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Acne is a common skin condition that affects people of all ages. It develops when the pores in the skin become clogged. Bacteria then cause swelling, which leads to the growth of a pimple.

Acne is not a serious health condition. However, it can leave scars and significantly affect a person’s self-esteem and body image.

In this article, we look at which ingredients help treat acne, and include a list of acne body wash products.

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According to the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases, the most common causes of acne include:

  • Hormones: An increase of the hormone androgen, which is responsible for the biological characteristics of males, can enlarge the sebaceous glands, which make sebum. This increases sebum production and the potential for clogged pores or bacteria buildup, which can trigger acne. Hormonal changes due to pregnancy can also result in acne.
  • Family history: There is a genetic disposition that can lead to people having acne if their parents had it.
  • Medications: Certain medications containing hormones, as well as other drugs, such as lithium, can cause acne.
  • Age: Acne is more common in teenagers due to hormonal changes taking place during puberty.

Moreover, certain foods, allergy triggers, and lifestyle changes can aggravate acne.

A 2019 study that looked at treating truncal acne, which affects the back, chest, or shoulders, suggests that treatments for face acne can also work on back acne. This is because the process that triggers acne in both areas may be similar.

However, the study authors point out some factors to consider:

  • Back acne remains largely underdiagnosed, which leads to more scarring, pigmentation, and worsening of the acne.
  • Back acne is treatable with topical or oral isotretinoin. However, there is a risk of antibiotic resistance due to the back’s large surface area.
  • Prolonged acne on the back can lead to great discomfort due to friction with clothing. It can also cause bedding discoloration, both from pustules and topical products.

There is no one-size-fits-all treatment for acne. Acne can be mild or severe, depending on the individual.

A good skin care regimen may help prevent breakouts and keep acne from worsening. People should also avoid picking their skin or popping pimples, as this can lead to scarring.

A person can treat mild acne cases with over-the-counter (OTC) products, such as medicated face and body washes.

Common anti-acne ingredients present in body washes include:

Individuals with acne should avoid:

  • Physical exfoliants: Scrubbing the skin can worsen acne, particularly in people with sensitive skin.
  • Frequent touching of the skin: Scratching or popping pimples can lead to scarring. Touching the skin also increases the likelihood of transferring bacteria from the hands onto the skin.
  • Sun exposure: Many anti-acne medications can increase a person’s risk of sunburn.
  • Skin-clogging products: People should opt for noncomedogenic makeup and skin care products. This type of product should not clog pores. However, there is no guarantee that using noncomedogenic products will not cause breakouts.
  • Fragrance and essential oils: A 2020 study found that fragrance and essential oil compounds are unnecessary in skin care products. They can lead to contact dermatitis and redness and potentially aggravate skin conditions, such as acne.
  • Sulfates: These are cleansing agents that can be too harsh on the skin. They include sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) and other derivative forms. These types of sulfates and surfactants can lead to irritation, even in the deeper layers of the skin.

Learn about some of the best sunscreens for oily skin here.

If a person has mild acne and very sensitive skin, they may want to avoid medicated acne products, as these could leave their skin feeling dry and irritated. Sometimes, a product with few or no medicated ingredients is the best option for individuals with reactive skin.

It is also advisable to avoid anything that can trigger irritation or aggravation of skin conditions. Using gentle, hydrating, and moisturizing products without fragrance and other irritants may help alleviate the condition.

A dermatologist can help a person find a suitable OTC acne product.

MNT does not rank products in any order and does not recommend one product over another. A person should opt for the product that best fits their needs.

MNT chooses products that meet the following criteria, where possible:

  • Price: Products suit a wide range of budgets.
  • Ingredients: Products list all ingredients clearly.
  • Skin concerns: Products target a specific skin concern, such as dryness or oiliness.
  • Safety: Products contain ingredients that are safe for topical use.
  • Reputability: Products are from businesses that adhere to industry best practices.

A person with sensitive skin may find that medicated acne products do more harm than good. People rarely have allergic reactions to medicated acne products, but someone with reactive skin may prefer products with a gentle formulation.

Please note that the writer of this article has not tried these products. All information presented is purely research-based and correct at the time of publication.

Medical News Today follows a strict product selection and vetting process. Learn more here.

Cetaphil Gentle Skin Cleanser

  • Ingredients: glycerin, cetearyl alcohol, panthenol, and niacinamide
  • Volume: 591 millilitres (ml)
  • Price: around $16.86

This Cetaphil cleanser works with or without water and hydrates the skin while removing impurities. However, cleansing without water requires the use of a soft cloth. As friction can lead to irritation and more inflammation, a person should take extra care when using this cleanser without water.

It is of note that at the time of writing this article, the ingredients differ from the ones shown in the product photos. This is because Cetaphil reformulated this product with effective ingredients and removed sulfates.

The new formulation contains vitamins B3 and B5 in the form of niacinamide and panthenol. Niacinamide can help reduce redness, but some people may be allergic to it or find it too harsh.

The new formulation uses sodium cocoyl isethionate instead of sulfates to gently cleanse the skin, while the glycerin and vitamins can moisturize the skin. The product does not contain oils or fragrances.

The company states that this product is noncomedogenic, hypoallergenic, and suitable for all skin types.

Eucerin Advanced Cleansing Body and Face Cleanser

  • Ingredients: sodium cocoamphoacetate, sodium myreth sulfate, and lauryl glucoside
  • Volume: 500 ml
  • Price: around $13.49

This 2-in-1 wash is soap-free to prevent the skin from drying out. It also leaves behind little to no residue, and the company states it is noncomedogenic.

The Eucerin cleanser is fragrance-free, contains no dyes, and is suitable for sensitive skin. The formulation uses mild cleansing agents, such as lauryl glucoside and coco glucoside.

It combines these mild cleansers with hydrating ingredients, such as glycine, to moisturize the skin, keep it soft, and promote healing.

However, the cleanser contains sodium salicylate. This is a salt preservative that can make the product last longer. In such form and at such small concentration, it should not result in any exfoliation, but people with a confirmed allergic reaction to salicylic acid may want to avoid this ingredient.

Most users claim they enjoy this product, saying it helped them minimize irritation, redness, eczema, and acne. Others say that it left their skin red, which could be an allergic reaction to one of the ingredients.

Vanicream Gentle Body Wash

  • Ingredients: glycerin, coco glucoside, and panthenol
  • Volume: 355 ml
  • Price: around $12.49

Vanicream is a company that produces skin care products for sensitive skin and for those who want to avoid common irritants, such as dyes, fragrances, lanolin, parabens, and formaldehyde.

Its products come with a seal of approval from the National Eczema Association (NEA). The company undergoes regular inspections by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and has an official license as a pharmaceutical manufacturer.

The Vanicream Gentle Body Wash contains coco glucoside. This is a gentle cleansing agent that is biodegradable and mild to the skin. In addition, the product contains moisturizing ingredients that make it ideal for skin that can be easily irritated with harsh cleansers, such as panthenol and hexanediol.

While this product does not contain active ingredients, the gentle cleansing effect can prevent dry skin or worsening acne, which can result from harsh cleansing agents.

Most reviewers are very happy with this product, saying it reduced or treated rashes, breakouts, eczema, and atopic dermatitis.

Bar soaps are an option for people who prefer not to wash with a gel or cream formula. Bar soap is also more affordable and lasts longer than other types of body washes. However, it can be more drying.

Revitale Salicylic Acid Scrub Soap

  • Ingredients: salicylic acid, sodium tallowate, and sodium palm kernelate
  • Volume: 80 grams (g)
  • Price: around $6.99

This bar soap from Revitale contains salicylic acid and apricot kernels, which help remove skin impurities. However, the brand does not provide the amount of salicylic acid in this product.

According to the packaging, the soap is exfoliating, softens the skin, and has anti-blemish properties. It contains glycerin, which can moisturize the skin.

The manufacturer does not mention the pH of the soap, which could mean that it is more alkaline than acidic and can cause long-term dryness.

Most reviewers say that it helped them relieve irritation and body acne. Others, however, claim that it irritated their faces and caused more breakouts. Many also mention the unnecessary fragrance, which can lead to more irritation.

Individuals with sensitive skin should note that the soap contains apricot kernels in a solid form. These act as a physical exfoliant that can rub the surface of the skin, leading to more irritation. People buying this soap should not use it on the face and other sensitive body areas.

The Defense Acne Care Bar Soap

  • Ingredients: salicylic acid, sodium palmate, sodium palm kernelate, and glycerin
  • Volume: 4.2 pounds (oz)
  • Price: around $9.99

The Defense Acne Care Bar Soap contains 2% salicylic acid and oatmeal to help soothe the skin. The company claims that the product is FDA registered.

This bar soap contains oats, which can be beneficial for moisturizing the skin. However, it contains tea tree and eucalyptus leaf oils, which may irritate the skin.

Reviews are mixed. Some say it helped their acne, while others note it is too drying and did not help improve their breakouts. Some users mention that the fragrance is too strong.

Individuals who have acne and dry skin may prefer hydrating cleansers.

Many people believe that they should avoid moisturizing if they have acne. While acne can leave the skin feeling oily, many acne treatments can dry out the skin. Dry skin produces more oil, which can cause even more breakouts.

CeraVe Hydrating Body Wash

  • Ingredients: ceramides, hyaluronic acid, cocamidopropyl betaine, and petrolatum
  • Volume: 296 ml
  • Price: around $12.41

This body wash helps refresh and clean the skin without drying it out. The formula does not contain sulfates, soaps, fragrances, or parabens and has undergone testing for allergies.

According to the company, dermatologists helped develop this product. It also has a seal of acceptance from the NEA.

One advantage of using CeraVe is that most of its products contain ceramides, which can help repair the skin barrier. This product also contains petrolatum, urea, and glycerin to moisturize the skin and cleanse it without damaging or drying out the skin barrier.

These ingredients can be a great consideration for those who tried using harsher cleansers in the past and saw more irritation and dryness.

Also, this body wash contains cholesterol, which is important for the skin barrier, and sodium lauroyl lactylate, which is a mild surfactant.

According to the manufacturer, this product suits those with normal to dry skin. However, the formulation has beneficial ingredients for the skin without harsh cleansing agents that can also benefit those with oilier skin types.

Most reviewers feel that this product helped their eczema, redness, or acne. In general, people note that a pump delivery system would work better, and they would like to have a larger bottle.

CeraVe has other washes with pumps that a person can use both on the face and body.

Honeyskin Face and Body Cleanser

  • Ingredients: aloe vera, cocamidopropyl betaine, manuka honey, and salicylic acid
  • Volume: 473 ml
  • Price: around $29.99

According to the manufacturer, this body cleanser is gentle enough to use on both the body and face. It is free from parabens, sulfates, and fragrances. The company states that all ingredients are organic.

The key ingredients are manuka honey, aloe vera, and hyaluronic acid. These can be hydrating and moisturizing, balance pH levels, and promote skin cell turnover.

The product is also cruelty-free and does not contain SLS. However, it contains citrus essential oils, which can aggravate skin irritation.

Buyers mention that this product helped clear their psoriasis, acne, and rosacea. However, some say that it made their redness and acne worse. This could be an indication of an allergy to one of the ingredients, potentially the essential oil.

QV Gentle Wash

  • Ingredients: sodium lauroyl sarcosinate, glycerin, and sodium cocoyl isethionate
  • Volume: 500 ml
  • Price: around $50

QV is an Australian skin care brand whose products contain no soap, fragrance, or common irritants, such as dyes.

The QV Gentle Wash contains no colors, lanolin, or propylene glycol. It uses gentler cleansing agents, such as sodium cocoyl isethionate, instead of traditional soap ingredients for a gentler cleansing action on the skin. The product also has pH balancers to minimize skin irritation.

The product does not contain any active ingredients. However, it has parabens for preserving the product formulation.

Moreover, the company claims all of its products are suitable for use during pregnancy.

OTC products with a weaker concentration of benzoyl peroxide could help with milder cases of acne.

However, according to older research, this ingredient can cause the skin to dry out, so people with sensitive skin should be cautious when using this product.

Tutta La Pelle Acne Wash

  • Ingredients: 10% benzoyl peroxide, phenoxyethanol, and sodium benzoate
  • Volume: 200 ml
  • Price: around $22.95

Tutta La Pelle Body Wash is suitable for oily skin. It contains 10% benzoyl peroxide and is free from parabens, oils, and fragrances.

Tutta La Pelle claims that it tests and makes its products in a state-of-the-art, FDA-registered manufacturing facility.

This product is made in the United States and is cruelty-free. It targets acne-prone skin on both the face and body. According to the company, it can help resolve cystic acne and acne on the back and buttocks.

The reviews are good, with most users saying that this body wash helped clear up their acne. However, some say that they found it to be too drying or that it did not help resolve their breakouts.

PanOxyl Acne Foaming Wash

  • Ingredients: 10% benzoyl peroxide, cetearyl alcohol, and glycolic acid
  • Volume: 156 g
  • Price: around $11.25

This product contains the maximum allowed percentage of benzoyl peroxide OTC. It may be suitable for moderate or more severe acne.

However, because of the higher amount of benzoyl peroxide, there is a greater risk of dryness and irritation. The company also combines it with glycolic acid, which is another chemical exfoliant.

PanOxyl strongly suggests avoiding using any more exfoliating products with its wash, as this can lead to more inflammation. The reviewers seem to agree.

While many review authors compliment the product for reducing their acne, others say they experienced dryness, irritation, and more redness.

This wash may suit those with oily skin better than those with drier skin types.

Also, the product contains sulfates in the form of SLS, which can increase dryness and irritation.

Salicylic acid is an ingredient that targets whiteheads and blackheads. Similar to benzoyl peroxide, this ingredient could dry out the skin.

Proactiv Deep Cleansing Acne Body Wash

  • Ingredients: 2% salicylic acid, 1% glycolic acid, aloe vera, and shea butter
  • Volume: 267 ml
  • Price: around $36

This Proactiv body wash formula contains exfoliating beads and 2% salicylic acid. While this can be great for exfoliating the skin, individuals should be aware that the exfoliating beads can create physical friction. This in turn may increase irritation, particularly around pimples and acne areas.

The product also contains fragrance, olive oil, and sweet almond oil. People with sensitive skin may want to avoid these ingredients.

The company claims this dermatologist-tested product will unclog pores to prevent breakouts and make skin feel smooth.

On the upside, the product contains aloe vera, shea butter, and glycolic acid. These can help balance the cleansing agents while hydrating and moisturizing the skin.

Reviews are good overall, with happy customers saying that this helped them clear their back acne and keratosis pilaris without drying out their skin. However, one reviewer found that it triggered breakouts under their skin.

Solimo Clarifying Pink Grapefruit Body Wash

  • Ingredients: 2% salicylic acid, glycerin, and cocamidopropyl betaine
  • Volume: 251 ml
  • Price: around $5.45

Containing 2% salicylic acid, this Solimo body wash is dermatologically tested, cruelty-free, and made in the U.S.

The company offers a full refund within 1 year of purchase if customers are not satisfied.

However, the product contains fragrance and exfoliating beads. These may be irritating or aggravating to people with sensitive skin or those with skin conditions, such as acne.

Reviewers like this product, but they also mention that it can leave the skin dry and that the fragrance is too strong. One consumer notes they experienced a rash that started to heal once they stopped using this wash.

Neutrogena Body Clear Acne Treatment Body Wash

  • Ingredients: 2% salicylic acid, glycerin, cocamidopropyl betaine, and acrylates copolymer
  • Volume: 250 ml
  • Price: around $25.99 for three bottles

This Neutrogena body wash contains salicylic acid and vitamin C, which helps prevent or treat breakouts.

According to the company, this product does not contain any oils and is ideal for body acne on the chest, back, and shoulders.

However, it contains fragrance, flower extracts, and color additives, which can trigger allergies or aggravate irritation and other skin conditions.

Overall, reviews are positive, with most people saying that this body wash helped treat their keratosis pilaris, acne, and eczema. However, negative reviews mention that this product caused burns and irritation. A few users claim it aggravated their acne.

Individuals with sensitive skin or those concerned about fragrance, for instance, may wish to choose a different product.

Here is how the above products compare:

Skin typeSalicylic acidBenzyl peroxideFragrance and essential oilsVolumePrice
Cetaphil Gentle Skin Cleanserallnonono591 ml$16.86
Eucerin Advanced Cleansing Body and Face Cleanserallnonono500 ml$13.49
Vanicream Gentle Body Washallnonono355 ml$12.49
Revitale Salicylic Acid Scrub Soapoily and nonsensitiveyesnoyes80 g$6.99
The Defense Acne Bar Soapoily and nonsensitive2%noyes4.2 oz$9.99
CeraVe Hydrating Body Washallnonono296 ml$12.41
Honeyskin Face and Body Cleansernonsensitivenonoyes473 ml$29.99
QV Gentle Washallnonono500 ml$25
Tutta La Pelle Acne Washoilyno10%no200 ml$22.95
PanOxyl Acne Foaming Washoily and nonsensitiveno10%no156 g$11.25
Proactiv Deep Cleansing Acne Body Washoily and nonsensitive2%noyes267 ml$36
Solimo Clarifying Pink Grapefruit Body Washoily and nonsensitive2%noyes251 ml$5.45
Neutrogena Body Clear Acne Treatment Body Washoily and nonsensitive2%noyes250 ml$25.99 for three bottles

If a person’s skin does not respond to OTC treatments, they should seek guidance from a healthcare professional.

People should also consult a doctor if they notice scarring or darkening of the skin or if the severity of the acne affects their daily life.

Although extremely rare, it is possible to experience a severe allergic reaction to medicated acne products that contain benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid.

Symptoms of an allergic reaction include:

Individuals who have any of these symptoms should seek immediate medical attention.

Individuals experiencing body acne may want to try first using gentle washes and moisturizers to treat their skin.

If they do not see any improvement after a few weeks, they may consider contacting a dermatologist to discuss alternative treatments. These may include medicated washes or prescription medication.

It is of note that there are many types of acne. Certain types may require specific medication or ingredients to improve.

Below, we answer some of the most frequently asked questions about acne body washes.

Can you use a face cleanser to get rid of body acne?

Yes, because face cleansers that are gentle and suitable for acne will perform the same gentle cleansing and acne treatment on other body areas.

However, using face cleansers to address body acne may be more expensive, as they are typically smaller and pricier than body washes.

How often should you use acne body wash?

This depends on the product. Unless the acne body wash has specific instructions — for example, to use infrequently or moderately — individuals may want to use it every time they bathe or shower.

It is worth noting that frequent cleansing may irritate the skin, regardless of the product. Also, the irritation may worsen with active or harsh ingredients.

Can regular body wash remove acne?

It depends on the person, the product, and the acne condition. There are several types of acne, and using a gentle hydrating cleanser without harsh ingredients, soaps, fragrances, or essential oils can help reduce irritation, which regular soaps would trigger.

Ingredients such as ceramides, cholesterol, glycerin, or petrolatum can also help repair the skin barrier. This in turn can help alleviate inflammation and manage or treat acne.

Finding the right acne product can take some trial and error. Not all acne body washes will work for every individual.

Acne body wash can help treat mild cases of acne. If someone feels that their acne is not improving, they should contact a healthcare professional to find an appropriate treatment.

Leaving acne untreated may lead to scarring and self-esteem issues. A person does not need to have serious acne to consult a dermatologist. If a skin condition, such as acne, affects an individual’s daily life or self-esteem, they should feel comfortable seeking the help of a healthcare professional.