Medically reviewed by Minimalist Health Specialist -  Written by Rithi Choudhary (Journalist) on 21st Jan 2021

Using a body wash with Benzoyl Peroxide - Does It Really Work?

Using a body wash with Benzoyl Peroxide

Suppose you have struggled with or still suffer from acne. In that case, you must be acquainted with Benzoyl Peroxide - an acne-fighting ingredient at par with salicylic acid, another go-to ingredient preferred by dermatologists and estheticians worldwide to treat acne.

While benzoyl peroxide reigns over the anti-acne counter in the form of face washes, leave-on serums and spot-on ointments, etc., did you know it also comes in the form of body washes to treat body acne?

But are benzoyl peroxide body washes effectively treating body acne such as those on the back (bacne), chest, arms, and derriere, or should you be putting your cash elsewhere?
Let's find out. 

Benzoyl Peroxide 101 

Benzoyl Peroxide is a synthetic ingredient made by combining hydrogen peroxide with benzoyl chloride under alkaline conditions. It is especially effective in treating inflammatory acne flare-ups - pustules, papules, nodules, etc. It is antibacterial, and therefore, it kills acne-causing bacteria, thereby clearing existing breakouts and preventing future ones. Apart from skin concerns, benzoyl peroxide is also used for bleaching the hair and whitening the teeth.

Benefits of Benzoyl Peroxide 

  • Clears Pimples: Benzoyl Peroxide inhibits the growth of Cutibacterium acnes, the main bacteria associated with acne. It is also effective in killing various other strains of acne-causing bacteria.  
  • Cleanses Pores: Benzoyl Peroxide is also comedolytic; that is, it dissolves the hardened plug composed of oxidized sebum and dead skin cells from the pores clean.
  • Controls Excess Oil: Benzoyl Peroxide also controls excess sebum production, which is responsible for acne.  
  • Exfoliates Dead Skin Cell: Benzoyl Peroxide is also a keratolytic agent; it sheds the top layers of skin cells. It is a desirable trait as it would help shed dead skin cells. But one should be careful as using too much of it can cause peeling and shed healthy skin cells and lead to irritation. 
  • Anti-inflammatory: Benzoyl Peroxide is anti-inflammatory and soothes the burning of acne flare-ups. 
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Benzoyl Peroxide Body Wash: Yay or Nay?

Benzoyl Peroxide in the form of body wash will eliminate the pimples in all the places you do not desire. But what if you do not have body acne (lucky you!)? Would you still need a benzoyl peroxide-based body wash?  

Well turns out that benzoyl peroxide can do a lot more than just clearing your acne, such as - 

  • the keratolytic activity of benzoyl peroxide body wash will help remove the ingrown hairs (often a result of shaving).
  • Benzoyl peroxide body wash can help get rid of body odor, especially from the armpits, thanks to its bacteria-killing powers.

Make sure to moisturize immediately, most suitably while the skin is still damp, to combat the resulting dryness. 

Did You Know:

Body Odour is often due to bacterial infestation in the body. The bacteria present under our skin's folds feed on the sweat we secrete, and the resulting odor is the gas they release as part of their metabolic activity.

Side Effects of Benzoyl Peroxide 

Benzoyl Peroxide is a very potent ingredient and is not at all suitable for sensitive skin. Its keratolytic activity can be quite aggressive and lead to peeling, redness, stinging, dryness, and irritation. Over the counter treatments usually come in 2, 5, and 10% concentration. Consult your dermatologist while choosing a concentration that is suitable for the severity of your acne.

Benzoyl Peroxide ointments/serums also tend to leave a stain behind. Therefore, make sure you are not wearing whites or your favorite clothing piece when using benzoyl peroxide because it may transfer along with your sweat. But in the case of a wash-off form, staining should not be an issue. 

Causes for Body Acne:

The reasons for acne on the body is often obvious like: 

  • Excess oil & accumulation of dead skin cells in the pores.
  • Bacterial infestation in the pores. 
  • Stress, excessive sweating, and not taking a shower later. 
  • Hormonal changes due to medication, pregnancy, breastfeeding, and menstruation. 
  • Diet consists of too much sugar, refined carbs, adulterated dairy, etc. 

Benzoyl Peroxide vs. Salicylic Acid 

While both Benzoyl Peroxide & Salicylic Acid are hailed for their ability to treat acne.

Salicylic acid is a BHA/Beta Hydroxy Acid that can penetrate deep into the pores and break the bond between dead skin cells and accelerate cellular turnover. Like Benzoyl Peroxide, Salicylic Acid is also anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, keratolytic and comedolytic. When used in excess or higher concentration, it can lead to dryness and irritation.

However, it is important to note one key difference: the type of acne they treat. Benzoyl Peroxide is more suited to treating pus-filled acne, while Salicylic Acid effectively treats comedones (blackheads/whiteheads) rather than cystic acne. 

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If you are looking to treat cystic acne, Benzoyl Peroxide works effectively with oral antibiotics and reduces bacterial resistance chances. Therefore consult your dermatologist before attempting to self-treat severe skin conditions such as cystic acne. 

Can you use both ingredients together?

By now, we have established the strength and weakness of both benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid. While you should not use both of these potent ingredients together, you can use them alternately to target your specific skin concern. Concentrate the salicylic acid on your blackhead/whitehead affected areas while targeting the benzoyl peroxide on active breakouts. 

Types of acne 

Did You Know:

The term 'acne' is an umbrella term used to refer to several skin blemishes. There are six different types of acne: 

  • Whiteheads (Closed Comedones): Dirt, debris, sebum, and dead skin cells completely clog the pores. They appear as white bumps on the skin. Especially on and around the nose and chin. 
  • Blackheads (Open comedones): Blackheads are pretty much the same as whiteheads, but the sebum oxidizes and therefore appears as black specks or grains on the skin.
  • Papules: When bacteria infect the comedones, the contents of the pore pops out, and the bacteria causes inflammation in the surrounding skin, causing red, often painful lesions. 
  • Pustules: Pustules are called so because they are filled with pus. They have a white center, which is called the acne head. They usually occur in clusters. 
  • Nodules: Nodular acne is a painful kind of acne that occurs inside the skin surface; that is, the bacteria infect the pores deep inside, and the content does not pop out. 
  • Cysts: Cysts or cystic acne is the worst form of acne. Although they are softer than nodules as they are filled with pus, they spread easily to the surrounding skin and take several months to clear up. 

How To Control Acne 

  • Treating acne should be a 360-degree approach. One must pay proper attention to not only the topical products but also to one's diet and lifestyle. 
  • Reduce sugar intake and cut down dairy as these foods are inflammatory. 
  • Manage your stress levels and take practice relaxing breathing exercises once a day. 
  • Eat clean, green, and fresh most of the time. Hydrate yourself. 
  • Clean yourself post-workout, post any sweating activity. Clean your linens and personal items such as towels, makeup brushes/sponges too. 
  • Acne shows up and spreads within a few days but takes months to heal completely. Do not be hard on yourself or be aggressive with your skin. Be gentle and consistent with your skincare routine, clean with your diet, and mindful of your well-being.