Acne-Prone Skin Skincare

The Best Over the Counter Benzoyl Peroxide for the Face in 2017

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.

 

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:

  1. It’s a very effective exfoliantit 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.
  2. It’s anti-bacterial – specifically against acne-causing bacteria, p. acne.
  3. 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:

  1. 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!)
  2. Redness and skin irritation

Now for the catch-22: dry skin can clog pores and irritated skin practically guarantees breakouts in acne-prone skin.

The solution?

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:

  1. 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).
  2. 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. 🙂

 

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.

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.

If you’re suffering from severe 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.

At the end of every review, there will be a link for you to check current discounts and other customer reviews on Amazon. These, along with some other links that redirect you to third party sites, are affiliate links where we earn a small commission if you do decide to make a purchase. This is at absolutely no extra cost to you and will help in maintaining the quality of the site.

This website is our passion project, and our editorial content is not influenced by advertisers or affiliate partnerships. The choices we make take extensive research (which we actually enjoy because we’re weird and nerdy like that), including data from credible academic papers and user sources available.

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.

Paula’s Choice Clear Acne Treatment Regular Strength Lotion with 2.5% Benzoyl Peroxide for Moderate Acne

One of the products from Paula’s choice that stands out based from my experience. It’s a soothing, weightless lotion that is safe for sensitive skin. It also leaves an invisible matte finish, perfect to wear under makeup and for those with oily skin.

This can be used as a spot treatment and can last for well over a year if you only have occasional breakouts. If you’re using this in conjunction with their anti-acne skincare line, you can apply this as the last step of your routine, ie. after your moisturizer.

All Paula’s Choice products are 100% fragrance free, clinically proven to be non-irritating, and never tested on animals.

Best for: All skin types and ages struggling with mild to moderate acne.

Check for discounts & other customer reviews on Amazon

2.5% Benzoyl Peroxide Dr Song Acne Gel Treatment Lotion (8 oz)

This product comes with a very generous 365 money back guarantee (talk about confidence!) and an excellent customer service (had a problem with their shipping which they sorted immediately). It comes in gel form so it’s quickly absorbed by the skin.

It also has very few ingredients which help reduce the possibility of any allergies or other irritations.

Check for discounts & other customer reviews on Amazon

Acne.org 16 oz. Treatment (2.5% Benzoyl Peroxide)

One of the few that is used not just as a spot treatment, but all over the face. It is step 2 of Acne.org’s famous 3-Step System. Below is a video from the developer himself on how to apply the treatment. Recommended if you have constant breakouts in large areas.

This benzoyl peroxide is pharmaceutical-grade and triple milled so it penetrates the skin better than regular formulations. The gel base absorbs quickly and goes on smooth without clumping with other moisturizers. It also doesn’t turn white when you perspire.

This size should last for 2-4 months on The Acne.org Regimen.

Pharmaceutical grade, pH balanced, fragrance-free, and dye-free.

Best for: All skin types, overall face treatment

Check for discounts & other customer reviews on Amazon

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. 🙂

Glytone Acne 3P Treatment Gel

This physicians-only product line holds some of the most popular and well known exfoliating skincare. Glytone is a staple in clinics worldwide because of their innovative and customized approach to formulating with the highest free acid values (i.e. unlike other brands, their acids are not compounds or diluted down).

Glytone in-office treatments are usually prescribed with at-home regimens to work synergistically. This maximizes product efficacy and skin tolerability, giving you visible, long lasting results.

This treatment gel is part of Glytone’s Acne Clearing Set. It has a patented time-released micronized benzoyl peroxide, which means the product is able to mimic the body’s physiological dosage. This gives it a more natural rhythm and makes the skin more receptive to it. This type of delivery system ensures maximum absorption while minimizing potential irritation.

Its innovative hydro-gel formulation hydrates the skin and fends off dryness while continually fighting acne throughout the day.

Non-whitening matte finish. Non-irritating formula. Fragrance-free. Oil-free. Non-comedogenic.

Best for: All skin types especially dehydrated oily or dry skin; looking for spot treatments, those who don’t have exfoliating products in their regimen; under make-up

Check for discounts & other customer reviews on Amazon

PCA SKIN BPO 5% Cleanser, 7 fl. oz.

PCA is brand known for their corrective and potent formulations using alpha hydroxy acids. Exfoliants improve the health and appearance of skin by promoting cell renewal and prevent buildup of dead skin cells.

This daily cleanser has a unique combination of 5% benzoyl peroxide and phytic acid (exfoliant) to eliminate existing and preventing future breakouts.

Gluconolactone is a calming, moisturizing ingredient that promotes a clear complexion. Botanical extracts soothe irritated and inflamed blemishes, allowing skin to heal.

Free of potential irritants like synthetic dyes and fragrances. PCA SKIN® does not perform or condone animal testing.

Best for: All skin types; looking for face treatments, those who don’t have exfoliating products in their regimen

Check for discounts & other customer reviews on Amazon

PCA SKIN Acne Cream, 0.5 fl. oz.

The spot treatment version of the PCA SKIN BPO 5% Cleanser above.

Instead of phytic acid however, the exfoliant that comes with the cream is lactic acid. This is the gentlest type of AHA among all the alpha hydroxy acids, and is the most moisturizing.

It also has tea tree oil in the mix, one of the most established botanicals that heal acne and promotes clear complexion.

Best for: All skin types; looking for spot treatments, those who don’t have exfoliating products in their regimen

Check for discounts & other customer reviews on Amazon

Benzoyl Peroxide Wash 5% 5oz Bottle by Harris Pharmaceuticals

This is the most popular ‘generic’ BP facial wash, with good reviews across the board.

I can’t quite get a hold of the ingredients from the manufacturer, but I did get a list from one of their distributors. It’s essentially a cleanser formulation + 5% BP. Pretty straightforward, so it should hold up to standard if you don’t have particular sensitivities or allergies. Just always make sure to follow up with a great moisturizer because this will very likely dry your skin without it.

Best for: If you have resistant skin and you’re looking for an affordable solution without the bells and whistles, you can give this one a go.

Also available in 10% strength.

Check for discounts & other customer reviews on Amazon

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.

Jan Marini Skin Research Benzoyl Peroxide Acne Treatment Lotion 10%

Jan Marini Skin Research (JMSR) is one of the world’s leading professional skin care brands, carried by physicians worldwide. They are known for their award-winning and innovative formulas.

This product is quite unique as the benzoyl peroxide in this lotion is highly micronized and combined with specialized emollients (moisturizers). This ensures maximum delivery of your 10% BP (which is also the max % you’ll be able to get OTC, so max 2x!) while minimizing its side effects of dryness and irritation.

To use, cover the affected area starting every other day to 1-3x daily.

Also available in 5% strength.

Best for: Normal to Oily Skin

Check for discounts & other customer reviews on Amazon

Dermatologic Cosmetic Laboratories B Prox Anti-Blemish Wash

DCL’s anti-acne formulation is a multi-tasker that aims to eliminate the cause, reduce the side effects, and prevent acne from coming back.

The 10% BP washes away acne-causing bacteria, while its detoxifying mineral-rich clay and plant extracts work to absorb excess oil and refine pore size. This helps prevent any future breakouts–a critical feature if you have oily skin.

It also has an Advanced Algae Complex that helps diminish the sensitivity that often accompanies the use of aggressive acne treatments; and Canadian Willow Herb to help visibly and dramatically reduce redness and soothe irritation.

All in all, a power packed product for those who would like their BP treatment done to the next level.

Dermatologist tested. Paraben-free. Non-comedogenic, hypoallergenic. 

Best for: All skin types especially oily skin with large pores

Check for discounts & other customer reviews on Amazon

PanOxyl Acne Foaming Wash – 10% Benzoyl Peroxide

Another dermatologically prescribed product, this foaming wash would work well for normal skin.

Looking at the formulation though, there are a number of potential irritants present. If you have sensitivities or allergies to certain cleansers, I would stay clear of this one. It can also be drying, so always follow up with a very hydrating moisturizer.

Best for: Normal, resistant skin. If you’re looking for an affordable, standard BP face wash; this PanOxyl foaming wash may be the right fit for you.

Check for discounts & other customer reviews on Amazon

10% Generic for Oxy-10 Balance Acne Treatment Medication Maximum Strength Gel

Oxy-10 was previously a prescription topical medication for acne.

This is a very strong, straight up BP leave-on gel. This means that you’ll have to do due diligence in dealing with the side effects that come with using benzoyl peroxide like dryness, redness, and irritation.

Good news is, you can pretty much cover this with a good hydrating and non-comedogenic moisturizer. Look for one that has extra calming and soothing ingredients.

The consistency is a little thicker than the usual gel but it still dries quickly and shouldn’t slide off even in your sleep.

The package comes with several tubes which should last you a very long time.

Check for discounts & other customer reviews on Amazon

Humane Benzoyl Peroxide 10% Acne Treatment Body & Face Wash

The only brand amongst all mentioned to has an EWG rating. This means that it is environmentally friendly, there are no harmful chemicals used, and there is very low chance of irritation or allergic reactions to any of their line.

This is good for the face, body, and back.

Highest EWG safety rating of 1. No parabens, SLS, fragrance, or animal testing. 100% hassle-free guarantee.

Check for discounts & other customer reviews on Amazon

Resources:

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.

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