Benzoyl peroxide may be one of the most popular ingredients found in over-the-counter products for treating acne, but the bacteria-killing topical does come with a few drawbacks. In addition to potentially causing dryness, redness, and peeling (particularly in those with sensitive skin), benzoyl peroxide can also stain your clothes, towels, and pillowcases when used in the form of a spot treatment (or any type of cream or lotion that stays on your skin). That's why, when it comes to treating body acne, you might prefer to start with one of the best benzoyl peroxide body washes, which tend to be gentler on skin since they’re washed off (though the percentage of BP you should choose will depend on your skin type, and on which part of your body you’ll be using it on).
"Benzoyl peroxide releases oxygen onto the skin to target acne-causing bacteria, and it works to unclog pores to both prevent and treat acne," dermatologist Tiffany Libby tells Bustle of what makes the ingredient so effective. Though benzoyl peroxide body washes do exist, you can even use a traditional face wash on your body — just be sure to pay attention to the percentage of the active ingredient. "For body acne, you can use up to 10% benzoyl peroxide," Dr. Libby says, adding that for the face or for dry or sensitive skin types, starting with a 4% formulation is ideal. "Studies show that lower percentages at even 2.5% to 5% are just as effective as their 10% counterparts but offer less irritation and dryness that is more often seen with higher percentages," she explains. Dr. Libby also recommends avoiding any washes or cleansers with coconut oil listed as an ingredient, as it can clog the pores and cause more acne. Instead, aim for something that contains hydrating ingredients, such as glycerin or hyaluronic acid.
Dr. Tiffany Libby, M.D., is a board-certified dermatologist with Brown Dermatology in Rhode Island. She is also the director of Mohs Micrographic and Dermatologic Surgery. Dr. Libby specializes in cosmetic surgery, injectables, chemical peels, and lasers, in addition to other dermatological treatments.
How To Use Benzoyl Peroxide Body Wash
Using a benzoyl peroxide body wash is pretty straightforward, but there are a few key rules to follow to get the best results. First, you'll want to apply your benzoyl peroxide cleanser after your usual body wash, and only to the areas where you tend to breakout (Dr. Libby notes that for most, this will be the chest, back, buttocks, and thighs). And most importantly, give the benzoyl peroxide a chance to work. "Lather on the benzoyl peroxide cleanser and let it sit on the skin for one to five minutes depending on your skin's needs and tolerance," Dr. Libby says. "Use it no more than once daily if you are actively treating acne breakouts, and if you are using it as maintenance and prevention, you can use it two to four times a week," she advises.
Other Ways To Prevent Body Acne
If you're experiencing body acne and you're not sure what could be causing it, Dr. Libby suggests taking a closer look at your daily routine. The biggest mistakes she sees patients making are not showering after a workout and not moisturizing oily or acne-prone skin. "Exercise clothes are often tight fitting, and not showering after a workout can trap sweat, oil, and bacteria," Dr. Libby says of the importance of cleansing your skin right after a workout. Additionally, Dr. Libby says that because so many topical acne treatments dry out the skin, many patients think that in order to effectively treat their acne, they need to skip out on the moisturizer. "This is simply not true," she says. "A dry, irritated skin barrier will be more prone to breakouts," she explains. "Instead, you should seek to keep your skin barrier well moisturized and balanced to prevent further acne breakout formation." You can find some great, acne-safe body moisturizers here; or, you can check out this guide to the best moisturizers to use with benzoyl peroxide.
Shop The Best Benzoyl Peroxide Body Washes
In a hurry? Here are the best benzoyl peroxide body washes:
- The Overall Best: PanOxyl Acne Creamy Wash Benzoyl Peroxide 4% Daily Control
- Best Benzoyl Peroxide Body Wash For Dry Skin: CeraVe Acne Foaming Cream Cleanser
- Best Benzoyl Peroxide Body Wash That Absorbs Excess Oil: Differin Daily Deep Cleanser
- Strongest Benzoyl Peroxide Body Wash: Replenix BP 10% Acne Wash + Aloe Vera
- Best Benzoyl Peroxide Bar Soap: 1111 MedCo 10% Benzoyl Peroxide Cleansing Bar
1. The Dermatologist’s Pick
"My patients love PanOxyl Acne Creamy Wash Benzoyl Peroxide 4%," shares Dr. Libby of her go-to recommendation. "It has hydrating glycerin and dimethicone, so it will help prevent and treat acne breakouts, even in those with sensitive skin types," she says. The lower, 4% concentration means that you can use this as a traditional cleanser, too, to help with any breakouts on your face. But if you find that your body acne is a little more stubborn, the brand also makes a 10% benzoyl peroxide wash.
Relevant Review: "A very nice BP wash that isn't too strong or drying. The 4% works well for my face and body. I have sensitive skin, but this has not caused me any irritation. It helps quickly clear up any pimples I get. I have bought this a few times now, and it still works well for me."
2. Best Benzoyl Peroxide Body Wash For Dry Skin
An acne treatment that leads to dryness isn't exactly ideal for someone who’s already prone to dry skin in the first place. That's why CeraVe's Acne Foaming Cream Cleanser pairs a lower concentration of benzoyl peroxide with skin-calming and moisturizing ingredients. As 4% benzoyl peroxide gets to work killing acne-causing bacteria, hyaluronic acid, niacinamide, and three ceramides help support and strengthen your skin’s natural moisture barrier. In addition to being soothing, niacinamide also has anti-inflammatory properties that can further help treat acne, and it can even help fade unwanted marks from past breakouts.
Relevant Review: "[...] Finally found something my teenage son is willing to use on his back and face AND that works! No scent, easy, fast, foaming, and affordable. Overnight he saw an improvement in the acne on his back/shoulders with just one use.”
3. Best Benzoyl Peroxide Body Wash For Oily Skin
For a little extra benzoyl peroxide boost, there's this Differin Daily Deep Cleanser. Using a 5% concentration of benzoyl peroxide to treat face and body breakouts, the dual-action cleanser can also help keep excess oil at bay. Though most benzoyl peroxide cleansers will be beneficial for oily skin, the micronized formula takes things to the next level by working deep in the pores to absorb excess oil, while also restoring moisture to minimize irritation without contributing to clogged pores further down the line.
Relevant Review: "I’ve been using this wash, the Differin gel, and the Differin oil absorbing moisturizer with sunscreen for a few months now. THIS WASH IS AMAZING!! I have switched fully over to it and don’t use anything else. It’s sensitive enough not to cause a rash but had really helped with the acne. Great on chest acne too. [...]”
4. The Strongest Benzoyl Peroxide Body Wash
It's always best to start with a lower concentration of an active ingredient to see how your skin reacts. But if you've worked your way up to a 5% concentration of benzoyl peroxide without seeing much improvement with your body acne, you can try Replenix's BP 10% Acne Wash + Aloe Vera as a next step. Though the soap-free cleanser contains 10% benzoyl peroxide, it has been formulated to help keep your skin's pH balanced by using aloe vera to soothe any redness or irritation you may be experiencing.
Relevant Review: "My dermatologist had me buy this and it’s helped my acne a lot, especially on my chest & back! She recommends lathering it on your face/body at the beginning of your shower and then leaving it while you shave, wash your body, etc. I have sensitive skin, but as long as you moisturize every morning/night your skin will not be too dry.”
5. Best Benzoyl Peroxide Bar Soap
Though not technically a body wash, this bar soap can still be used in the shower as an all-over treatment for acne. 111 MedCo’s 10% Benzoyl Peroxide Cleansing Bar uses the maximum concentration of benzoyl peroxide that’s allowed in over-the-counter products. The brand says that their bar soap will last up to six times longer than a liquid cleanser, and it's an easy option for traveling as you don't have to worry about spills or TSA restrictions.
Relevant Review: "No strong scent, truly cured my bacne. I have naturally oily skin so no drying out for me personally. Better than what the dermo prescribed me.”
Dr. Tiffany Libby, M.D., board-certified dermatologist practicing at Brown Dermatology