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The 11 Best Body Washes for That Stubborn Acne on Your Back & Chest, According to Dermatologists

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Anyone who’s ever struggled with acne knows that pimples can pop up anywhere (and at any age). The ones on your face might be the most visible, but zits, blackheads, and cysts can pop up all over your body, including your neck, back, chest, arms, and even your butt, and facial cleansers sometimes aren’t strong enough to deal with them. “Body acne can be just as frustrating, if not more, than acne on the face,” says Dr. Dendy Engelman, a board-certified cosmetic dermatologist and Mohs surgeon at Shafer Clinic in New York City.

Luckily, you have plenty of acne body wash options to choose from, as long as you know what to look for. The key ingredients? Salicylic acid and benzoyl peroxide.

Salicylic and glycolic acid: Products with salicylic and/or glycolic acid are great for unclogging the pores and clearing out blackheads, says Dr. Calvin Williams, a dermatologist at Essential Dermatology Group. These products are “usually more gentle to the skin than other acne ingredients,” he tells SheKnows. Salicylic acid in particular “is a great ingredient for people with oily and acne-prone skin, and particularly for treating and preventing comedonal acne (blackheads and whiteheads),” board-certified dermatologist Dr. Hadley King tells SheKnows.

Benzoyl peroxide: If you struggle with inflammatory types of acne — think “red papules and/or closed comedones (whiteheads),” Williams says — benzoyl peroxide products are a good choice. As an antibacterial agent, benzoyl peroxide helps reduce acne-causing bacteria like P. acnes and Staph. aureus, King adds, while also preventing and clearing out clogged pores.

When choosing an acne body wash, it’s important to remember that “everyone’s skin is different and has different sensitivities,” Engelman says. “What may work for someone else may not work for others.” So we skipped the sponsored influencer content and went straight to the experts to find out what acne body washes dermatologists love and recommend to their patients.

Best acne body washes recommended by dermatologists, at a glance:

Best overall: La Roche-Posay Effaclar Acne Face Wash with Salicylic Acid

Best for hydration: The Body Acne Wash from Nécessaire

Best for inflammatory acne: CeraVe Acne Foaming Cream Wash

Best for irritated skin: CLn Acne Cleanser

Best budget option: PanOxyl Acne Treatment Bar or PanOxyl Antimicrobial Hydrating Acne Creamy Wash

Best for rough skin: Neutrogena Body Clear Acne Body Wash

Best for exfoliating: Murad Acne Control Body Wash

Best for small bumps: BeautyPie AcidEnzyme Exfoliating Face and Body Cleanser

Best for oily skin: Garnier SkinActive Clean+ Blackhead Eliminating Scrub with Charcoal

Best antioxidant cleanser: Face Reality Antioxidant Scrub

Best for clogged pores: Acne-Clearing Body Wash from Differin 

best overall

La Roche-Posay Effaclar Acne Face Wash with Salicylic Acid

La Roche-Posay’s Effaclar Acne Face Wash with Salicylic Acid is a “consistent product” that’s great for blackheads and whiteheads with “minimal odor or side effects,” says Dr. David Li of Boston Derm Advocate. This gel cleanser also includes lipo-hydroxy acid (LHA) to exfoliate and renew your skin and glycerin for hydration. Overall, Li says this face wash is a “great option for general acne,” with extra bonuses coming from how easy it is to apply and lather and the pleasant “skin-tightening sensation” you get afterwards.

best for hydration

The Body Acne Wash from Nécessaire

Cosmetic dermatologist Dr. Michele Green recommends Nécessaire’s The Body Acne Wash, which contains 2 percent salicylic acid as its active ingredient. The salicylic acid will “exfoliate the skin and clear out clogged pores,” Green says, while glycerin will help moisturize and niacinamide will “restore the skin’s natural moisture barrier.”

best for inflammatory acne

CeraVe Acne Foaming Cream Wash

$13.07 $17.99 27% off

Green recommends CeraVe Acne Foaming Cream Wash if you’re dealing with inflammatory body acne. It’s formulated with 10 percent benzoyl peroxide to “kill acne-causing bacteria and unclog pores,” she says, and it also contains hyaluronic acid, ceramides, and niacinamide “to hydrate the skin and prevent transepidermal water loss.” Dr. Barry Goldman of Barry Goldman Dermatology also flagged those key ingredients, calling the cream wash a “mainstay” that’s well-tolerated by many patients.

best for irritated skin

CLn Acne Cleanser

If you experience irritation with acne cleansers, Williams recommends trying CLn products. “My patients often find them less irritating and more effective than the typical over the counter antimicrobial acne body washes,” he says. CLn’s acne cleanser, with 0.5 percent salicylic acid, is gentle enough to use on your face and body. You can also opt for CLn Body Wash, which doesn’t contain an active acne-fighting ingredient but can keep your skin cleansed and healthy in acne-prone areas.

best budget option

PanOxyl Acne Treatment Bar

Goldman recommends PanOxyl’s acne treatment bar for people with very oily skin, while the brand’s creamy wash is better for those with sensitive skin. Both feature 10 percent benzoyl peroxide and are on the cheaper end of the spectrum — especially the bar, which is less than $10.

best for rough skin

Neutrogena Body Clear Acne Body Wash

Goldman calls Neutrogena’s Body Clear Acne Body Wash a good option for those with a more “rough, bumpy” skin texture. It contains 2 percent salicylic acid to fight breakouts without drying out your skin, and is recommended for use on your back, chest, and shoulders.

best for exfoliating

Murad Acne Control Body Wash

If you can afford something on the pricier side, Goldman notes that Murad Acne Control Body Wash is great for exfoliating. With 1 percent salicylic acid, he describes it as a stronger option and recommends easing into a routine and using it just two to three times a week initially.

best for small bumps

BeautyPie AcidEnzyme Exfoliating Face and Body Cleanser

Ever noticed patches of small, rough bumps on your upper arms, thighs, cheeks, or butt? That’s called keratosis pilaris, a harmless (but, let’s be honest) annoying condition that King says this product is great at addressing (along general with body acne). BeautyPie AcidEnzyme Exfoliating Face and Body Cleanser contains 2% salicylic acid and papaya enzymes to “gently exfoliate,” she says, plus glycerin to moisturize and oat kernal extract to “soothe and support the skin barrier.”

best for oily skin

Garnier SkinActive Clean+ Blackhead Eliminating Scrub with Charcoal

King recommends this 2% salicylic acid product for oily skin on your body as well as your face. The charcoal in Garnier’s SkinActive Clean+ Blackhead Eliminating Scrub offers “gentle physical exfoliation,” she says, “in a base that hydrates the skin with glycerin and supports the skin barrier with jojoba oil and castor oil.”

best antioxidant cleanser

Face Reality Antioxidant Scrub

As the name suggests, this Antioxidant Scrub from Face Reality is “rich in antioxidants,” King says, which help protect your skin from damage and aging. A good option for non-inflamed acne that you can use on both your face and body, this scrub “contains cellulose beads to offer gentle physical exfoliation” and is “sulfate-free for sensitive skin types,” King adds.

best for clogged pores

Differin Acne-Clearing Body Wash

$9.26 $11.99 23% off

“I love and recommend the Acne-Clearing Body Wash from Differin to my patients,” Engelman says. It’s non-comedogenic (meaning it won’t clog your pores) and is formulated with 2% salicylic acid to “gently unclog clogged pores and clear the skin without over-drying,” she says.

How do you use acne body wash?

Different acne body washes have different recommendations, so always make sure to consult the packaging (and your dermatologist!) for the proper way to use a product. In general, though, it’s a good idea to apply your acne body wash product onto wet or damp skin and leave it on for about a minute. Depending on your body wash, leaving it on longer might lead to irritation, Williams explains. If you have drier skin, King recommends washing the body wash off after about 30 seconds.

As for the frequency, Engelman says that “depending on the intensity of the product, acne body washes can be used anywhere from daily to two to three times a week.” Pro tip: use white towels if your acne body wash contains benzoyl peroxide, Goldman says, as it can bleach colored towels if not rinsed properly.

Can you use acne body wash on your face (or vice versa)?

Avoid using acne body wash on your face, Engelman says. “Since the skin on the face is a lot thinner and more sensitive than the skin on the body, facial skincare products are formulated to be more gentle while being just as effective,” she explains. “Body products are not as gentle so if they are used on the face it could lead to even more breakouts and irritation.” In a pinch, it’s OK to use acne face wash on your body, but not the other way around.

Can my acne body wash ever cause acne?

A well-formulated acne body wash (like the ones here!) shouldn’t cause acne, but there are a few ingredients you should avoid if you’re acne-prone. These include comedogenic ingredients like nut and seed oils and Ethylhexyl Palmitate, as these ingredients “are known to lead to acne and irritation,” Engelman says. She also recommends avoiding harsh and fragrant body washes, which can strip your skin of natural oils.

If you’re still noticing acne while using an acne body wash or if you’re experiencing cystic acne (painful pimples that form deep under the skin), set up an appointment with your dermatologist to determine a treatment specifically for your skin type and acne.

Before you go, shop our favorite skincare brands for teens:

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