the eyes and skin.

Negative Side Effects

Although proponents of hydrogen peroxide claim it can help with skin issues like dark spots and acne, the possible negative side effects may outweigh the benefits. When applied directly to the skin, household hydrogen peroxide can cause irritation, stinging and redness. You should consult your doctor if the irritation continues. Though rare, some people have a serious allergic reaction to hydrogen peroxide.

Healthy Alternatives

There are several healthy alternatives to hydrogen peroxide when it comes to lightening the skin and hiding scars. Alpha hydroxy acids are natural acids found in citrus fruits and other food substances. They are used to treat aging skin and acne by removing the top layers of dead skin cells. Hydroquinone is an alternative to hydrogen peroxide for lightening skin, though it may cause unwanted skin discoloring for some people. Consult with a dermatologist if you have questions about skin lightening products.