The Best Over the Counter Benzoyl Peroxide for the Face – Most mild to moderate cases of acne can be treated effectively with drugstore cleansers and ointments.
The strongest and most effective over the counter acne treatments contain benzoyl peroxide.
- 1 Editor’s Choice: The Best Over the Counter Benzoyl Peroxide for the Face
- 1.1 Step 1: 2.5% Benzoyl Peroxide
- 1.2 Step 2: 5% Benzoyl Peroxide
- 1.3 Step 3: 10% Benzoyl Peroxide
- 1.3.1 Jan Marini Skin Research Benzoyl Peroxide Acne Treatment Lotion 10%
- 1.3.2 Dermatologic Cosmetic Laboratories B Prox Anti-Blemish Wash
- 1.3.3 PanOxyl Acne Foaming Wash – 10% Benzoyl Peroxide
- 1.3.4 10% Generic for Oxy-10 Balance Acne Treatment Medication Maximum Strength Gel
- 1.3.5 Humane Benzoyl Peroxide 10% Acne Treatment Body & Face Wash
- 1.3.6 Resources:
How Does Benzoyl Peroxide Work?
Benzoyl peroxide works to both prevent and treat inflammatory acne (cysts, red pimples, and zits) and non-inflammatory (blackheads and whiteheads).
It has 3 major acne-fighting actions:
- It’s a very effective exfoliant – it clears pores of clogged oils and dead skin which are the root causes of blackheads and whiteheads. This exfoliation action also expedites cell turnover, which helps heal the spot.
- It’s anti-bacterial – specifically against acne-causing bacteria, p. acne.
- It promotes healing – by supplying oxygen to the skin.
It comes in varying strengths and can be found in ointments, gels, creams, cleansers, and lotions.
Before including this in your regimen however, you need to be aware of its possible side effects including:
- Extreme skin dryness – If you use it as a spot treatment, the skin surrounding the spot will start to flake off. If you use it all over the face, your skin will start to crack and peel off in blotches (sounds scary, I know!)
- Redness and skin irritation
Now for the catch-22: dry skin can clog pores and irritated skin practically guarantees breakouts in acne-prone skin.
Use a gentle cleanser before application to avoid further irritations and after application, use a hypoallergenic, non-comedogenic moisturizer to counter the side effects and restore the skin’s pH.
How to Use Benzoyl Peroxide for Acne:
- Gels, Lotions, & Ointments – Use a gentle cleanser before application and apply on the affected area. Follow-up with a hypoallergenic and non-comedogenic moisturizer right after. This is to prevent excessive drying or irritation and restore skin balance. Some of the higher end brands have formulations that already contain moisturizing ingredients to calm and soothe the skin, but I personally still feel the need to double down on the hydration (I have oily skin).
- Face & Body Wash – Massage gently on the skin and follow with a hypoallergenic and non-comedogenic moisturizer.
Important Notes: Its important to acclimatize or let your skin adjust when incorporating any new product. Your safest bet is to start with the lowest % strength, using it once every other day. Gradually increase usage to 2-3 times daily or as needed as you go on. You can work you way up in % or frequency when you feel like your skin needs and is prepared for it. If any dryness or peeling occurs, reduce the frequency or % strength.
If used in daytime, complement with a non-comedogenic sunscreen.
For best results, do not use hydroquinone and benzoyl peroxide at the same time. (It’s a brightening/whitening ingredient. You can check the label of your other products if you’re not sure.)
Gel, lotion, face wash–which should you choose? At first glance, leave-on products should be more effective as they stay on the skin longer. However, efficacy is still down to the strength of the product, how well its formulated, and how receptive your skin is to it. So ultimately, it really comes down to your preference. You need to assess your skin’s current condition (Is it resistant enough for a 5%? 10%?). You should also enjoy the experience to an extent so you’re able to use it on a regular basis. 🙂
This is a very, very crucial step — after applying benzoyl peroxide, let is absorb for a few minutes and follow up with a gentle and deeply hydrating moisturizer. Moisturizing is truly not optional if you want to have clear and healthy skin. We want the benefits of benzoyl peroxide, not any of its side-effects.
Be sure to find a moisturizer that is gentle and won’t irritate your skin (opt for formulations for sensitive skin). Also check that it is lightweight and non-comedogenic so as to not further aggravate your acne.
If used in daytime, complement with a broad spectrum sunscreen.
You also need to set your expectations when using over the counter products like these. I’ve had acne since my teens until well into my twenties and have tried almost every acne product I can get my hands on in hopes of finding that miracle product that will end my suffering. (I know this sounds overly dramatic but when you’ve had acne for more than a decade, ‘suffering’ and ‘agony’ really isn’t an exaggeration. 🙁 )
Benzoyl peroxide has been very effective for me but it is by no means a cure-all. If you’re suffering from persistent acne, its best to undergo a program that will help you get to the root of the problem and address the causes. Acclaimed programs like Mike Walden’s Acne No More and Acne Remedies Guide can be a great start.
Video: What is Benzoyl Peroxide? by Dr. Schultz, MD
Our recommendations for the best over the counter benzoyl peroxide are based on our comprehensive analysis of the product’s formulation, claims, value for money, and consumer reviews. We make an effort to be as objective as possible and give advice in good faith; however, our reviews may still contain conjectures and opinions based on our research and personal experiences.
It’s important to know that as with any product (especially cosmetics), what may be perfect for you may not be right for the next person. So as much as we want to guarantee that these will be everyone’s next holy grail, results can still be affected by individual factors like your current skin condition, the environment you’re in, use of the product, reaction to your other skincare, and so on. For best results, make sure to choose a product that is suited for your skin type and skin issues.
This website is for informational purposes and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.
Product or service details are collected directly from the manufacturer and other reputable sources during the time of this review. Extended research and studies are cited in the Resources section. We try to keep on top of new formulations when we can, and update our data accordingly.
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Bottom Line: We objectively review a laundry list of top performing products, pick the best ones based on our results, and present them to you with all the key info so you can choose the most suitable one for your skin. If you decide to buy something, we earn a commission that helps cover site costs like hosting, design, research materials, etc. You don’t have to of course, thank you for visiting us nonetheless. 🙂
Editor’s Choice: The Best Over the Counter Benzoyl Peroxide for the Face
These are our choices for the best over the counter benzoyl peroxides based on formulation, value for money, specifications, and consumer reviews over the years.
Step 1: 2.5% Benzoyl Peroxide
When using as a topical treatment, ie. lotions, ointments, gel, etc., always start with the lowest concentration to allow your skin to adopt to the medication.
This is one of the key steps that most people easily overlook, which causes the misconception that the product isn’t working whereas it was just used incorrectly.
Use a small amount once a day, every other day for the first two weeks and gradually increase dosage in the succeeding weeks.
You need to observe your skin for any stinging or severe redness. This usually means you need to step back lower either the dosage or frequency of use.
Video: Applying Acne.org Benzoyl Peroxide on The Acne.org Regimen
Step 2: 5% Benzoyl Peroxide
If the 2.5 formulation is no longer cutting it and you feel like you can opt for a stronger concentration, you can step up to 5%.
This works best on large, inflamed cystic acne.
After going through 2.5%; your skin should have acclimated to the medication, making it safe for you to use this daily.
Apply it every night before bed and your acne should start to subside in about 2-3 days.
If you can avoid picking on the bump, it will eventually flatten and not leave any physical scarring. 🙂
Step 3: 10% Benzoyl Peroxide
The 10% concentration is the strongest you can get without a prescription.
Move onto this if you can consistent, inflamed acne or would like to keep breakouts at bay.
Acne.org. (2017). Acne.org Products – Cleanser, Benzoyl Peroxide, Moisturizer & More.
Adapalene/benzoyl peroxide clearly superior in facial acne. (2007). Inpharma Weekly, &NA;(1617), p.14.
Cohen, H. (1975). Benzoyl Peroxide Gel in Acne Treatment. Archives of Dermatology, 111(11), p.1535.
Del Rosso, J. and Zeichner, J. (2016). Advances in Acne Management, An Issue of Dermatologic Clinics. 1st ed. Saintt Louis: Elsevier Health Sciences.
Evidence for the Use of a Benzoyl Peroxide Wash in Acne. (1984). InPharma, 441(1), pp.15-15.
Glytone-usa.com. (2017). Glytone USA
Paulaschoice.com. (2017). Paula’s Choice – International: Paula’s Choice Skin Care & Cosmetics.