The Best Over the Counter Benzoyl Peroxide Products – 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.
- 0.1 How Does Benzoyl Peroxide Work?
- 0.2 How to Use Benzoyl Peroxide for Acne Treatments:
- 0.3 Benzoyl Peroxide creams, gels, lotions, face washes–which should you choose?
- 1 Editor’s Choice: The Best Benzoyl Peroxide Creams, Gels, & Lotions
- 2 Editor’s Choice: The Best Benzoyl Peroxide Face Washes & Cleansers
- 3 Editor’s Choice: The Best Over the Counter Benzoyl Peroxide Products
- 3.1 Step 1: 2.5% Benzoyl Peroxide Products
- 3.1.1 Paula’s Choice Clear Acne Treatment Regular Strength Lotion with 2.5% Benzoyl Peroxide for Moderate Acne
- 3.1.2 2.5% Benzoyl Peroxide Dr. Song Acne Gel Treatment Lotion
- 3.1.3 Acne.org 16 oz. Treatment (2.5% Benzoyl Peroxide)
- 3.1.4 Control Corrective Medicated Pumice Wash
- 3.1.5 GlyMed Plus Serious Action Skin Wash
- 3.1.6 Acnefree Oil Free Acne Cleanser
- 3.1.7 Proactiv+ Skin Smoothing Exfoliator
- 3.1.8 Vivant Skin Care – Benzoyl Peroxide 3% Exfoliating Cleanser, 8 Ounce
- 3.2 Step 2: 5% Benzoyl Peroxide Products
- 3.2.1 Glytone Acne 3P Treatment Gel
- 3.2.2 PCA SKIN Acne Cream
- 3.2.3 Glo Skin Beauty Therapeutics Clear Anti-Blemish Treatment
- 3.2.4 M.A.D Skincare Blemish Repelling Gel Benzoyl Peroxide 5%
- 3.2.5 PCA SKIN BPO 5% Cleanser
- 3.2.6 Beauty Facial Extreme – Benzoyl Peroxide 5% Acne Cleanser for Face & Body
- 3.2.7 5% Benzoyl Peroxide Face Wash by Harris Pharmaceuticals
- 3.3 Step 3: 10% Benzoyl Peroxide Products
- 3.3.1 Jan Marini Skin Research Benzoyl Peroxide Acne Treatment Lotion 10%
- 3.3.2 10% Generic for Oxy-10 Balance Acne Treatment Medication Maximum Strength Gel
- 3.3.3 Dermatologic Cosmetic Laboratories B Prox Anti-Blemish Face Wash
- 3.3.4 PanOxyl Acne Foaming 10% Benzoyl Peroxide Face Wash
- 3.3.5 Humane Benzoyl Peroxide 10% Acne Treatment Body & Face Wash
- 3.1 Step 1: 2.5% Benzoyl Peroxide Products
- 4 Frequently Asked Questions:
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 major acne-fighting actions:
- It’s a very effective anti-bacterial agent – by releasing free radical oxygen, which is lethal to the p. acne bacteria, and benzoic acid, which prevents further infection.
- It has anti-inflammatory and comedolytic effects – it resolves and prevents the formation of new comedones (blackheads and whiteheads).
- It’s a lipophilic (oil-loving) exfoliant – most products are water-soluble and can only affect the skin’s surface (remember oil and water don’t mix). Benzoyl peroxide is capable of diving into an oil-filled pore and clears it of clogs and sebum. This is what makes it an effective face wash as well.
- It can promote wound healing – by attracting macrophages and histiocytes (types of white blood cells that protect the body from infection) into the wound.
It comes in varying strengths (2.5–20%) and can be found in creams, gels, 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 can start to crack and peel off in blotches (Sounds scary, I know! But stay with me here)
- 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 non-comedogenic moisturizer to counter the side effects and restore the skin’s pH.
How to Use Benzoyl Peroxide for Acne Treatments:
- Benzoyl Peroxide Creams, Gels, Lotions, & Ointments
- Use a gentle cleanser before application.
- On a clean, slightly damp skin; apply on the affected area either as a spot treatment or an all-over lotion. Quick tip: A slightly damp skin is more permeable that skin that’s completely dried.
- 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).
- Benzoyl Peroxide Face & Body Wash
- Massage gently on the skin for at least 20 seconds.
- Follow with a hypoallergenic and non-comedogenic moisturizer.
- It’s important to acclimatize or let your skin adjust when introducing any new product, especially if you have sensitive skin. 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 the daytime, always complement with a non-comedogenic sunscreen. BP can cause photosensitivity in some, which makes your skin particularly vulnerable to sun damage.
- For best results, do not use hydroquinone and benzoyl peroxide at the same time. Hydroquinone is a brightening/whitening ingredient. You can check the label of your other products if you’re not sure.
- Lastly, just because I can’t emphasize it’s importance enough, always follow up with an effective moisturizer. This is a very, very crucial step — after applying a benzoyl peroxide product, 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. BP has also shown to penetrate more effectively on a well-hydrated skin.
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, it’s 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.
Benzoyl Peroxide creams, gels, lotions, face washes–which should you choose?
Below are our selection of the best over the counter benzoyl peroxide products in the market today. At first glance, leave-on acne products seem to be more effective as they stay on the skin longer. However, efficacy is still down to the strength of the product, how well it’s formulated, and how receptive your skin is to it.
When choosing a product, you’ll need to consider the following:
- You need to assess your skin’s current condition to determine the strength %. (Is your skin resistant enough for a 5%? 10%?)
- With reference to leave-on product’s thickness and consistency; gels are usually the most lightweight and preferred by oily skin, followed by lotions and creams. This is not a hard and fast rule, however. Some lotions can be formulated to be more absorbent than gels. Creams are commonly thick and used for dry or dehydrated skin.
- Another very important factor is your lifestyle and preference. One of the main reasons why people go off a skin regime is because they think of it as a chore. You should be able to enjoy the experience and the product itself to an extent so you’re able to use it on a regular basis. 🙂
Video: What is Benzoyl Peroxide? by Dr. Schultz, MD
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Recommendations are based on our research, results, a comprehensive analysis of the products' formulation, claims, value for money, and other consumer reviews. We make an effort to be as objective as possible and give advice in good faith; however, our reviews are 100% honest and therefore may still contain conjectures and opinions based on our 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 products that are suited for your skin type and skin issues.
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Editor’s Choice: The Best Benzoyl Peroxide Creams, Gels, & Lotions
These are our choices for the best benzoyl peroxide creams, gels, and lotions. These are based on formulation, our experiences, value for money, specifications, and consumer reviews over the years.
We’ve tabulated it in a ‘cheat sheet’ below so you can easily go over the key points. Click the ‘Read Review’ button for a more comprehensive analysis.
For best results, please make sure to choose what is most suited for your skin type and condition.
|Brand / Product Name||Benzoyl Peroxide Strength||Additional Benefits||Best for|
|Paula's Choice Clear Acne Treatment Regular Strength Lotion for Moderate Acne||2.5%||Soothing plant extracts (minimize skin peeling & dryness). Sets to a soft, invisible, matte finish.||All skin types & ages struggling with mild to moderate acne.||Read Review|
|2.5% Benzoyl Peroxide Dr Song Acne Gel Treatment Lotion||2.5%||Simple, affordable benzoyl peroxide lotion. 100-day money back guarantee.||All skin types. Resistant skin.||Read Review|
|Acne.org 16 oz. Treatment (2.5% Benzoyl Peroxide)||2.5%||Pharmaceutical-grade & triple milled for extra penetration. Preventive acne treatment.||All skin types. For overall face treatment.||Read Review|
|Glytone Acne 3P Treatment Gel||5%||Patented time-released micronized benzoyl peroxide. Non-whitening matte finish.||All skin types especially dehydrated, oily or dry skin.||Read Review|
|PCA SKIN Acne Cream||5%||Lactic acid (gentle exfoliation). Tea tree oil (antibacterial).||All skin types especially those prone to dry patches.||Read Review|
|Glo Skin Beauty Therapeutics Clear Anti-Blemish Treatment||5%||Aloe vera & Rosemary (anti-inflammatory, antioxidant). Glycerin (hydration).||All skin types especially those prone to redness.||Read Review|
|M.A.D Skincare Blemish Repelling Gel||5%||Green tea, licorice (antioxidant). Epilobium Fleischeri extract (oil control, pore minimizing)||Oily to Combination skin.||Read Review|
|Jan Marini Skin Research Benzoyl Peroxide Acne Treatment Lotion 10%||10%||Highly micronized BP combined with specialized emollients for maximum delivery & minimum side effects.||Normal to Oily Skin.||Read Review
|10% Generic for Oxy-10 Balance Acne Treatment Medication Maximum Strength Gel||10%||Simple, affordable benzoyl peroxide gel.||All skin types. Resistant skin.||Read Review|
Editor’s Choice: The Best Benzoyl Peroxide Face Washes & Cleansers
These are our choices for the best face washes with benzoyl peroxide. They are based on formulation, our experiences, value for money, specifications, and consumer reviews over the years.
The ‘cheat sheet’ below is for you to easily scan for key points. You can click on the ‘Read Review’ button if you would like a more detailed review.
For best results, please make sure to choose what is most suited for your skin type and condition.
|Brand / Product Name||Benzoyl Peroxide Strength||Additional Benefits||Ideal Skin Type|
|Control Corrective Medicated Pumice Wash||2.5%||Deep cleaning with jojoba ester granules. Eliminates bacteria, oils & cellular debris. No parabens, synthetic dyes, petrochemicals, phthalates, triclosan.||All skin types; Resistant, Acne-prone or with visible blemishes.||Read Review|
|GlyMed Plus Serious Action Skin Wash||2.5%||Soothing, anti-inflammatory properties of aloe vera.||Unbalanced and problematic Acne-Prone skin.||Read Review
|AcneFree Acne Cleanser||2.5%||Patented continuous-relief micronized benzoyl peroxide.||All skin types; Acne-prone skin.||Read Review|
|Proactiv Skin Smoothing Exfoliator||2.5%||4-in-1 multi-functional daily face wash with glycolic acid and exfoliating beads. Non-greasy, sulfate-free, paraben-free, non-comedogenic.||All skin types; Resistant, Acne-prone skin with dull, uneven texture.||Read Review
|Vivant Skin Care BP 3% Exfoliating Cleanser||3%||All natural, renewable, and biodegradable cellulose buffing beads. Non-comedogenic, cruelty-free.||Combination to Oily skin; Acne-prone skin with large pores and prone to scarring.||Read Review
|PCA SKIN BPO 5% Cleanser||5%||Benzoyl peroxide + phytic acid (exfoliant). Moisturizing, soothing botanical extracts. No synthetic dyes, cruelty-free||All skin types; Resistant, Acne-prone skin with dull, uneven texture.||Read Review|
|>Beauty Facial Extreme – Benzoyl Peroxide 5% Acne Cleanser for Face & Body||5%, 10%||Formulated for face & body. Paraben-free, fragrance-free, cruelty free.||Acne-prone skin on the face, body, and back.||Read Review
|5% Benzoyl Peroxide Face Wash by Harris Pharmaceuticals||5%, 10%||Simple, affordable benzoyl peroxide face wash.||Normal, resistant, acne-prone skin.||Read Review|
|Dermatologic Cosmetic Laboratories B Prox Anti-Blemish Face Wash||10%||Detoxifying mineral-rich clay to absorb excess oil and refine pore size. Plant extracts to reduce sensitivity and soothe redness & irritation. Dermatologist tested. Paraben-free. Non-comedogenic, hypoallergenic.||(Very) Oily, Acne-prone skin with large pores.||Read Review
|PanOxyl Acne Foaming 10% Benzoyl Peroxide Face Wash||10%||Simple, affordable benzoyl peroxide face wash.||Normal, resistant, acne-prone skin.||Read Review|
|Humane Benzoyl Peroxide 10% Acne Treatment Body & Face Wash||10%||Highest EWG safety rating of 1. No parabens, SLS, fragrance, or animal testing; Formulated for face & body;||Acne-prone skin on the face, body, and back.||Read Review|
Editor’s Choice: The Best Over the Counter Benzoyl Peroxide Products
We’ve arranged the product listing below in ascending order, based on medication strength.
If you’re new to BP, you can start with a 2.5% and work your way up. Your choice of formulation, i.e. face wash, cream, lotion, etc. depends on your preference and current skincare routine.
Take the list for a spin and remember, choose products that are most compatible with your skin type and needs. 🙂
Step 1: 2.5% Benzoyl Peroxide Products
When using as a topical treatment ie. creams, lotions, gels, etc.; always start with the lowest concentration to allow your skin to adapt 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’ll then 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 Products
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%. After going through 2.5%, your skin should have acclimated to the medication, making it safe for you to use this daily.
This works best on large, inflamed cystic acne.
There was a study that showed significant reduction in the p. acne bacteria after only 2 days of application of a 5% BP gel, with a clinical improvement as early as 4 days. Take this as a possible outcome if you have the right product that works well for your skin condition.
If you can also avoid picking on the bump, it should eventually flatten and not leave any physical scarring. 🙂
Step 3: 10% Benzoyl Peroxide Products
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.
Frequently Asked Questions:
Does benzoyl peroxide bleach skin?
No. Benzoyl peroxide bleaches hair and clothing, but does not bleach skin. If you’re using leave-on BP at night, you can use white sheets. If you use it on the body, you can wear white undershirts. For face washes and body cleansers, you can use white towels to avoid any discolorations.
How long does benzoyl peroxide take to work?
It depends on the strength and formulation of the products, as well as the severity and cause of your acne.
A 6% benzoyl peroxide cleanser has been shown to reduce p. acne strains after 3 weeks of daily washing for 20 seconds.
Some studies have also shown reductions in the p. acne bacteria in only 2 days after a 5% benzoyl peroxide gel application. Clinical improvements have shown as early a 4 days.
What is consistent however, is the increase in skin irritation with higher strengths of benzoyl peroxide. It’s crucial therefore to match treatments with a soothing and hydrating agent either within the product formulation or on a follow-up moisturizer.
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.
Alvarez, O. (1983). Benzoyl peroxide and epidermal wound healing. Archives of Dermatology, 119(3), pp.222-225.
Bojar RA., Cunliffe WJ, Holland KT, et al. The short-term treatment of acne vulgaris with benzoyl peroxide: effects on the surface and follicular cutaneous microflora. Br J Dermatol 132(2):204–8 (1995 Feb).
Cohen, H. (1975). Benzoyl Peroxide Gel in Acne Treatment. Archives of Dermatology, 111(11), p.1535.
Colman, G. and Roenigk, H. (1978). The Healing of Wounds in the Skin of Piglets Treated with Benzoyl Peroxide. The Journal of Dermatologic Surgery and Oncology, 4(9), pp.705-707.
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.
EWG. (2017). EWG.
Gloprofessional.com. (2017). glo minerals Makeup & glo therapeutics Skincare | gloProfessional.
Glytone-usa.com. (2017). Glytone USA
Harrispharmaceutical.com. (2017). Generic Dermatologicals – Harris Pharmaceutical.
mad-skincare. (2017). M.A.D. Skincare.
Panoxyl.com. (2017). PanOxyl | Acne Treatment with Benzoyl Peroxide Formula.
Pcaskin.com. (2017). Skin Care Products.
Paulaschoice.com. (2017). Paula’s Choice – International: Paula’s Choice Skin Care & Cosmetics.
Proactiv.com. (2017). Dermatologist-Developed Acne Treatment|Proactiv® Official Site.