An Expert’s Guide To Hydrogen Peroxide Uses For Hair, Skin And Nails

Reviewed by Dr. Sravya C Tipirneni

Dermatologist & Cosmetologist | MBBS, MD, D.V.L., AMPH (ISB)

Written by Sumona BoseSep 16, 2023
An expert’s guide to hydrogen peroxide uses for hair, skin and nails

When it comes to beauty, shifting the focus on ingredients your skin needs can do wonders. More and more women are becoming conscious about skincare ingredients and the benefits they hold - upgrading their beauty routine to becoming result-oriented rather than just ‘feeling good’. One such ingredient that has long been coveted for targeted action is hydrogen peroxide. Relying on the high content of oxygen and water in its chemical makeup, hydrogen peroxide uses range from skin to hair, nails, feet and even teeth. However, it is also a potent ingredient that needs to be used the right way to avoid any harmful side effects, which is why we spoke to a dermatologist about it.

According to Dr. Sravya, “Hydrogen peroxide (H2O2) is a colourless, liquid chemical that occurs naturally. But in the beauty community, it is synthesized in the lab at a fixed concentration - usually between 3 to 9.5%. It has multiple uses for skin, hair nails and teeth as well. However, it has to be used carefully and with a lot of caution, in the right formulation and dilution, to get the best benefit out of it.”

FAQs about hydrogen peroxide

The formula for hydrogen peroxide is H2O2 and it works as a bleaching agent, disinfectant and antiseptic agent. It works by releasing oxygen molecules to the affected area - removing debris, dead skin cells or by lightening the pigment cells. This is the main principle of the usage of hydrogen peroxide in various applications. Let’s take a closer look at how hydrogen peroxide serves its purposes in beauty.


1. Hydrogen Peroxide for skin

FAQs about hydrogen peroxide

Hydrogen peroxide uses for skin can be divided into two categories:

1. Aesthetic uses:

For beautification, hydrogen peroxide helps eliminate skin discolouration, brown spots, acne scars and blemishes - only when used very carefully in the right diluted concentration.

2. Clinical:

Disinfection of open wounds with the release of oxygen in the form of froth or foam to remove dead skin cells and clean the affected area (debridement). This helps prevent further infection.

The use of hydrogen peroxide for skin should take your skin type into consideration. According to Dr. Sravya, it does not suit dry skin at all and can cause a lot of irritation, peeling, flaking, scaling and stinging. So, acne and skin-lightening on dry skin should be very carefully done.


2. Hydrogen Peroxide for hair

FAQs about hydrogen peroxide

Hydrogen peroxide is especially popular with hair colour enthusiasts since it’s mostly used to lighten and bleach hair. Dark or brown hair that needs to take up a different colour is treated with it as a bleaching agent. However, it does tend to strip hair of its natural oils - leading to hair becoming extremely dry and straw-like due to loss of lustre and natural hydration. To remedy this, you are recommended to take deep conditioning treatments (keratin or cysteine) in order to re-infuse the nourishment and retain the natural shine and hydration of your hair. You have to be very careful as far as the usage of hydrogen peroxide for hair in any concentration is concerned.


3. Hydrogen peroxide for nails

FAQs about hydrogen peroxide

Hydrogen peroxide for infected nails can be used by people with discoloured nails - either green, grey or yellow. This usually happens because of nail fungus, which can be of different types. Since hydrogen peroxide has oxidative power, it destroys the fungus found on the nails by increasing the oxygen levels, bringing them back to their normal healthy state, and thereby, normal colour.

Dr. Sravya revealed, “Usually I do advise a lot of my patients to simply rub a cotton ball soaked with hydrogen peroxide over the nails once or twice a week and see the difference. In people with chronic fungal infections or chronic diabetics, as long as they do not have open wounds on their feet, I usually ask them to do this regimen for preventing the formation of nail fungus as well.”


4. Hydrogen peroxide for feet

FAQs about hydrogen peroxide

Hydrogen peroxide can be used to relieve issues like cracked heels, corns, calluses, and dead skin build-up. Because of its softening property, hydrogen peroxide helps in softening cracked heels and pressure calluses, especially for people who are active physically or play sports. Calluses are formed as a defense mechanism of the body where it builds up dead skin layers on the pressure points of the feet.

Dr. Sravya recommends, “H2O2 can easily help in softening calluses and cracked heels when you soak it in a bucket full of water infused with the compound. You can do this as long as you don’t have any other open wounds or cuts on your feet. You have to be careful with it and the soak has to be followed by proper, scrubbing, cleansing and moisturising with a very thick foot cream.”


5. Hydrogen peroxide for teeth

FAQs about hydrogen peroxide

Hydrogen peroxide is often used as a remedy to whiten teeth. Diluted H2O2 solutions or in the form of a paste can help remove stains from your teeth caused by foods and beverages. However, misuse of hydrogen peroxide for teeth can have multiple side effects, including permanent damage to the enamel. Make sure to be cautious while using hydrogen peroxide on the skin and only do so after a recommendation from a medical expert.


6. Side Effects and precautions

FAQs about hydrogen peroxide

Hydrogen peroxide has its own benefits as well as side-effects. Since it’s a very strong oxidising agent, it should not be consumed in any form. It is also a mild irritant - you always have to do a trial or a patch test and see if you are allergic to H2O2 or any component used for its preservation. Do proper research on what kind of dilution suits your skin.

Hydrogen peroxide can make your skin very dry, rough and flaky. This can be due to contact dermatitis as a result of ignoring non-medical advice and overdoing it. It should also not go near the eye area, especially when bleaching hair, since the fumes can harm your eyes. Overusing it can dry out the skin, irreversibly damage your hair and the fumes can also put your lungs at risk.


7. FAQs about hydrogen peroxide

FAQs about hydrogen peroxide

Q. What is the difference between hydrogen peroxide and benzoyl peroxide?

A. Benzoyl peroxide has a different formula to hydrogen peroxide and is not water-soluble. Hydrogen peroxide is useful where film formation is not an important characteristic - such as bleaching hair and disinfecting small wounds. Benzoyl peroxide, on the other hand, forms a film and makes it useful in treating acne, blemishes, age spots, scars and drying up pus-filled pimples. Benzoyl peroxide is also an important remedy prescribed for pustular acne, truncal acne, back acne and severe grade 3 and grade 4 acne. It has a perfect drying up reaction and people respond really well to it.

Q. Can hydrogen peroxide whiten teeth?

A. When used carefully, and in the right concentration, hydrogen peroxide can be used to whiten teeth. Make sure you are consulting an expert before using this compound for your teeth. Improper use can lead to long-lasting, sometimes expensive, tooth damage. So make sure to always use it extra cautiously.

Q. How do you dilute hydrogen peroxide?

A. The best way to dilute hydrogen peroxide is to do it with water - its concentration can be brought down significantly and safely this way. However, it is recommended to purchase hydrogen peroxide from drugstores in order to always use safe products that have been formulated in a lab with care.

Sumona Bose

Written by

Sumona Bose is a writer, skincare junkie and a self-professed makeup connoisseur. Equipped with a Master's degree in Fashion Management and over 3 years of experience writing in the beauty and fashion space, her passion for learning new things has no bounds. Working closely with dermatologists, beauty excerpts, makeup artists and hairstylists, she brings you the best of all things beauty. From trending skincare ingredients to makeup looks that help you slay, she manages to bring something new (and vital!) to our readers every single time. Her hobbies include home workouts, watching foreign films and binge-watching makeover shows!


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