When it comes to busting breakouts, I think it's pretty safe to say the entire beauty industry is on an on-going quest to find the very best acne treatment out there. And to be honest, when it comes to treating every type of acne on the face, as a whole, most of us are pretty clued up on the best skincare routine for acne.
However, when it comes to body breakouts and the best body wash for acne, we seem to be less in the know. Take myself, for example. Having been a beauty editor and journalist for over eight years, it's safe to say I put a lot of time, energy and money into finding the best spot treatments for the hormonal, post-pill acne that first cropped up on my chin a few years ago and never went away. When it comes to my body breakouts, however, I've typically turned a blind eye.
My experience with body breakouts
The truth is, considering I've spent years of my life having daily conversations with some of the top dermatologists in the game and finding the best acne face washes, the best moisturisers for acne-prone skin and the best sunscreens for acne, it took me a long time to pay my body breakouts any attention.
When the start of summer rolled around earlier this year, I had decided that after years of ignorance, it was finally time to treat my incessant back acne and chest acne—so I reached out to some of my go-to dermatologists to help. Dr Susan Mayou, consultant dermatologist at the Cadogan Clinic, explains that treating body acne can be tough. "The skin on the body is tougher—the pores are less flexible and it's generally more resilient to treatments," she says.
I was informed that the single best way to treat acne on the body was with specialised acne body washes. Just like how we switch our facial cleansers up in relation to our skin type and concerns—our body washes should be switched up, too. "You should cleanse your body regularly with a skin cleanser that has an exfoliating ingredient for spot-prone skin," Dr Mayou adds.
Since then, I have dedicated many hours to testing and trialling the very best acne body washes out there in a bid to bust my stubborn body breakouts—and I'd be lying if I said I didn't stumble across some duds in the process.
The testing criteria
When it came to testing the best acne body washes, I had a very strict criteria that the washes had to meet in order to be deemed an all-round success. And while not every acne body wash on this list ticked every single box for me (I'm only one woman with her own unique set of preferences, after all), in order to feature in my edit of the best, the product had to work. My criteria was as follows:
- Does the acne body wash reduce breakouts?
- Does the acne body wash dry out the skin?
- Does the acne body wash suitably cleanse the skin?
- Does the acne body wash feel luxurious to use?
The best acne body washes
Armed with the very best expert advice, eight years of journalistic experience and the above criteria, I set out to find the best acne body washes out there, whatever your skin type or preference. Keep scrolling for the 7 best acne body washes in existence.
1. CeraVe Smoothing Cleanser with Salicylic Acid
Best all-round acne body wash
There is a reason that every dermatologist I know has something great to say about this cleanser. Over the years, it's been a trusty facial cleanser for me, working to loosen up blackheads and reduce the chances of breakouts with every use. The problem is, I like my facial cleansers to feel luxurious—and this does not. As an acne body wash, however, it's ideal. Sure, it lacks luxe points, but salicylic acid works to unclog pores while ceramides and hyaluronic acid prevent skin from turning dry. It's simple but very, very effective.
- Approved by experts
- Free from potentially irritating fragrance
- Doesn't leave skin dried out
- Protects the skin barrier
- Doesn't look or feel particularly luxurious
- Not cheap (but not wildly expensive, mind you)
2. Ameliorate Clarifying Clay Body Wash
Best acne body wash for oily skin
For an oily girl like me, this body wash is a dream. If you have a hunch that your body acne is occurring as a result of excess oil production or sweating from working out, this deep-cleaning cleanser is likely for you. With kaolin clay to soak up oil, lactic acid to speed up cell turnover, willowbark extract to provide a natural source of dead-skin-sloughing salicylic acid and hydrating hyaluronic acid to keep moisture levels in check—it's a real hard worker.
- Multi-acid formula for ultimate exfoliation
- Hydrating formula that doesn't jeopardise barrier function
- Can be a tiny bit messy
- No luxurious lather
3. ZitSticka Silkshake™ Probiotic Cleanser
Best luxury acne body wash
The risk you often face with acne body washes is they can be quite harsh. The skin on the body is more hardwearing than the skin on the face, so it's common for body washes to be slightly more drying by nature. This guy, however, won't dry skin out in the slightest. Instead of relying on drying exfoliants and acids to bust body breakouts, it uses pre, post and probiotics to help balance the skin's microbiome—meaning it keeps hold of all of the good bacteria it needs to function healthily and keep that acne-causing bad bacteria away. Oh, and it also contains tea tree for extra spot-blitzing power.
- Works into a beautiful lather
- Doesn't strip the skin
- Protects the skin's microbiome
- Relatively gentle, so might not be enough for super-stubborn breakouts
- Twisty cap can be hit or miss
4. Mario Badescu A.H.A. Botanical Body Soap
Best surface-smoothing acne body wash
This is the first acne body wash I ever tried a few years ago, and I still love it as much now as I did then. If your body acne is quite intense, I would say you might better benefit from a wash containing salicylic acid, but if it's general texture you're looking to treat, this stuff is sure to help. Formulated with exfoliating fruit enzymes to nibble away at dead, dulling and pore-clogging skin cells, it works to smooth and soften skin in need. It has a refreshing grapefruit scent, works into a satisfying lather and delivers noticeable results. My only gripe? It does risk leaving more sensitive skin a little dry.
- Invigorating scent
- Works into a luxe lather
- Contains hardworking exfoliating enzymes
- Potential to be drying
- Doesn't contain pore-unclogging salicylic acid
5. The Body Shop Tea Tree Skin Clearing Body Wash
Best spot-drying acne body wash
Look, I know this is controversial, but after a lot of testing I truly believe this body wash belongs on this edit. While some skin experts argue that tea tree oil is too harsh and drying of an ingredient to use regularly, I've found that when it comes to treating my body breakouts, this is easily one of the best acne body washes around. Known for it's spot-drying properties and invigorating scent, tea tree just makes sense in a body wash for oily, acne-prone skin.
- Relatively affordable
- Invigorating scent
- Dries out active breakouts quickly
- Risks being drying for sensitive skin types
- The scent might be overpowering to some
6. La Roche-Posay Effaclar Micro-Peeling Purifying Gel Wash
Best acne body wash for intense cases
Another dermatologist favourite, La Roche-Posay's Effaclar range is probably one of the most recommended skincare lines for acne going. Throughout my many years in this job, I'm not sure I've ever come across a single skin expert that doesn't have something great to say about Effaclar's spot-clearing potential. This body wash contains an impressive concoction of salicylic acid to slough away at pore-clogging dead skin cells, dirt and oil, as well as zinc to further blitz bacteria and help regulate oil production. It's gentle, effective and absolutely ideal for those who are feeling a bit helpless. Oh, and the cooling minty feel is a total bonus.
- Dermatologist-approved formula
- Handy pump
- Gentle but effective
- Not particularly luxurious looking or feeling
7. Frank Body Clearing Body Wash
Best acne body wash for dry skin
Sure, this body wash contains acne's arch nemesis, salicylic acid, to help reduce breakouts and excess oil, but it's so much more than salicylic acid that makes it great. Perfect for dry skin, it also contains a plethora of hydrators, such as vitamin B, Kakadu plum and aloe vera, to leave dry skin (and skin that might be prone to irritation) beautifully soft, hydrated and soothed.
- Luxurious to use
- Soap-free to avoid skin drying
- Smells great (like coffee)
- Not hardworking enough for stubborn breakouts
- Scent is strong (so be warned if you don't like coffee)
The causes of body acne
Before you go ahead and buy an acne body wash, it's worth getting to the bottom of why the skin on your body might be breaking out. "Body breakouts are mainly caused by the effect of hormones on sebaceous glands," says Dr Mayou. "The highest concentration of sebaceous glands in the body is on the T-zone and back."
And while we may have fewer sebaceous glands in other areas of the body, such as the chest, bum and legs, that's not to say we can't still experience acne there. "Acne is due to inflammation of the sebaceous glands which secrete an oily substance called sebum. Sebum lubricates the skin and hair. Inflammation of the sebaceous glands and blockage of the follicles is what causes acne." Dr Mayou adds.
Much like the causes of face acne, the causes of body acne can be linked to hormonal imbalances, some lifestyle factors and general bacteria presence.
How to prevent and get rid of body acne
As with all forms of acne, it's always best to pop in to see a skin expert if it's causing you distress. That being said, according to Dr Mayou, there are a number of things you can try first to help get your body acne under control:
- Cleanse the back and body regularly (of course).
- Avoid using heavy moisturising creams which may clog the pores.
- Shower after exercise.
- When cleansing, pay particular attention to areas susceptible to acne, such as the back or bottom.
- Regularly use an exfoliator to prevent breakouts (but avoid if the skin is inflamed or if the surface is broken—this will cause irritation and increase the chance of infection).
- Look for products that contain salicylic acid and glycolic acid.
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Shannon Lawlor is the Executive Beauty Editor at Marie Claire. With nearly a decade of experience working for some of the beauty industry’s most esteemed titles, including Who What Wear, Glamour UK, Stylist and Refinery29, Shannon’s aim is to make the conversation around beauty as open, relatable and honest as possible. As a self-confessed lazy girl, Shannon has an affinity for hard-working perfumes, fool-proof make-up products and does-it-all skincare.
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