These acne body washes are the in-shower equivalent of an appointment with Dr. Pimple Popper


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Photo: Getty Images/F.J. Jiménez

I can wax poetic all day long about the army of beauty products you should use on your face when you’ve got acne. Say the word, and I’ll recite my personal Ted Talk about the ingredients to slather on breakouts, why you should keep your fingers off of your face, and which pimple patches are worth slapping onto your zits. But treating body breakouts is a whole different matter (buttne, anyone?). While the remedy to face acne is a complex situation and depends on the type, the basis of your body zit conquest all starts with a good ol’ acne body wash.

“You really have to depend more on a cleanser [with body acne] than applying topical leave-on products simply because leave-on products don’t come in a volume sufficient to treat areas like your back and chest,” says Loretta Ciraldo, MD, FAAD, board-certified dermatologist and founder of Dr. Loretta skin care. “So body wash becomes very important for body acne, where, unlike on our faces, the wash would be the only thing you’re using to clear acne.” Besides that, certain acne leave-on ingredients include benzoyl peroxide, which she points out would impact your clothing. Hence why a solid body cleanser is pretty much all you need (you know, as opposed to spot treatments or masks or serums).

Also, the skin on your body is different than the skin on your face. “The skin of the body has different sebaceous glands, and the skin on the face is thinner than the skin on the body,” says Purvisha Patel, MD, a board-certified dermatologist and founder of Visha Skincare. “Body washes for acne are especially made for this purpose.”

What to look for in an acne body wash

Similar to the case with facial breakouts, body acne requires diligent exfoliation. “Patients with acne-prone skin are more likely to have clogged sebaceous glands and pores. For this reason, it’s important to use a wash that will unclog and open up the pores by removing any oil, dirt, or built-up dead skin,” says Tobechi Ebede, MD, a New York-based dermatologist. The key to unclogging your pores lies in chemical exfoliants.

Dermatologists’ most often recommend salicylic acid to treat body acne. “Salicylic and glycolic acids are my favorites,” says Dr. Ciraldo. “Both of these ingredients will unglue dead cells from each other to unclog the plugs that start acne in the first place.” Dr. Patel echoes these ingredients, but also suggests looking for tea tree oil (an antibacterial), bakuchiol (promotes cell turnover), or zinc (heals your skin) on the ingredients list too. “Exfoliating washes or washes that kill bacteria and fungus help with body acne,” she says. “Using these helps decrease body breakouts. Those that contain benzoyl peroxide, tea tree oil, or salicylic acid help open pores and decrease bacteria and fungus on the skin.”

Also, sulfur works wonders on facial acne—and can do the same for your body. “Sulfur, usually at 10 percent strength, has natural antibacterial properties and is a keratolytic, so it helps to break down keratin so that the debris in the pores is shed easier,” says Dr. Ebede.

Be cautious if you’re going the benzoyl peroxide route, though. While it’s a tried-and-true ingredient that kills P.acne bacteria, it can bleach towels and clothing when wet, says Dr. Ebede. And for some skin types, it can lead to other skin issues. “I suggest avoiding benzoyl peroxide since it can be too drying and irritating, so acne often gets redder and the drying effect can activate more oil production as a compensation for the over-drying of the ingredient,” says Dr. Ciraldo.

While you’re on the hunt for an acne body wash, there are some ingredients to avoid, too. “If you have body acne and you use products with a lot of edible ingredients such as coconuts, olives, or sugar, they can feed the bacteria and fungus on the skin to make the problem worse,” says Dr. Patel. And though body scrubs can feel satisfying, they can sometimes lead to irritation. “Be cautious with physical exfoliants or scrubs since they can inflame the skin and prolong acne or even incite scarring,” says Dr. Ciraldo. That said, Dr. Ebede says a gentle loofah or soft brush could help open up pores.

Your get-rid-of-body acne plan

Besides the acne body wash you’re slathering on, there are other things to keep in mind while in the shower. First off? Avoid scalding hot water. “Don’t use hot water—use room temperature, tepid water because hot water can make skin redder and get acne more inflamed,” says Dr. Ciraldo. And be sure to cleanse as soon as you’re done working out, because she notes that sweat can aggregate body acne.

When you’re showering, it can also help with those body zits if you leave the product on for a bit rather than wash right off. “Try applying the cleanser onto dry skin and leave it on for at least two minutes before washing off,” she suggests, since otherwise the cleanser will get too diluted to be as effective. As with regular breakouts, though, body acne takes patience and consistency. “Body acne is tough to treat and consistency is the key,” says Dr. Ebede. Just make sure to exfoliate regularly and stick to your routine, ideally with one of these eight expert-approved body acne washes, below.

Photo: Neutrogena

Neutrogena Body Clear Acne Treatment Body Wash with Salicylic Acid, $7

Dr. Ebede recommends this drugstore gem that’s filled with exfoliating salicylic acid to quash those body breakouts.

Photo: PanOxyl

PanOxyl Acne Foaming Wash, $12

If your skin does well with benzoyl peroxide, this body wash has the acne-killing ingredient in it to clear your skin. It’s also available in a four-percent concentration if your skin tends to get dry.

Photo: Marie Veronique

Marie Veronique Shave Prep + Daily Wash, $35

This body wash contains a natural version of salicylic acid—willow bark extract—and gently exfoliating lactic acid to slough off built-up dead skin cells and keep that skin soft and clear. And bonus points for working double duty as a shaving prep.

Photo: Visha Skincare

Visha Skincare Top 2 Toe Body Wash, $25

Get all of the dermatologist-recommended acne-fighting ingredients in one product with this multitasking body wash. You can literally use it from your scalp (to help with dryness) to your toes (including your face) in the shower, and be done for the day.

Photo: Peter Thomas Roth

Peter Thomas Roth Acne Face & Body Scrub, $32

This scrub gently sloughs dead skin off with jojoba beads, and salicylic acid and glycolic acid work together as a one-two punch to exfoliate to help with breakouts.

Photo: Murad

Murad Acne Body Wash, $44

Dermatologist Dr. Murad concocted this gentle yet acne-busting body wash to fight breakouts with salicylic acid (of course), and also keep things soothed and calm with green tea and licorice root extracts.

Photo: Glytone

Glytone Exfoliating Body Wash, $33

This wash relies on superstar exfoliant glycolic acid to clear your pores and shed old skin cells. It’s also good for treating keratosis pilaris, BTW.

Photo: Alba Botanica

Alba Botanica Acnedote Face & Body Scrub, $6

Fight inflammation on your skin—from your face to your body—with this refreshing scrub that combats acne with a combo of salicylic acid and willow bark extract, and keeps your skin feeling soft thanks to aloe vera and chamomile.

BTW, to know where those pesky butt and chest zits came from, derms reveal all of the body acne causes you need to know about (and avoid). And here are their expert-approved secrets on how to prevent acne from even happening in the first place. 

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