Chemical compound hydrogen peroxide has been one of the most touted compounds in both health blogs and YouTube videos from around the world due to its multiple uses as an oxidizer, bleaching agent, and antiseptic.
The compound, which is most commonly included in first-aid kits and used to dye hair, has most recently gained traction as a home-remedy in South Africa thanks to the advice of YouTubers, both locally and internationally.
One such YouTuber is Vongai Mapho who hailed the compound’s efficacy in a January 2019 video titled “How I cleared my skin/dark spots, mild acne and hyperpigmentation,” where she shared how she allegedly dealt with hyperpigmentation by using a lower-volume version of peroxide as a toner. She also followed that up with an over-the-counter cream containing trace amounts of the compound.
She did, however, add the following disclaimer underneath her video:
“NOTE: This video is not sponsored. These were my own experimental findings that I practised at home and they ended up working for me. This might work and might not work for you so take what you may and leave what you may as well. Currently, I am so happy with my skin and I couldn’t have it any other way. PS: peroxide burns if you continue use after healing so please as soon as your spots have faded discontinue use.”
The use of peroxide has become such a trusted remedy among amateur skincare fanatics that they are now dispensing their unsolicited advice all over social media despite knowing that those who use the compound are at risk of chemical burns.
According to WebMD, it is also used on the skin to prevent infection of minor cuts, scrapes, and burns.
“It may also be used as a mouth rinse to help remove mucus or to relieve minor mouth irritation (e.g., due to canker/cold sores, gingivitis). This product works by releasing oxygen when it is applied to the affected area. The release of oxygen causes foaming, which helps to remove dead skin and clean the area.”
Some even use peroxide to clean their ears, with some less-than-desirable results.
Using hydrogen peroxide to treat deep wounds, animal bites, or serious burns is, however, not advised.
According to an article written by Anne Marie Helmenstine, Ph.D., peroxide bubbles when it comes into contact with an enzyme called catalase.
“Most cells in the body contain catalase, so when the tissue is damaged, the enzyme is released and becomes available to react with the peroxide. The bubbles you see when you pour hydrogen peroxide on a cut are bubbles of oxygen gas. Blood, cells, and some bacteria (e.g., staphylococcus) contain catalase but it’s not found on the surface of your skin. That’s why pouring peroxide on unbroken skin won’t cause bubbles to form.”
This affects some of the cells working to heal a wound shortly after a cut occurs and may kill some of the good bacteria that are present near the area.
Despite this warning, there are still many advocating for peroxide’s use as a vaginal douche to eliminate odour and as a light bleach to remedy the darkened patches of skin in some areas.
Popular American blog, XO Necole once published a user-generated article chronicling one woman’s regular use of this method.
Peroxide had initially been suggested as a treatment for extreme bacterial vaginosis, a condition which results in a strong odour and through an almost broken-telephone-like series of events, many came to view it as a general treatment for unwanted odour.
According to OB/Gyn and Sexologist Dr Mpume Zenda, “bacterial vaginosis is simply an overgrowth of your normal flora or your normal bacteria and it can obviously give that fishy odour and a bit of discharge. The most common treatments we would use is obviously a simple antibiotic.”
When it comes to odour, Dr Zenda stated that women should not be overly alert about whatever perceived “bad odour” they may feel they have.
Additionally, the doctor stated that you should never opt for this treatment unless advised to do so by a medical professional after an extensive exam and diagnosis.
“Anything that has not been recommended by your healthcare practitioner, I would err on the side of caution. A vagina is very sensitive, the pH balance is also very sensitive. Let us chat to our healthcare providers about it before we use anything that may possibly cause harm.”