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Face washes for oily skin should be gentle and free of ingredients that could clog a person’s pores. They may also help control acne breakouts.

Manufacturers of many products on the market claim that their products are good for oily skin, making it difficult for a person to decide what to purchase.

In this article, we explain how face washes can help with oily skin and list some products that people may wish to try.

A quick look at the best face washes for oily skin

Some people may refer to excessively oily skin as seborrhea. Along with certain medications, doctors may recommend washing the face twice daily with water and a mild soap or soapless cleanser to manage oily skin.

Face soaps and washes can help reduce the amount of dirt, sweat, and oil on the face. Removing excess oil can help prevent clogged pores. Oil blocking a pore may result in acne or other skin conditions.

It is important for a person with oily skin to keep their face clean and moisturized.

According to the American Academy of Dermatology Association (AAD), a person with oily skin should use a gentle, foaming face wash without oil or alcohol. The AAD also suggests that people only use skin care products that the label describes as oil-free or noncomedogenic.

The term “noncomedogenic” means that a product is not likely to clog pores. However, neither the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) nor any other third-party agency regulates this claim on cosmetic products. Therefore, products claiming to be noncomedogenic may vary in their ability to avoid clogging the pores.

However, it is important to note that comedogenicity ratings, or the potentiality of an ingredient or element to clog pores, have flaws. In particular, its basis is on old 1984 research that studied different ingredients on rabbit ear models, not humans.

Additionally, according to the FDA, the mention of alcohol on labels refers strictly to the use of ethyl alcohol. As a result, a product that labels itself as “alcohol-free” may not necessarily contain no alcohol. This label means the product does not contain ethyl alcohol, which may dry the skin and hair.

That said, other alcohols work in different ways and can be helpful. For example, cetyl alcohol is an emulsifier and an emollient that can help prevent dryness and act as a mild surfactant.

The FDA also outlines several claims that cosmetic companies may make on their labels and advertising. Although the FDA cannot stop a company from making claims about a product before it goes to market, it can regulate claims on labels to an extent.

It also indicates that the Federal Trade Commission regulates advertising claims, such as:

  • hypoallergenic
  • cruelty-free
  • organic
  • treats wrinkles

A person should look for user reviews to help determine whether a product may work for them. They may also wish to consider:

  • the cost of the product and their budget
  • their skin type
  • the ingredients, particularly if they have sensitive skin

Anyone unsure can talk with a board certified dermatologist about products that might work best for them.

Medical News Today chooses products that meet the following criteria:

  • Price: MNT chooses products available for a wide range of budgets.
  • Ingredients: MNT chooses products that clearly list all ingredients.
  • Skin concerns: Where appropriate, MNT selects products that target a specific skin concern, such as dryness, oiliness, or aging.
  • Safety: MNT chooses products that contain ingredients safe for topical use.
  • Reputation: MNT selects products from businesses that adhere to industry best practices.

Many face wash products are available for people to purchase. Below, we look at 10 of the best options a person can buy online.

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 publication.

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

Best gentle cleanser: Vanicream Gentle Facial Cleanser

  • Price: around $10
  • Skin type: all, especially sensitive skin
  • Pro: extremely gentle
  • Con: may not remove waterproof sunscreen and makeup

Vanicream Gentle Facial Cleanser may be a good option for people with sensitive skin.

According to the company’s website, the product will not clog pores and does not contain oil. The website also claims that the product does not contain several ingredients that people with sensitive skin often avoid, such as dyes and scents.

Vanicream markets its products primarily for people who have sensitive skin, regardless of whether their skin is oily or dry.

Positive comments praise that it gently cleans the skin without irritating or drying it out. A small number of more critical comments mention irritation, potentially due to sensitivity to one of the ingredients in the product.

Pros

  • works for all skin types
  • no fragrances or essential oils
  • no sulfates
  • no harsh ingredients

Cons

  • no active ingredients for acne
  • may not remove waterproof sunscreen or makeup

Best for a botanical formula: Alba Botanica Acnedote Maximum Strength Face & Body Scrub

  • Price: around $9
  • Skin type: acne-prone, non-sensitive skin
  • Pro: contains 2% salicylic acid
  • Con: contains essential oils and limonene

Alba Botanica Acnedote is a body and face scrub suitable for areas of enlarged pores.

According to the company’s website, the scrub is oil-free and dermatologically tested. Alba Botanica states it will not clog pores, but it contains fragrances and essential oils that could be problematic for people with sensitive skin.

Positive reviews mention that it exfoliates the skin without feeling overly harsh. However, negative reviews state that it may be too abrasive on sensitive facial skin.

Pros

  • contains 2% salicylic acid
  • aloe vera, allantoin, and panthenol can soothe the skin

Cons

  • contains fruit extracts
  • citrus peel oils may be irritating
  • limonene and peppermint oil may not be suitable for sensitive skin

Best for moderate acne: PanOxyl Acne Creamy Wash

  • Price: around $9
  • Skin type: acne-prone
  • Pro: contains 4% benzoyl peroxide
  • Con: may be harsh on sensitive skin

This PanOxyl wash contains 4% benzoyl peroxide. This chemical compound is an antibacterial ingredient that can help treat acne by reducing the number of bacteria on the face.

This makes it a potentially ideal choice for people with mild to moderate acne, especially after diagnosis and advice from a dermatologist.

Buyers who left positive reviews write that this product helped clear or reduce their acne lesions. However, some felt it is not strong enough to treat their acne.

Pros

  • contains 4% benzoyl peroxide
  • no fragrance or essential oils
  • no sulfates

Cons

  • may be too harsh for sensitive skin
  • may be drying
  • may irritate the eyes

Best for all skin types: SkinMedica Facial Cleanser

  • Price: around $36
  • Skin type: all
  • Pro: soap free
  • Con: may dry the skin

SkinMedica Facial Cleanser claims to leave the skin feeling refreshed and hydrated. The product does not contain detergents or other ingredients that may irritate the skin.

However, this cleanser contains fragrance.

The company also claims this product works well for oily, dry, or combination skin types.

Positive comments mention that it can also remove makeup and feels good on the skin. However, negative reviews say it is quite harsh and worsened some people’s eczema and rosacea.

Pros

  • no sulfates
  • soap free
  • removes makeup and pollutants

Cons

  • contains fragrance
  • includes coloring
  • reports of worsening eczema and rosacea

Best micellar cleanser: Garnier SkinActive Micellar Foaming Cleanser

  • Price: around $10
  • Skin type: all
  • Pro: can be used as a cleanser and makeup remover
  • Con: contains grapefruit

Garnier claims that this product helps with removing makeup from the skin. Micellar water uses micelles, which are clusters of molecules, to bind to oil and lift dirt and makeup from the skin.

This means people can avoid using water and soap cleansers to wash their faces.

Garnier states this cleanser is gentle, oil-free, and does not scrub the skin harshly. A person can use it as a cleanser in the morning and a makeup remover in the evening.

Positive comments mention that micellar water is a good alternative to soap cleansers, and users note it does not leave the skin feeling tight or flaky.

However, negative reviews say it burns the eyes and requires a lot of facial pads if a person is using it to remove a full face of makeup. It also contains grapefruit water, which is an irritant for some.

Pros

  • potential alternative to soap cleanser
  • binds to oil on the skin
  • does not contain fragrances or essential oils

Cons

  • contains sulfates
  • contains grapefruit

Best for very oily skin: Cetaphil DermaControl Oil Removing Foam Wash

  • Price: around $18
  • Skin type: oily, sensitive skin
  • Pro: can help very oily skin
  • Con: may be drying

Cetaphil states that this DermaControl foam wash is clinically proven to be noncomedogenic, gentle on sensitive skin, and able to remove excess oil from the skin.

It uses licorice root and zinc to soothe the skin. Cetaphil also writes that it can reduce shine.

Buyers who left a positive review say it is a good option for those with extremely oily skin.

Negative comments mention that it is very drying, leading to more lines and overproduction of sebum.

Pros

  • accessible from most drug stores
  • hypoallergenic
  • may reduce shine

Cons

  • includes fragrance
  • contains sulfates
  • may be drying

Best for ceramides: CeraVe Hydrating Facial Cleanser

  • Price: around $16
  • Skin type: oily, sensitive, dry
  • Pro: contains three ceramides and hyaluronic acid
  • Con: reports of irritation and redness after use

CeraVe is a popular skin care brand that creates products for sensitive skin.

This cleanser aims to hydrate the skin and contains three ceramides and hyaluronic acid. These ingredients are included in many skin care products for their hydrating properties.

The non-foaming formula does not include potentially irritating ingredients such as fragrances or sulfates.

There is a high rate of 5-star reviews for this cleanser. Buyers write that it is an effective cleanser and moisturizer for dry and sensitive skin, and it does not leave a residue on the skin after use.

However, a few negative reviews mention that users experienced more redness and irritation when using this product.

Pros

  • hydrates skin with ceramides and hyaluronic acid
  • fragrance-free
  • has recognition from the National Eczema Association (NEA)
  • free of soap and essential oils

Cons:

  • can be irritating for some people

Best for salicylic acid: CeraVe Renewing SA Cleanser

  • Price: around $12.50
  • Skin type: balanced
  • Pro: contains salicylic acid with ceramides
  • Con: unsuitable for those who find niacinamide irritating

This is an alternative to the Hydrating Facial Cleanser by CeraVe. It is a gently foaming cleanser with 2% salicylic acid.

This cleanser may suitable for people with oily or acne-prone skin, as salicylic acid can help to clear spots.

Positive reviews mention that it is effective for controlling breakouts and blackheads.

However, the product packaging states it is aimed at those with balanced skin. This may mean it is unsuitable for people with sensitive skin.

A few critical reviews mention that this product caused irritation.

Pros

  • contains ceramides, niacinamide, hyaluronic acid
  • uses 2% salicylic acid
  • fragrance-free
  • contains vitamin D
  • free of soaps and essential oils
  • recognition from the NEA

Cons

  • product packaging states it is suitable for balanced skin only
  • reports of skin irritation after use

Best for antioxidants: La Roche-Posay Toleriane Purifying Foaming Cleanser

  • Price: around $16
  • Skin type: balanced, oily, combination, sensitive
  • Pro: contains antioxidants and a ceramide
  • Con: some users found it stripped skin of moisture

This cleanser contains prebiotic thermal water from La Roche-Posay, which the company claims is rich in the antioxidant selenium. Antioxidants can reduce the effects of free radicals on the skin, protecting skin cells from damage.

It also combines gentle cleansing agents with niacinamide and one type of ceramide in a foaming, fragrance-free formula.

Positive reviews mention this product is suitable for very sensitive skin. Users with rosacea also found it helped them cleanse their skin without causing redness or breakouts.

However, negative reviews mention it caused acne breakouts and stripped the skin of moisture.

Pros

  • fragrance-free
  • contains niacinamide, hyaluronic acid, and one ceramide
  • suitable for sensitive skin
  • thermal water contains antioxidants

Cons

  • reports of formula stripping the skin of moisture
  • reports of increased risk of breakouts

Best for calming ingredients: Neutrogena Oil-Free Acne and Redness Facial Cleanser

  • Price: around $13
  • Skin type: acne-prone
  • Pro: contains soothing natural ingredients
  • Con: may not be suitable for very sensitive skin

This face wash is formulated for acne-prone skin. It contains salicylic acid to help clear breakouts. It uses MicroClear technology, which Neutrogena writes boosts the activity of salicylic acid.

The formula includes calming ingredients such as chamomile and aloe vera to soothe red and irritated skin and penetrates through oil to clear clogged pores.

Neutrogena claims it does not over-dry the skin and can also help to clear blackheads.

People with oily, acne-prone skin may find this face wash gentle enough for regular use. Neutrogena recommends a person uses it twice a day.

Positive reviews mention it is effective at clearing acne and reducing redness. Others mention it is suitable for sensitive skin.

However, critical reviews state that it caused reactions in people with very sensitive skin after 2–3 days of use.

Pros

  • contains soothing natural ingredients
  • uses salicylic acid to help breakouts
  • does not over-dry the skin
  • MicroClear technology may boost the activity of salicylic acid

Cons

  • may cause delayed reactions in those with sensitive skin
  • contains fragrance and colors

The table below compares each of the face washes in the article for price, ingredients, and more.

Best for Active ingredientsOther ingredientsFree of sulfatesFree of fragrance and essential oilsPrice
Vanicreamgentle cleansernot statedglycerin
coco-glucoside
sodium cocoyl glycinate
yesyesaround $10
Alba Botanicabotanical formula2% salicylic acidaloe vera
walnut shell powder
lentil fruit extract
witch hazel
willow bark
licorice
yesnoaround $9
PanOxylmoderate acne4% benzoyl peroxidedecyl glucoside
dimethicone
glycerin
stearic acid
yesyesaround $9
Skin
Medica
all skin typesnot statedglycerin
panthenol
butylene glycol
Camellia oleifera extract
yesnoaround $36
Garniermicellar cleansernot statedglycerin
hydrogenated glyceryl palmitate
coco-betaine
citric acid
grapefruit water
noyesaround $10
Cetaphilvery oily skinnot statedzinc coceth sulfate
glycerin
zinc gluconate
nonoaround $18
CeraVe Hydratingceramidesnot statedglycerin
alcohol
cetearyl alcohol
ceramides
sodium hyaluronate
yesyesaround $16
CeraVe Renewingsalicylic acid2% salicylic acidglycerin
niacinamide
ceramides
hyaluronic acid
yesyesaround $12.50
La Roche-Posayantioxidantsnot statedcoco-betane
propylene glycol
ceramide NP
niacinamide
citric acid
yesyesaround $16
Neutro-genacalming ingredients2% salicylic acidaloe vera
chamomile
citric acid
fragrance
nonoaround $13

The AAD recommends that people help keep oily skin clear and clean by:

  • removing makeup completely before bed
  • avoiding touching the face throughout the day
  • using blotting paper to remove excess oil from the face
  • wearing sunblock
  • using only oil-free products on the face, neck, and back
  • avoiding cleansers containing alcohol or oil
  • using only gentle foaming face washes
  • washing the face in the morning and before bed, as well as after working out or sweating
  • using only products labeled as noncomedogenic

A person can speak with a doctor about how to manage and improve oily skin, as oily skin can lead to acne.

If a person develops acne, they should see a board certified dermatologist for advice. Untreated acne can cause complications, such as scars. A person may also experience mental health conditions such as depression.

Here are some of the top questions about face washes for oily and acne-prone skin.

Which face wash is best for oily skin?

The best face wash for oily skin will differ between individuals based on their skin type and preferences. People with oily skin may benefit from face washes that cleanse but do not dry the skin. These face washes may use hydrating ingredients such as hyaluronic acid or ceramides.

Face washes with salicylic acid may help people prevent or manage acne caused by oily skin.

Which face wash is best for acne and oily skin?

People may consider using a wash with ingredients proven to help with acne and blackheads, such as salicylic acid, which is present in some Neutrogena and CeraVe products, and benzoyl peroxide, seen in PanOxyl products.

Is washing an oily face good?

A person should still wash their face if they have oily skin. But, they should not wash their face too much as it can increase sebum production and make skin oilier.

The AAD says to avoid scrubs and wash every morning, evening, and after exercise to cleanse the skin of sweat, dirt, and oils.

What is good for oily skin?

Regular face washing can help manage oily skin. Using blotting papers can reduce the appearance of oil, and regular moisturizing can also help reduce the overproduction of sebum.

A person can work with a dermatologist to help them manage their oily skin.

Face washes for oily skin should be gentle and not contain ingredients, such as oils or alcohols, that can clog the pores or dry out the skin too much.

A person should use caution when picking a new product and read both the label and user reviews. If in doubt, they could consider talking with a healthcare professional about the best product for them.