The Best Benzoyl Peroxide Acne Treatments to Try Right Now

This potent acne-fighting ingredient has been used since the 1930s and is still producing proven results today. Here's what you need to know about BPO and which top-of-the-line treatments dermatologists recommend trying.

What is benzoyl peroxide?

face of young beautiful healthy woman looking in the mirrorOlena Zaskochenko/ShutterstockBenzoyl peroxide, otherwise known as BPO, is a potent acne product that is extremely beneficial for inflammatory acne. “What makes this such a fantastic acne medicine is that it is bactericidal, which means that it kills the bacteria that cause acne,” explains Joyce Imahiyerobo-Ip, MD, director of cosmetic dermatology at South Shore Medical Center. “It also helps to remove sebum and dead skin cells from pores, which helps to treat whiteheads and blackheads.” Dermatologists often prescribe benzoyl peroxide to be used in combination with other acne-fighting products, in order to reduce the risk of irritation that can sometimes be caused from using too much BPO. Keep reading to find out with BPO products on the market today are top-rated by dermatologists.

A less-irritating scrub

From the company that took Differin Gel from prescription-only to over the counter, Differin Daily Deep Cleanser ($12) contains just 5 percent BPO. “Benzoyl peroxide effectively treats inflammatory acne because it reduces a few factors that cause acne—oil production and the P.Acnes bacteria,” explains Dendy Engelman, MD, of Manhattan Dermatology and Cosmetic Surgery. “What I like about this one is that BPO at 5 percent is just as effective as BPO at 10 percent, but less irritating than the higher concentration.”

Good for dry and oily skin

Though on the pricier side, Obagi CLENZIderm MD Therapeutic Lotion BPO 5% ($69) contains more than just pore-clearing and blemish-busting ingredients like benzoyl peroxide. Joel Schlessinger, MD, dermatologist and RealSelf advisor, explains that it also contains hydrating ingredients, like squalane, that keep skin from becoming flaky and inflamed. He recommends it for dry skin types, as well as those with oily or combination skin. Don’t forget to test out these surprising home remedies for acne, too.

A quick-use scrub

cream backgroundphotosoft/ShutterstockClean & Clear Continuous Control Acne Cleanser ($8) contains 10 percent BPO, which, for those suffering bad bouts of acne, is ideal for both face and body. “While this or other washes may be called cleansers, they should be looked at as short-contact therapies,” explains Joshua Zeichner, director of cosmetic and clinical research in dermatology at Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York City. “The product needs to touch the skin for enough time to allow it to penetrate to do its job.” He recommends applying this cleanser directly to the skin and singing the alphabet before rinsing to ensure that it sits on the skin for long long enough to exert its effect.

Derms favorite

La Roche-Posay Effaclar Duo ($40) is a favorite of dermatologists across the country, all because it contains 5.5 percent of micronized benzoyl peroxide in combination with lipohydroxy acid (LHA). “LHA is a cousin of salicylic acid, which helps exfoliate dead cells from the surface of the skin and remove excess oil,” explains Dr. Zeichner. “It also offers a skin-brightening and anti-aging benefit, so it serves many purposes.”

Treat body and facial acne

Available as both a creamy wash or a bar, PanOxyl Benzoyl Peroxide Acne Creamy Wash ($12) is beloved by dermatologists for its ability to treat both body and facial acne, as well as folliculitis, a common summer skin problem where tiny red bumps tend to crop up around hair follicles. “It comes in two strengths, 4 percent and 10 percent, and also comes in a large bottle or bar that is shower-friendly,” explains Tsippora Shainhouse, MD, Beverly Hills-based dermatologist. “Just be careful when rinsing it off with a towel, as it can bleach fabrics!” Plus, here are the top ingredients people with acne-prone skin need in their beauty arsenal.

Up the potency

For those needing a more potent option, Dr. Schlessinger recommends Replenix Acne Solutions Acne Wash 10% ($15), which contains 10 percent BPO. “It makes for a highly purifying cleanser that aims to clear current breakouts while eliminating excess oil and bacteria,” he says. “Due to its high concentration of BPO, this cleanser is ideal for those struggling with adult and teen acne or those with excessively oily skin.”

Less drying, more hydrating

Glo Skin Beauty Clear Skin Spot Treatment ($24) features an advanced botanical formula containing just 2 percent BPO, which helps keep the skin hydrated. It contains a soothing complex of chamomile, cucumber, and rosemary extract and aloe vera, which work in conjunction to reduce inflammation and hyperpigmentation, along with breakouts and clogged pores.

A two-for-one cream

For those concerned with increasingly visible fine lines and wrinkles, as well as hormonal breakouts (also known as adult acne), Jan Marini Age Intervention Duality ($93) topical cream is ideal. “This treatment not only contains the highest percentage BPO but also 1 percent retinol, which is a great combination not only for acne but also for signs of aging,” explains Dr. Schlessinger. “It is an over-the-counter alternative to Epiduo, a prescription product.” Make sure you check out these acne treatment products that dermatologists use on themselves.

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Jenn Sinrich is an experienced digital and social editor in New York City. She's written for several publications including SELF, Women's Health, Fitness, Parents, American Baby, Ladies' Home Journal and more.She covers various topics from health, fitness and food to pregnancy and parenting. In addition to writing, Jenn also volunteers with Ed2010, serving as the deputy director to Ed's Buddy System, a program that pairs recent graduates with young editors to give them a guide to the publishing industry and to navigating New York.When she's not busy writing, editing or reading, she's enjoying and discovering the city she's always dreamed of living in with her loving fiancé, Dan, and two feline friends, Janis and Jimi. Visit her website: Jenn Sinrich.