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There’s a particular type of joy that overwhelms you once you finally crack the code on how to get rid of acne and maintain clear, bump-free skin. It takes a lot of research, trial and error, and a few in-office visits to reach that place of peace. However, that moment of bliss can quickly dissolve to rage at the sight of breakouts cropping up all over your body.
In case you need reminding, breakouts can occur any and everywhere. Just as we reach for a powerful cleanser or pimple patches whenever a breakout emerges on our face, there are plenty of body washes that target stubborn acne on the back, shoulder, arms, and more. “An acne body wash is a type of body wash designed to treat and prevent acne,” board-certified dermatologist Dr. Purvisha Patel tells ELLE.com. Because the skin on our face is not the same as the skin on our body, the two areas need to be treated differently. “The body has acne called folliculitis, and areas that are shaved often get small follicular infections,” she adds. Many body washes contain chemical exfoliants like salicylic acid, which gently exfoliates the skin to clear up acne and prevent any incoming breakouts, as well as other skin-saving ingredients.
Before you reach for any abrasive scrubs that can further damage your skin, we rounded up the 12 best acne body washes that give you clear skin from head to toe.
Of the many acne-fighting body washes I’ve incorporated into my shower routine, this gem from Cerave is the one I always return to. Gentle enough for daily use, the SA Body Wash—coupled with its counterpart SA Lotion—is great for clearing up dark spots quickly and keeping them away for good.
Amazon star rating: 4.2/5 stars
An Amazon reviewer said: “I have suffered with Keratosis Pilaris since I was in high school! I have tried everywhere over the years! Dry brushing, exfoliating mitts all kinds dermatological prescriptions nothing worked! This product works! All I had to do is use it in the shower and all my ugly red bumps (some were large too) are gone! Love this product!!💕”
As the name suggests, The Perfector by the internet’s favorite rising skincare brand gently exfoliates away impurities to reveal smoother, clearer, healthier skin. The fragrance-free formula is a godsend for those who have sensitive skin. It is a slow burn, but the long-term results are worth the wait.
Amazon star rating: 4.4/5 stars
An Amazon reviewer said: “Hands down THE best in shower body wash I’ve ever used. I’ve got several friends hooked on it now too. Leaves my skin feeling the best it ever has.”
Thanks to a wonderful blend of fruit enzymes and powerful AHAs, your skin is stripped of the bad stuff such as dead skin, clogged pores, and dark marks to reduce frequent breakouts.
Sephora star rating: 4.1/5 stars
A Sephora reviewer said: “I have KP on my arms and so far this has been the only exfoliator to actually help reduce redness and inflammation! Very gentle on the skin and has a nice, light scent!”
With a high percentage of glycolic acid (8.8 percent, to be exact), Glytone’s Exfoliating Body Wash may seem a bit intimidating. Worry not; this body wash stops breakouts in their tracks within days and makes your skin feel rejuvenated after each wash.
Dermstore star rating: 4.6/5 stars
A Dermstore reviewer said: “I was scared to try this, but it is wonderful for my sensitive skin. I have had no reaction and it does what it says. I can even use it on my face as an exfoliating face wash it is so gentle. Will repurchase.”
Murad can be found in just about everyone’s skincare lineup, but its iteration of body wash deserves just as much attention, too. Formulated with salicylic acid, glycolic acid, green tea, licorice root, and more, this body wash fights acne to ward off pesky bumps and calms the skin.
Ulta star rating: 4/5 stars
An Ulta reviewer said: “Used daily to treat my shoulder acne after spending hundreds of dollars on products/’back’ facials. After keeping it simple with just this product + moisturizer, my skin is clear. This is a true miracle product that doesn’t dry out your skin. I will continue to buy this again and again!!!”
While salicylic acid is commonly found in most acne products, it’s not the only ingredient that can get the job done. A favorite of board-certified dermatologist Dr. Purvisha Patel, this formula combines salicylic acid with bakuchiol, a plant-based retinol alternative, cacayoil, and jujube bark extract to minimize acne flare-ups and inflammation.
Visha Skincare star rating: None
Dr. Purvisha Patel says: “My favorite acne body wash is Visha Skincare’s Top2Toe. It contains Bakuchiol, tea tree oil, zinc, and salicylic acid. This all-over wash can be used all over your scalp, face, and body to exfoliate and rid the skin of acne-causing microbes.”
Mario Badescu created a no-fuss soap that makes you feel so fresh and so clean. Ginseng and fruit enzymes work together to clarify and soothe the skin, while linden leaves a soft, smooth veil for the next step in your routine.
Ulta star rating: 4.4/5 stars
An Ulta reviewer said: “I have been using this body wash for years and it is definitely a must have item in my body skin care. I use it everyday twice day and it has helped my body acne tremendously. I have less breakouts and it keeps my acne under control and for a affordable price. I highly recommend this item.”
Every product at Starface gives you results that make your heart (and skin) smile. It’s no wonder the brand opts for bright yellow packaging. In this particular yellow pouch, you can find a moisturizing formula that kills bacteria and inflammation so your skin can continue to live its best life. The pouch is designed with a screw-off cap so you can pack it wherever you go.
Starface star rating: 4.7/5 stars
A Starface reviewer said: “A little bit goes a long way with this shower gel, foams really well, leaves you feeling squeaky clean and smells fab too.”
Great for all skin types, Neutrogena’s acne body wash has been a staple in skincare routines for its gentle, yet effective formula. The star ingredient is salicylic acid, which removes any trace of dirt and debris to prevent future breakouts.
Amazon star rating: 4.6/5 stars
An Amazon reviewer said: “I’ve had issues with shoulder acne for a long time and within a week this product made a big difference. Great product at a very reasonable price.”
Nestled somewhere on the list of best acne-fighting ingredients is benzoyl peroxide, a potent element used to treat stubborn, inflamed acne. Humane’s body wash contains 10 percent benzoyl peroxide to halt the growth of bacteria and wash away excess sebum.
Amazon star rating: 4.3/5 stars
An Amazon reviewer said: “My husband struggled with back acne. This product cleared up his skin in less than a week. I purchased a back scrubber to help with the application.”
If you’ve tried it all and your acne has taken residence on your skin, allow PanOxyl to do the heavy lifting for you. With 10 percent benzoyl peroxide, this powerful body wash unclogs pores and kills bacteria fast to reveal brighter-looking skin.
Amazon star rating: 4.6/5 stars
An Amazon reviewer said: “This stuff is magical. A staple for my skin care. Smells like nothing honestly, but when it comes to skin care scent free is good. Breakouts gone.”
Wrap your skin in luxury with this lightweight shower gel that leaves your skin feeling soft and refreshed after one use. The gel is non-irritating, lathers well, and lasts a long time—basically everything you’ve ever wanted from a body wash.
Amazon star rating: 4.7/5 stars
An Amazon reviewer said: “Bioderma makes the best products for sensitive and reactive skin. This is no different. My skin is always so soft and clean after using this cleansing gel. I use this in the evening followed by the cleansing oil in the morning. And bonus points for those that like minimal to no fragrance. In my opinion, that’s best left for perfume.”
The number one benefit of acne body wash is exfoliation, of course, but there are plenty more benefits like killing bacteria. “Acne body washes help exfoliate the skin as well as decrease microbe growth on your body, which ultimately leads to less acne and leaves your skin feeling clean and refreshed,“ says Dr. Patel.
“You should use your acne body wash in the shower after you have washed your hair,” Dr. Patel adds. As the last step in your shower routine, “this ensures you will leave the shower with clean skin [after] washing off all the hair products,” she says.
AHAs—glycolic, lactic, malic, etc.—and BHAs—salicylic—are the common powerful ingredients in most acne cleansers. Dr. Patel says to look for those acids, in addition to ingredients like benzoyl peroxide, salicylic acid, tea tree oil, and bakuchiol, as these players help “to decrease microbe growth, decrease fungus and bacteria on the skin, and minimize body breakouts,” she adds.
Dr. Purvisha Patel MD is a board-certified dermatologist, cosmetic surgeon, and founder of Visha Skincare.
Nerisha Penrose is the Beauty Commerce Editor at ELLE.com. Since joining ELLE.com in 2017, she has interviewed countless skincare professionals and has personally tested the latest and greatest products across makeup, skincare, and hair care.