There are no ifs, ands, or buts (pun intended) about it—breakouts can occur all over your body, not just your face. Pimples can pop up on your back, chest, and yes, even your butt, and can be just as stubborn to treat as facial acne. As with your complexion, there are a variety of culprits behind the blemishes, and lifestyle factors play a major role. Things like sitting around in sweaty workout clothes for hours on end, pore-clogging detergents you wash your clothes in, and even the shampoo you’re using can contribute to breakouts on your body.
To eliminate below-the-neck pimples, a body care routine that minimizes excess dirt, oil, and skin inflammation is key. For this, you’ll want to reach for a body wash with chemical exfoliants, such as alpha- and beta-hydroxy acids (AHAs and BHAs), says Dennis Gross, M.D., a board-certified dermatologist in New York City and founder of the eponymous skincare line.
To find the best acne body washes worthy of a spot in your shower routine, we tried out a few of the highest-rated products on the market. We used them for weeks at a time, rating how well they cleansed in addition to targeting skin concerns like body breakouts, bumps, and roughness. Our team then combed through the results and cross-referenced them with expert-recommended picks to compile this curated list of blemish-banishing body washes.
ZitSticka Silkshake Body Cleanser
Relies on gentle ingredients
Helps promote a strong skin barrier
Can be hard to spread
Packed with pre, post, and probiotics, this body wash is as nutrient-dense as it gets, so it’s no wonder that it balances your skin’s microbiome, helping good flora thrive while melting breakout-causing ones. We love that this formula contains tea tree and omegas 3,6 and 9 to diffuse the appearance of redness and irritation while ensuring a deep cleanse. During testing, we noticed a reduction in the number of pimples we had at any given time. And the ones we did have were way less painful and tended to be on the smaller side. Best of all, it helped calm redness and made the overall look of skin appear less blotchy and more balanced.
The only caveat: It requires a bit more water than we’re used to during cleansing. We found that if the skin wasn’t wet enough, then the cleanser was very creamy (as opposed to sudsy) and harder to spread across the body. When there was enough water, however, it lathered really nicely.
Price at time of publish: $25
Active Ingredients: Probiotics, Tea tree, Omegas 3, 6, and 9 | Skin Type: All | Size: 10.14 oz.
PanOxyl Acne Foaming Wash
Creamy and mild
Skin feels soft and less oily
Can be too drying for some
Anything that promises to clear, treat, and prevent breakouts from forming has got our attention, and this wash from PanOxyl did not disappoint. It foams nicely with some encouragement and does exactly what it says it will while still being available over the counter without a prescription.
Loaded with 10 percent benzoyl peroxide, this maximum-strength treatment can be used on both the face and body. We found that it was very strong (almost too concentrated for such a delicate area like the face); it performed exceptionally well on the skin below the neck, but we found that facial skin started to peel because of how dry it got.
Price at time of publish: $10
Active Ingredients: Benzoyl peroxide | Skin Type: All | Size: 1 oz., 3 oz., and 5.5 oz.
Starface Outer Space Foaming Body Cleanser
Spreads easily and lathers well
Smells expensive and luxurious
Skin can feel tight if used too often
Sometimes your skin just needs a good refresh, and honestly, a lot of that feeling comes from the way a product smells and how it spreads. This option from Starface ticks off both of those boxes and then some. Thanks to an all-natural fragrance and a formula that reduces inflammation while also bubbling up into a soapy lather, we couldn’t get enough of this one. After using it multiple times a week, we noticed a difference in the appearance of bacne specifically and credit it to the willow bark (an alternative to salicylic acid), cica (a perennial herb that hydrates and soothes inflammation), and shea butter formulation.
If we had to change one thing, it would be how strong it is. We noticed that it can be quite drying if used every day, especially since our skin felt a little tight after use. But, when you consider how glowy and gorgeous your skin looks, we trust that you, too, will be willing to overlook it.
Price at time of publish: $13
Active Ingredients: Willow bark, Cica, Shea butter, Hydrolyzed oat | Skin Type: Oily skin, Combination skin | Size: 8 oz.
Best for Back Acne
Truly Cherry Jelly Anti-Bacne Body Cleanser
Soothes hyperpigmentation and decreases redness
Designed specifically for back acne
We wish it was more moisturizing
Truly’s Cherry Jelly body cleanser is specially formulated to target bacne (or any body acne, for that matter). It leans on a zit-zapping blend of mandelic acid, calming niacinamide, and nourishing allantoin to treat breakouts on the back without irritation. Upon contact with water, the cleanser transforms from a gel consistency to a light cream that spreads nicely across the entire body. After rinsing, our skin felt soft and refreshed, and over time, we noticed a major reduction in back acne and bumps on the back of our arms. The only thing you should know is that it can be slightly drying, so be sure to follow up with a moisturizer and try to limit use to once or twice a week.
Price at time of publish: $24
Active Ingredients: Cherry, Niacinamide, Mandelic acid, Aloe, Allantoin | Skin Type: All | Size: 8 oz.
Murad Acne Control Acne Body Wash
Physical and chemical exfoliation
Higher concentration of salicylic acid than others
Not for daily use
Yes, this formula is another option that is salicylic acid-based; what sets it apart is that it contains the ingredient in a 1% concentration—you don’t need to stress about irritation. Date seed powder and glycolic acid also up the exfoliation, but thanks to soothing green tea and licorice extracts, it’s still gentle enough to be used daily. It has a smooth, gel-like texture with small grains that feel exfoliating without causing abrasions or discomfort. Over time, we noticed it helped with excess sebum and oiliness and even reduced the amount of existing acne, too. Because of the exfoliating nature of the product, it’s not ideal to use daily. Try using it a few times a week in conjunction with other options.
Price at time of publish: $48
Active Ingredients: Salicylic acid | Skin Type: All | Size: 8.5 oz.
Best for Sensitive Skin
Kosas Good Body Skin AHA + Enzyme Exfoliating Body Wash
Clean and natural formula
Requires following up with body lotion
The stars of the show in this formula are four different alpha-hydroxy acids: lactic, mandelic, glycolic, and citric. According to Gross, AHAs are one of the top ingredients he recommends for an acne wash: “They give you an even exfoliation while also clearing pores,” he says. Here, there are also gently exfoliating natural fruit enzymes in the mix. Still, everything from the luscious lather (the gel formula suds up surprisingly well) to the clean, spa-like scent (which is naturally derived) makes this feel more like a luxurious bath product than any kind of acne treatment. We also found that, despite the plentiful acne-targeting ingredients, it’s quite gentle and suitable for sensitive skin. We do recommend following up with a body lotion or oil after cleansing with this wash, as the ingredients can be drying.
Price at time of publish: $22
Active Ingredients: Lactic acid, Mandelic acid, Glycolic acid, Citric acid | Skin Type: All | Size: 9 oz.
Our best overall pick is ZitSticka Silkshake Body Cleanser, a formula packed with pre, post, and probiotics. It helps to balance your skin’s microbiome, helping good flora thrive while melting breakout-causing ones. For a more affordable pick, consider PanOxyl Acne Creamy Wash, which also contains benzoyl peroxide to prevent pore-clogging bacteria from causing more breakouts.
Meet the Expert
- Dermatologist Joshua Zeichner, MD is an associate professor of dermatology and the Director of Clinical and Cosmetic Research at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City. He specializes in multiple areas of cosmetic and medical dermatology, including acne.
- Dennis Gross, MD is a board-certified dermatologist in New York City and the founder of the Dr. Dennis Gross Skincare line, which focuses, among other things, on acne treatment and prevention.
What to Look for in an Acne Body Wash
Zeichner recommends reaching for a formula with salicylic acid, which is a beta-hydroxy acid if you have congested skin. It's oil-soluble, meaning it’s great for helping to unclog pores and combat blackheads and whiteheads specifically. The Murad Acne Body Wash is a great pick that contains salicylic acid.
Another ingredient Zeichner recommends looking for in an acne body wash is benzoyl peroxide, which is ideal to use if your blemishes are larger, red, and/or inflamed. "Benzoyl peroxide lowers levels of acne-causing bacteria to reduce inflammation," he says. "It can also help open up pimples themselves. I typically recommend cleansers that contain the maximum strength of 10% benzoyl peroxide to allow for the best chance of penetration into the skin." The PanOxyl Acne Creamy Wash contains benzoyl peroxide to target breakouts on contact with the skin.
There are other ingredients, like tea tree oil, for example, that target redness, swelling, and inflammation due to their anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties. The Typology Anti-Blemish Body Wash with 6% Glycolic Acid is a fantastic option containing the ingredient.
Type of Formula
For those dealing with body breakouts who are generally oily or are already using other acne treatments, Zeichner recommends opting for a foaming or exfoliating formula. “These remove certain oils and keep the pores clear,” he says. This will not only help to address current blemishes but can prevent future breakouts. We love the Kosas Good Body Skin AHA + Enzyme Exfoliating Body Wash, an exfoliating option ideal for sensitive skin.
Size matters here. Since you’ll likely use a decent amount of product each time to cover your back, chest, and/or arms, look for an option that will offer the most bang for your buck. The Starface Outer Space Body Cleanser is one of our favorites because a little bit goes a long way, and an 8-ounce bottle only costs 13 dollars.
How do you use an acne body wash?
Zeichner stresses the importance of treating acne body wash as an actual treatment and not just a traditional body wash that you quickly lather up and wash away. “No matter what cleanser you’re using, think of it more like a short contact treatment rather than just a cleanser,” he says. “It needs enough contact time on the skin to allow for penetration of the active ingredient for it to do its job.”
Can you use acne body wash on your face?
According to Zeichner, in most cases, you can use your acne body wash on your face. “The active ingredients in acne washes are the same, whether they’re made for your body or your face, so you can use an acne body wash effectively on your face,” he says. “My only caution comes to body scrubs, which may be a bit too harsh for the face.” In addition to scrubs, be cautious of anything that's heavily scented, as that can potentially cause irritation or trigger a breakout.
Can body wash cause acne?
Some body washes—even those formulated to specifically target acne—can actually trigger acne or exacerbate existing breakouts. Zeichner says that body washes with heavy oils or fragrances can also lead to skin irritation and, in some cases, cause breakouts. That said, look for hydrating products formulated without heavy soaps or fragrances to keep your skin happy.
How We Tested
Byrdie editors did extensive research on popular acne body washes, taking expert recommendations and consumer reviews into account before choosing 14 to test out first-hand. Each tester considered each cleanser’s consistency, overall efficacy (like whether or not it did what it said it would), whether or not it left behind a residue, and how acne looked after consistent use before deciding on a rating from one to five. Those with the highest scores made the list.
Why Trust Byrdie
Byrdie contributor Melanie Rud has over a decade of experience in the beauty industry, writing for some of the biggest magazines and websites out there. She considered dozens of products for this roundup, evaluating them on their active ingredient list, results, and value. She researched dermatologist-recommended picks and consulted our testing insights to help her compile this list.
Byrdie staff commerce writer Caitlyn Martyn has several years of experience in the beauty industry and has covered all things skincare, makeup, fragrance, and hair care. An avid product tester, Caitlyn likes to try the latest and greatest products to let readers know what’s worth it and what’s not. She has dealt with acne for years, both on the face and on the body, and has tried many of the options that made this list.
According to our Diversity Pledge, 15% of products in our newly-published market roundups will feature Black-owned and/or Black-founded brands. At the time of publishing, we were not able to find any acne body washes from a Black-owned and/or Black-founded business. If you know of one we should consider, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we will evaluate the product ASAP.
Arif T. Salicylic acid as a peeling agent: a comprehensive review. Clin Cosmet Investig Dermatol. 2015;8:455-461. doi:10.2147/CCID.S84765