One of the first lines of treatment against mild to moderate acne is benzoyl peroxide (BPO). It helps not just with fighting skin infections but also with healing the wounds left by acne.[2, 3]
BPO is also considered an alternative to antibiotics, which our body can develop resistance to.
It’s available in many forms including face washes, moisturizers, creams, gels, and lotions.
Video: What is Benzoyl Peroxide? – Acne Treatment | Ask Saint Peter’s by Susan Brill, MD
Ask the Expert: What type of topical benzoyl peroxide should you use?
by Samantha Welch, Esthetician
- Benzoyl peroxide creams – Usually thick in consistency and used as spot treatments. Perfect for use on occasional blemishes.
- Benzoyl peroxide moisturizer or lotion – As opposed to spot treatments, this can be used to cover entire areas of the face where you have the most breakouts. Applying BPO to acne-prone skin is also used as a preventative measure for future breakouts.
- Benzoyl peroxide gels – lightweight and easily absorbed, gels are great for oily skin and use under makeup.
- Benzoyl peroxide face washes – If leave-ons are too strong for your sensitive skin, face washes are also a great option. They come in contact with the skin when it’s most permeable (when wet), allowing it to be absorbed–but only for a short period of time. We’ve collated the best benzoyl peroxide face washes here as well if this is an alternative you’re interested in.
Ask the Expert: How long does benzoyl peroxide take to work?
It usually takes anywhere between 4-6 weeks to see results.
And because it’s so important it bears repeating—please don’t forget to always pair your benzoyl peroxide with a non-comedogenic moisturizer to reduce any dryness or redness. You won’t be able to use it consistently if it irritates your skin.
- Ask the Expert: What type of topical benzoyl peroxide should you use?
- Ask the Expert: How long does benzoyl peroxide take to work?
- Esthetician's Choice: The Best Benzoyl Peroxide Moisturizers, Creams, Gels, & Lotions
- Touch Benzoyl Peroxide 2.5% Acne Treatment Gel Cream
- Paula’s Choice – Clear Acne Treatment Regular Strength Lotion (2.5% Benzoyl Peroxide for Moderate Acne)
- Dr. Song Acne Gel Treatment Lotion (2.5% Benzoyl Peroxide)
- Acne.org 16 oz. Treatment (2.5% Benzoyl Peroxide)
- Glytone Acne 3P Treatment Gel
- PCA SKIN Acne Cream
- M.A.D Skincare Blemish Repelling Gel Benzoyl Peroxide 5%
- Glo Skin Beauty Therapeutics Clear Anti-Blemish Treatment
- La Roche-Posay Effaclar Duo Acne Treatment with 5.5% Benzoyl Peroxide
- Jan Marini Skin Research Benzoyl Peroxide Acne Treatment Lotion 10%
- Jan Marini Skin Research Age Intervention Duality – 10% BP
- 10% Generic for Oxy-10 Balance Acne Treatment Medication Maximum Strength Gel
- Product Comparison Table: The Best Benzoyl Peroxide Moisturizers, Lotions, Creams, & Gel
- Recommended Acne Programs
- Ask the Expert: How do you use benzoyl peroxide moisturizers, creams, gels, or lotions?
- Top 11 Best Benzoyl Peroxide Moisturizers, Creams, Gels, Lotions for Acne Spot Treatments
The Best Benzoyl Peroxide Moisturizers, Creams, Gels, & Lotions
Choosing the right anti-acne products is very important in your overall treatment. Despite benzoyl peroxide being proven to be one of the most clinically effective medications in correcting acne, it has a tendency to be irritating and poorly tolerated by the skin. This causes people to ultimately discontinue its use.
Benzoyl peroxide products have come a long way though, and what was once strictly medicinal has now crossed over to being cosmetic as well. That means these products are not only concerned with treating acne but also making sure that the skin is left balanced.
Deciding on the right formulation that’s most suited for your skin type and current condition is essential for a successful treatment. When choosing from the products below, make sure to refer to the Best for: line and choose the ones that most apply to you.
Touch Benzoyl Peroxide 2.5% Acne Treatment Gel Cream
Best for: All skin types, Mild to moderate acne; Oily skin, Under makeup
This is a lightweight and fast-absorbing clarifying gel that contains micronized benzoyl peroxide–an exceptionally milled BPO. This is less than 10 microns and penetrates pores more effectively than traditional benzoyl peroxide particles.
It only has 7 ingredients and is designed for two main functions: deliver BPO efficiently to attack acne-causing bacteria and protect your skin from irritation.
Free from alcohol and oil.
It’s weightless on the skin and can be worn under makeup. Great for facial and body acne as well. Works against all types of blemishes.
Best for: All skin types struggling with mild to moderate acne; Oily skin, Under makeup
Paula’s Choice – Clear Acne Treatment Regular Strength Lotion (2.5% Benzoyl Peroxide for Moderate Acne)
Best for: All skin types, Mild to moderate acne; Reducing redness, Controlling excess oil, Hydrating to minimize dryness
This benzoyl peroxide face lotion is Part 3 of the brand’s renowned CLEAR 3-step skin perfecting system:
- Step 1: Pore Normalizing Cleanser – unclogs pores and impurities without drying the skin
- Step 2: Anti-redness Exfoliating Solution with 2% Salicylic Acid – visibly reduces redness and clears breakouts
- Step 3: Daily Skin Clearing Treatment with 2.5% Benzoyl Peroxide – disrupts the causes of acne and prevents future breakouts
(Results: Clinically proven to work deep inside pores to gradually eliminate acne. 96% experienced smaller post-acne markings. 80% observed clearer, smoother complexions. 80% noticed overall healthier looking skin)
This very light lotion also has soothing botanical extracts to calm any redness in the skin usually caused by using BPO. It can be used twice a day to control excess oil while helping hydrate the skin to reduce any peeling or dryness.
It sets to a concealed matte finish, perfect for wear under makeup.
Best for: All skin types struggling with mild to moderate acne; Oily skin, Under makeup for a matte finish
Dr. Song Acne Gel Treatment Lotion (2.5% Benzoyl Peroxide)
Best for: All skin types; Resistant, Acne-prone skin
A simple BPO lotion, very similar to the TOUCH 2.5% Acne Treatment Gel Cream. It has gel-like consistency but isn’t clear and doesn’t leave a residue like your generic BPOs.
It also contains just 7 ingredients, minimizing the chances of sensitivity to common skincare ingredients.
To use, apply a thin layer of a quarter-sized amount to the affected area. Start once a day to test, and increase to up to three times daily as needed.
Free from fragrances, parabens, and animal testing.
Offers a 100-day money-back guarantee.
Best for: All skin types; Resistant, Acne-prone skin
This is part of the acclaimed Acne.org Regimen that has helped thousands achieve clear skin. The kit comes with a gentle cleanser, this pharmaceutical-grade, and triple-milled BPO, as well as a powerfully hydrating moisturizer.
This is available in a single and double size. The sizing is great if you have acne-prone skin because it’s meant to be used for the entire face not just for curing but preventing future bouts of acne. The large bottle size is also ideal for body acne.
The texture is gel-based and goes on clear unto the skin.
Its triple-milled processing ensures potency in the application of the product. This also makes it spread easily and will not clump with moisturizers.
Best for: All skin types, overall face, and body treatment
Video: Applying Acne.org Benzoyl Peroxide on The Acne.org Regimen
Glytone Acne 3P Treatment Gel
Best for: All skin types; Dehydrated oily or dry skin; Spot treatments, Under make-up
This physician-only product line holds some of the most popular and well-known exfoliating skincare. Glytone is a staple in clinics worldwide because of its 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
The spot treatment version of the PCA SKIN BPO 5% Cleanser.
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 a clear complexion.
Best for: All skin types; looking for spot treatments, those who don’t have exfoliating products in their regimen.
A non-drying, lightweight gel-cream that absorbs quickly into the skin. It delivers a potent blend of benzoyl peroxide, licorice, green tea, and Epilobium Fleischeri extract.
Epilobium Fleischeri extract is an innovative ingredient that is very effective to reduce sebum on oily skin. It also reduces inflammation and the appearance of pores. Great for the T-zone and areas you need to minimize pores.
Green tea and licorice have antioxidant properties to help keep your skin looking and feeling younger.
No parabens or chemical colorants.
Best for: Oily and Combination skin
Glo Skin Beauty Therapeutics Clear Anti-Blemish Treatment
Best for: All skin types, Skin prone to redness and irritation
Use as a spot treatment for current breakouts and to prevent future flare-ups. It disappears into the skin and can be used under makeup.
Along with a good dose of acne-fighting 5% benzoyl peroxide, it has aloe vera and rosemary to help prevent reduce inflammation and redness. These also help in the healing and repairing of skin that was damaged by acne. Glycerin is added as well and works in tandem with aloe vera for added hydration.
If you have skin that’s prone to redness, you can start with a small amount and use it every other day to let your skin adjust. Make sure to follow up with a good moisturizer as well.
Best for: All skin types, skin prone to redness and irritation
La Roche-Posay Effaclar Duo Acne Treatment with 5.5% Benzoyl Peroxide
Best for: Spot treatments, Acne blemishes, Blackheads, Whiteheads
- Awards: 2017 The Knot Beauty Awards: Face
- 2017 InStyle Best Beauty Buys
- 2017 Teen Vogue Online Acne Awards/Spot Treatment – Benzoyl Peroxide
- 2015 InStyle Best Beauty Buys
- 2015 Nylon Best Spot Treatment
- 2014 InStyleBest Beauty Buys
- 2014 Nylon Beauty Hit List
- 2012 All You Best Beauty Buys
- 2012 Nylon Beauty Hit List: Best Acne Aid
This is step #3 of the award-winning Effaclar Dermatological Acne System by La Roche-Posay. This acne spot treatment uses 5.5% micronized benzoyl peroxide and their micro-exfoliating lipo-hydroxy acid (LHA).
It helps clear whiteheads, and blackheads, and reduces the severity of acne blemishes.
Results can be seen as fast as 3 days and have been proven to reduce acne by 60% in 10 days.
Dermatologist-tested. Paraben-free. Fragrance-free. Oil-free.
Best for: Spot treatments, Acne blemishes, Blackheads, Whiteheads
Jan Marini Skin Research (JMSR) is one of the world’s leading professional skincare 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.
Best for: Normal to Oily Skin
For severe breakouts, this treatment cream by Jan Marini addresses even the most stubborn adult acne. It contains ultra-micronized benzoyl peroxide, highly concentrated all-trans-retinol, green tea extract, and advanced hydration. Anti-aging peptides and antioxidants minimize the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles in the process.
In a 3-month independent physician study, 100% of subjects experienced a reduction in acne lesion count. Continuous improvements we have seen through its 4-week completion.
Best for: Adult acne on all skin types
10% Generic for Oxy-10 Balance Acne Treatment Medication Maximum Strength Gel
Best for: Looking for a drugstore spot-on 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.
The good news is, that 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.
Active Ingredient: 10% Benzoyl Peroxide
Best for: All skin types, Resistant skin, Affordable alternative
Product Comparison Table:
The Best Benzoyl Peroxide Moisturizers, Lotions, Creams, & Gel
|Brand / Product Name:||Product Image:||Benzoyl Peroxide Strength:||Added Benefits:||Best for (Skin Type & Condition):|
|Paulas Choice Clear Acne Treatment Regular Strength Lotion with 2.5% Benzoyl Peroxide for Moderate Acne||2.5%||Soothing plant extracts (minimize skin peeling & dryness). Sets to a soft, invisible, matte finish.||All skin types, 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|
|M.A.D Skincare Blemish Repelling Gel Benzoyl Peroxide 5%||5%||Green tea, licorice (antioxidant). Epilobium Fleischeri extract (oil control, pore minimizing).||Oily to Combination skin.||Read Review|
|Glo Skin Beauty Clear Skin Spot Treatment – Acne & Pimple Spot Treatment||5%||Aloe vera & Rosemary (anti-inflammatory, antioxidant). Glycerin (hydration).||All skin types especially those prone to redness & inflammation.||Read Review|
|La Roche-Posay Effaclar Duo Acne Treatment with 5.5% Benzoyl Peroxide||5.5%||Multi-award-winning Effaclar Dermatological Acne System. 5.5% micronized BP with micro-exfoliating lipo-hydroxy acid (LHA), proven to reduce acne by 60% in 10 days.||Spot treatments of acne blemishes, blackheads, & whiteheads.||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|
|Jan Marini Skin Research Age Intervention Duality – 10% BP||10%||Ultra-micronized benzoyl peroxide, highly concentrated all-trans-retinol, green tea extract, advanced hydration, anti-aging peptides, and antioxidants.||Medium to severe Adult Acne on all skin types.||Read Review|
|10% Generic for Oxy-10 Balance Acne Treatment Medication Maximum Strength Gel||10%||All skin types. Resistant skin.||Oily skin with open and large pores on cheeks, nose, forehead, and chin; Combination skin with oily T-zones.||Read Review|
Recommended Acne Programs
If you're suffering from severe acne, it's best to undergo a system that will help you get to the root of the problem and address the causes.
Acclaimed programs like Mike Walden's Acne No More can be a great start.
Ask the Expert: How do you use benzoyl peroxide moisturizers, creams, gels, or lotions?
Benzoyl peroxide can be a very effective solution to acne, but only if done correctly. There are many horror stories out there of BPO causing excessively dry and red skin among others but, unless you’re allergic or have sensitive skin, this usually only happens if you don’t use BPO as prescribed.
Within your skincare routine
It’s best to apply any form of topical or leave-on medication after cleansing and moisturizing the face. This ensures that your skin is well hydrated and ready to receive active ingredients into the skin.
Using a non-comedogenic moisturizer with benzoyl peroxide can be very effective in avoiding its most common side effects. This includes extreme dryness, irritation, redness, or hyperpigmentation.
If you only have the occasional pimple, you can use it as a spot treatment. Apply a pea-sized amount directly into the blemish.
If you have acne-prone skin, benzoyl peroxide can not only be effective in treating inflamed acne but also help prevent any more from erupting. Because of this, you can maximize its use if you apply it to the entire region or area in your skin where you get most breakouts. For most people, this would be the T-zone, cheeks, forehead, or chin.
Start with once every other day until you build enough skin tolerance to be able to apply the cream or lotion twice a day, morning and night.
Consistency is key—you need to be able to use the benzoyl peroxide on a regular basis to reap its anti-acne benefits.
Dose, Strength, or Percentage
If you’re just starting to use benzoyl peroxide, it’s best to start with the lowest possible concentration. Once you build skin tolerance, you can move up in strength depending on your needs.
That said, there was a study performed that benzoyl peroxide in 2.5% concentrations (the lowest commercially available) is equally as effective as 5% and 10% in reducing inflamed acne. It also caused fewer side effects like extreme dryness, redness, and symptoms of burning that its higher percentage counterparts.
- Matt Sagransky, Brad A Yentzer & Steven R Feldman (2009) Benzoyl peroxide: a review of its current use in the treatment of acne vulgaris, Expert Opinion on Pharmacotherapy, 10:15, 2555-2562, DOI: 10.1517/14656560903277228
- Alvarez OM, Mertz PM, Eaglstein WH. Benzoyl Peroxide and Epidermal Wound Healing. Arch Dermatol. 1983;119(3):222–225. doi:10.1001/archderm.1983.01650270040014
- Rathi SK. Acne vulgaris treatment : the current scenario. Indian J Dermatol. 2011 Jan;56(1):7-13. doi: 10.4103/0019-5154.77543. PMID: 21572783; PMCID: PMC3088940.
- Patel M, Bowe WP, Heughebaert C, Shalita AR. The development of antimicrobial resistance due to the antibiotic treatment of acne vulgaris: a review. Journal of Drugs in Dermatology : JDD. 2010 Jun;9(6):655-664. PMID: 20645527.
- Mills, O.H., Jr., Kligman, A.M., Pochi, P. and Comite, H. (1986), Comparing 2.5%, 5%, and 10% Benzoyl Peroxide on Inflammatory Acne Vulgaris. International Journal of Dermatology, 25: 664-667. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1365-4362.1986.tb04534.x
- Adapalene/benzoyl peroxide clearly superior in facial acne. (2007). Inpharma Weekly, &NA;(1617), p.14.
- Benzoyl Peroxide Topical: MedlinePlus Drug Information. (2018).
- 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.
- DM, F. (2018). How patients experience and manage dryness and irritation from acne treatment. – PubMed – NCBI.
- Evidence for the Use of a Benzoyl Peroxide Wash in Acne. (1984). InPharma, 441(1), pp.15-15.
- Kawashima, M., Sato, S., Furukawa, F., Matsunaga, K., Akamatsu, H., Igarashi, A., … Katsuramaki, T. (2017). Twelve‐week, multicenter, placebo‐controlled, randomized, double‐blind, parallel‐group, comparative phase II/III study of benzoyl peroxide gel in patients with acne vulgaris: A secondary publication. The Journal of Dermatology, 44(7), 774–782. https://doi.org/10.1111/1346-8138.13798
- Glymed Plus. GlyMed Plus.
- Gloprofessional.com. glo minerals Makeup & glo therapeutics Skincare | gloProfessional.
- Mad-skincare. M.A.D. Skincare.
- Panoxyl.com. PanOxyl | Acne Treatment with Benzoyl Peroxide Formula.
- Pcaskin.com. Skin Care Products.
- Rugbylaboratories.com. Home | Rugby® Laboratories.