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A person with acne may consider specific types of face wash. While they should not overwash, it is important to maintain balanced potential hydrogen (pH) levels. Some face washes have specific formulations for those with acne or acne-prone skin.

A quick look at the best face washes for acne

The National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases states that acne is most common in teenagers and young adults. However, it can continue into adulthood.

Acne develops when hair follicles below the skin become clogged. Outbreaks on the skin’s surface can occur when oil and dead skin cells clog the pores.

To help reduce acne, a person with acne should not overwash their face, as this can lead to the skin becoming too dry, which may worsen the condition.

Some companies formulate face wash specifically to help reduce the symptoms or complement acne treatment. The products generally do this by balancing the skin’s pH levels and helping remove any bacterial buildup that could contribute to a breakout.

The American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) offers some tips on managing acne:

  • Avoid changing skin care products frequently: Giving a particular product time to work is important. The AAD advises it could take 6–8 weeks of product use before a person can start seeing results.
  • Ensure even product application: Spreading the product evenly, rather than applying to blemishes only, may help prevent further breakouts.
  • Read the labels: For all products that make contact with the skin, such as makeup, hair care products, and sunscreen, individuals should look for noncomedogenic ingredients, which will not clog pores, including beeswax and sunflower oil.
  • Reduce excessive face washing: Overwashing the face can lead to increased irritation. The AAD recommends only washing the face when first waking, after any activity that causes sweating, and before sleeping.

Medical News Today has careful vetting processes to ensure products are safe. For the skin care products in this article, the vetting team looked at several factors, including:

  • Medical accuracy and integrity: The brands included in this article do not make any inappropriate health claims.
  • Trust indicators: The brands have transparent certifications and no legal concerns.
  • Best practices: Companies provide full ingredient lists, so those with sensitivities or allergies can stay informed. The brands also have privacy policies to protect an individual’s data.
  • Reputation: The companies are reputable and have profiles or accreditation with the Better Business Bureau (BBB).
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Below, we list some face wash products to consider.

Please note that the writer of this article has not tried these products. All information presented is purely research-based and correct at the time of publishing.

Medical News Today follows a strict product selection and vetting process. Learn more here.

Best oil-free: Neutrogena Oil-Free Acne Face Wash

  • List price: around $9
  • Size: 9.1 fluid ounces (fl oz)
  • Main ingredients: 2% salicylic acid
  • Fragrance-free: yes
  • Customer rating: 4.6 out of 5 stars, from over 800 reviews

This face wash contains salicylic acid to help combat acne and further breakouts.

It also contains Neutrogena’s Microclear technology, which can help reduce blackheads and boost the delivery of acne medications.

This product is also oil-free and reportedly does not have an oily texture.

Customer reviews

Customers report that this product is thick and does not overly dry the skin. Some people also state that this bottle is cost-effective, with one reviewer saying it lasts a month of regular use between two people.

However, others state that it dried out and irritated their skin. Some reviewers say that they noticed acne becoming worse after using this product.

Best renewing: CeraVe Renewing SA Cleanser

  • List price: around $11
  • Size: 8 fl oz
  • Main ingredients: salicylic acid, hyaluronic acid, niacinamide, and ceramides
  • Fragrance-free: yes
  • Customer rating: 4.7 out of 5 stars, from over 53,000 reviews

This product contains ingredients that help remove dead skin cells while hydrating and cleansing the skin.

It also features three essential ceramides that offer natural skin protection. The formula does not contain microbeads, as these may irritate the skin.

The manufacturers claim this cleanser is best suited to those with rough and bumpy skin.

CeraVe claims this product is fragrance-free, nondrying, and nonirritating, and it will not clog pores.

Customer reviews

Some reviewers state that this product helps keep their skin clear, especially from hormonal acne. Others say it leaves the skin feeling soft and clean.

However, some customers report that it does not work on blackheads on the nose. One reviewer also comments that the pump does not always work correctly, making it difficult to pump the product out of the bottle.

Best for various skin types: DERMA E Hydrating Gentle Cleanser

  • List price: around $15
  • Size: 6 oz
  • Main ingredients: hyaluronic acid and vitamin E
  • Fragrance-free: no
  • Customer rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars, from over 1,800 reviews

This liquid product is suitable for oily, combination, dry, or normal skin.

It contains ingredients that Derma E claims are beneficial to the skin, such as hyaluronic acid to hydrate the skin, chamomile to soothe, papaya to remove dead skin cells and reduce acne, and lemongrass to tone and firm the skin.

In addition, it features vitamins A and E, which have anti-inflammatory properties.

Customer reviews

Some customers state that this wash helps keep their skin feel clean without drying it out or leaving them with a tight feeling.

However, others say that this wash does dry out the skin and recommend using heavier moisturizer alongside this product. Others say that the fragrance is too strong to be pleasant.

Best for deep cleansing: Biore Charcoal Acne Clearing Face Wash

  • List price: around $8
  • Size: 6.77 fl oz
  • Main ingredients: charcoal and salicylic acid
  • Fragrance-free: no
  • Customer rating: 4.6 out of 5 stars, from over 8,700 reviews

This product contains natural charcoal, which may help deep clean pores and absorb excess oil. The face wash does not contain oil as an ingredient.

It also features salicylic acid to help limit further acne breakouts. The manufacturer states the product is suitable for daily use.

People may use their Health Savings Account or Flexible Spending Account to purchase this product.

Customer reviews

Customers note that this product has a pleasant menthol scent and that it causes a tingling sensation when people apply it. Some people report that they noticed results within a week of starting use.

However, others say that this product is too drying for dry skin, with some recommending people only use it when they have an acne flare-up.

Best luxury: SkinCeuticals Clarifying Exfoliating Cleanser

  • Price: $36
  • Size: 150 milliliters (ml)
  • Main ingredients: salicylic acid, glycolic acid, lactic acid, and pumice
  • Fragrance-free: yes
  • Customer rating: 3.8 out of 5 stars, from 73 reviews

This product contains salicylic and glycolic acids to remove dead skin cells. Salicylic acid also acts as a natural antibiotic.

This cleanser is free from parabens, sulfates, soap, fragrances, dyes, and alcohol.

SkinCeuticals states that this cleanser is suitable for dry, normal, and combination skin.

Customer reviews

People who reviewed this product highly state that the exfoliator is gentle enough for everyday use, leaving their skin feeling soft. Others say that it can help reduce the appearance of hormonal acne.

However, other customers state that they did not notice any exfoliating sensations. Some people also report that the product caused redness and made their faces feel tight and dry.

Best foaming: La Roche-Posay Effaclar Medicated Gel

  • List price: around $16
  • Size: 6.76 fl oz
  • Main ingredients: salicylic acid
  • Fragrance-free: yes
  • Customer rating: 4.6 out of 5 stars, from over 13,000 reviews

This unscented face wash targets excess oil, blackheads, and acne.

It is a foaming face wash that does not contain harsh scrubbing particles, so it should not irritate the skin.

The company claims this product has undergone dermatological and allergy testing for safety. It is also reportedly paraben-free and suitable for people with sensitive skin.

Customer reviews

Customers recommend this product for people with oily skin, saying it can help control acne and oil production. Others also say that this gel may help reduce dark spots.

However, others report that it is not suitable for sensitive skin as it may dry skin out. Some reviewers state they experience redness and dryness if they use it more than one or two times a week.

Best for oily skin: Differin Daily Deep Cleanser

  • Price: around $12
  • Size: 4 fl oz
  • Main ingredients: benzoyl peroxide
  • Fragrance-free: yes
  • Customer rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars from over 21,000 reviews

This face wash contains 5% benzoyl peroxide. Typically, products contain 10% benzoyl peroxide, but the company claims this product is just as effective but causes less irritation and dryness.

Differin claims dermatologists developed this formula, which features a dual action that penetrates the skin deeply to absorb excess oil and moisturize while avoiding clogging pores.

Customer reviews

Some customers with sensitive combination skin state that this cleanser helps moisturize the skin and control acne. Others say they noticed their skin is less red and flakey after using this product.

However, others state that the SPF in this formula causes their eyes to sting. Some reviewers also report that the cleanser dries out their skin.

Best low pH: COSRX Good Morning Gel Cleanser

  • List price: around $14
  • Size: 5.07 fl oz
  • Main ingredients: betaine salicylate and tea tree oil
  • Fragrance-free: no
  • Customer rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars, from over 12,000 reviews

According to COSRX, this product will cleanse without stripping the skin and is suitable for all skin types.

The key ingredients include tea tree oil and beta hydroxy acid, which can remove excess oils and dead skin. The cleanser also claims to maintain the skin’s natural pH natural levels, balancing and protecting the skin and preventing irritation.

It is hypoallergenic, dermatologist-tested, as well as cruelty-, paraben-, and sulfate-free.

Customer reviews

Some customers state that this cleanser is suitable for oily combination skin, leaving the face feeling clean but not too dry. Others say the gel is light and does not leave a residue.

However, some reviewers note that the product left their skin feeling dry and tight. Some people say that the scent is overwhelming.

Best maximum strength: Humane Acne Wash

  • List price: around $25
  • Size: 8 fl oz
  • Main ingredients: benzoyl peroxide
  • Fragrance-free: yes
  • Customer rating: 4.3 out of 5 stars, from over 8,000 reviews

This product is suitable for the face and body and reportedly fights the main cause of acne growth. It may also tackle excess oil production and helps remove the excess oil, dead skin, and debris responsible for clogged pores.

Humane states that its maximum-strength, minimal-ingredient formula is vegan-friendly and free from ingredients such as:

  • sulfates
  • alcohol
  • paraffin
  • parabens
  • formaldehyde
  • artificial colors and fragrance

The company also claims it can clear up blackheads, whiteheads, bumps, and cysts while soothing soreness and inflammation.

Customer reviews

Some reviewers state this product is easy to apply and wash off, leaving the skin feeling clean. Some say they used it for their back and shoulders and noticed less acne after several applications.

However, some customers state that the product dries out the skin. Others say that they did not notice any improvement after using it.

Best scented: Kate Somerville EradiKate Daily Foaming Cleanser

  • List price: around $40
  • Size: 4 fl oz
  • Main ingredients: 3% sulfur
  • Fragrance-free: no
  • Customer rating: 4.6 out of 5 stars, from over 800 reviews

This medicated wash features a honey scent and 3% sulfur that may help balance oily skin, clear spots, unclog pores, and prevent future breakouts.

The product also contains rice bran and natural oat extract, which may be calming and help reduce oil.

Customer reviews

Some customers state that this product helps reduce hormonal and cystic acne, especially acne that does not respond to products that contain salicylic acid benzoyl peroxide.

However, some reviewers do not recommend this product for people with sensitive skin. Some people experienced redness and rashes after using this product.

The following table compares the face washes in this article on price, size, ingredients, and more.

List priceSizeMain ingredientsFragrance-freeCustomer rating
Neutrogenaaround $99.1 fl oz2% salicylic acidyes4.6 out of 5 stars
CeraVearound $118 fl oz• salicylic acid
• hyaluronic acid
• niacinamide
• ceramides
yes4.7 out of 5 stars
DERMA Earound $156 fl oz• hyaluronic acid
• vitamin E
no4.5 out of 5 stars
Biorearound $86.77 fl oz• charcoal
• salicylic acid
no4.6 out of 5 stars
SkinCeuticals$36150 ml• salicylic acid
• glycolic acid
• lactic acid
• pumice
yes3.8 out of 5 stars
La Roche-Posayaround $166.76 fl ozsalicylic acidyes4.6 out of 5 stars
Differinaround $124 fl ozbenzoyl peroxideyes4.5 out of 5 stars
COSRXaround $145.07 fl oz• betain salicylate
• tea tree oil
no4.5 out of 5 stars
Humanearound $258 fl ozbenzoyl peroxideyes4.3 out of 5 stars
Kate Somervillearound $404 fl oz3% sulfurno4.6 out of 5 stars

People may wish to consider the following when choosing face wash:

  • Ingredients: Certain ingredients may be beneficial for acne, such as salicylic acid and hyaluronic acid. However, these may be too harsh for sensitive skin. People should also look for noncomedogenic products.
  • Dietary, allergen, and ethical concerns: People who are vegan may wish only to choose vegan products. Other considerations may include ensuring the product is free from allergens, and whether it is organic and cruelty-free.
  • Texture: Some products have a gel-like texture, and others may foam when a person uses them.
  • Price: People may wish to ensure the face wash is within their budget.

A person should consider speaking with a doctor if they have concerns about their acne and its associated physical symptoms, including scarring or skin marks.

Acne may also affect a person’s mental health, so individuals should consult a doctor if they feel anxious or depressed or if the condition negatively affects their well-being.

There are different types of acne, and each may require a different treatment approach. The AAD states there are several options to treat the following skin conditions:

  • Whiteheads, blackheads, or a combination of both: Treatment will likely include topical options, such as antibiotic creams, that a person applies to their skin.
  • Pimples: Treatments include topical options that an individual applies to their skin, including antibiotics.
  • Cysts and deep, scarring acne: Using prescription topical treatments that a person applies to the skin. They can also take an oral antibiotic.

A dermatologist may sometimes recommend other treatments, including corticosteroid injections, laser therapy, and following a nutritious diet.

Here we answer some common questions about these products.

Which is the best face wash for acne?

The best face wash for acne will be noncomedogenic. However, the brand that a person decides to purchase from depends on their preferences.

Some companies offer products that target specific concerns, such as oily skin and blackheads. Washes are also available in gel, foam, or cream formulations.

Can face washes remove pimples?

A 2020 review found that daily use of moisturizers, cleansers, and sunscreens can reduce inflammatory and noninflammatory acne in teenagers.

People may find that face washes are more effective in combination with medication from a dermatologist.

A person should consider using face wash twice daily: when waking and before sleeping. The AAD also recommends washing the face after any activity that causes sweating.

For people with acne, some face wash can help unclog pores and remove excess oil. This can reduce pimples and prevent further breakouts.

A person should consider consulting a doctor or dermatologist if they have concerns about the physical or emotional effects of acne.