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Many companies produce soaps designed to help manage acne breakouts and alleviate acne symptoms. A wide selection of soaps are available, each catering to a particular skin type and budget.

This article explores acne soaps in more detail, reviews products a person can find online, and outlines some self-care tips that may help control acne flare-ups. We also answer some frequently asked questions about acne and its treatment.

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Acne is a skin condition that causes pimples. It commonly affects the skin of the face, back, and chest.

Acne occurs when oil-producing glands next to hair follicles produce excessive amounts of an oily substance called sebum. This excess sebum promotes the growth of an ordinarily harmless bacterium called P. acnes. An overgrowth of P. acnes causes the hair follicle to become inflamed and fill with pus.

Acne is typically linked to changes in hormone levels. Therefore, it is more common among people going through puberty or pregnancy. However, the condition can occur at any age.

Learn more about acne here.

Types

There are six main types of acne. They are:

  • Blackheads: These appear as small black bumps on the skin. Squeezing a blackhead will cause its contents to empty.
  • Whiteheads: These are similar in appearance to blackheads, but squeezing will not cause their contents to empty.
  • Papules: These are small red bumps that may feel tender or sore.
  • Pustules: Similar in appearance to papules, pustules also have a white, pus-filled center.
  • Nodules: These are large, hard, painful lumps that form beneath the surface of the skin.
  • Cysts: Cysts are large, pus-filled lumps that appear similar to boils. They are the most severe type of acne lesion and carry the greatest risk of permanent scarring.

There are various prescription and over-the-counter products a person can use to treat their acne.

A 2019 article states that soaps usually have a high pH level, which can irritate the skin. A person may consider opting for soap-free cleansing products with a pH of around 5.5, which is similar to that of skin.

Dermatologists may recommend antibacterial face washes for people with mild acne. However, these products may be too harsh for sensitive skin.

Factors that people should consider when choosing a soap for acne include:

  • Ingredients: People should check a product’s label to ensure its ingredients are suitable for acne-prone skin. The American Academy of Dermatology states that the following are common ingredients in acne products:
  • Skin type: A person should check a product’s label to ensure it is compatible with their skin type.
  • Allergies: Some acne soaps may cause irritation. People with sensitive skin should consider products without fragrance.

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.
  • Reputable: MNT selects products from businesses that adhere to industry best practices.

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 acne soap for sensitive skin: Cetaphil Gentle Cleansing Bar

Price: starting at $18.98

Main ingredient: glycerin

Cetaphil Gentle Cleansing Bar is a soap-free cleanser that contains natural surfactants. These cleanse the skin without stripping it of its natural oils and emollients. As such, the product may suit people who have dry and sensitive skin.

The manufacturer claims that the product removes bacteria and impurities in just 20 seconds.

Pros and cons

According to positive reviews on Amazon, the soap does not cause skin tightness and may be a good option for people with eczema.

However, the soap is not fragrance-free. Some users commented on its strong smell. Other users reported skin rashes after using the product.

Best vegan acne soap: The Yellow Bird Activated Charcoal Soap Bar

Price: $9.95

Main ingredients: charcoal, lemongrass, and lavender

The Yellow Bird Activated Charcoal Soap Bar is a vegan soap bar formulated for people with the following skin conditions:

This soap draws oil away from the skin, reducing the likelihood of clogged pores.

The product contains organic ingredients and is free of GMOs and synthetic fragrances.

Pros and cons

Amazon reviews report that the product helps soothe the skin and reduce itching. Customers also praise the company’s support team and 30-day, 100% customer satisfaction guarantee.

However, some users report that the soap has a strong smell. Others report developing an allergic reaction after using the soap.

Best acne soap for children: Beessential All Natural Tea Tree Small Batch Bar Soap

Price: $6.99

Main ingredients: tea tree oil, shea butter, beeswax, and coconut oil

The Beessential All Natural Tea Tree Small Batch Bar Soap claims to reduce redness and inflammation. Beessential recommends the soap for adults and children with oily and acne-prone skin.

The product is cruelty-free and does not contain the following:

  • GMOs
  • parabens
  • polyethylene glycols (PEGs)
  • sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS)
  • gluten
  • alcohol

Pros and cons

Some users report that the soap has moisturizing properties, while others caution that the product is not suitable for dry skin, as it caused skin tightness and itching.

Best antibacterial acne soap: Joesoef Anti-Acne Soap

Price: $35.97 for a pack of three

Main ingredient: precipitated sulfur

Joesoef Anti-Acne Soap is formulated with natural volcanic sulfur. People can use it as an alternative to salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide products.

The manufacturers claim that the soap has antibacterial, antifungal, and antiseptic properties.

Pros and cons

Positive reviews state that this anti-acne soap works well on sensitive skin and for people with skin conditions such as rosacea and seborrheic dermatitis.

However, some users report that the soap has a strong smell that can transfer to fabrics and can be difficult to remove.

Best acne soap for rosacea: DermaHarmony Sulfur and Salicylic Acid Bar Soap

Price: $7.89

Main ingredients: precipitated sulfur and salicylic acid

DermaHarmony Sulfur and Salicylic Acid Bar Soap is suitable for people with acne and dandruff. Those with dandruff can use the soap as a solid shampoo.

The soap has a soy-derived natural odor eliminator that reduces the smell of the sulfur.

A person can use this product every day and should try to keep the soap in contact with their skin for up to 90 seconds.

Pros and cons

Positive reviews praise the quality of the product, stating that it helps smooth the skin and control rosacea breakouts.

The company states that the soap can cause dryness, so it is best to begin with a patch test to see how the skin reacts.

Best budget acne soap: Neutrogena Transparent Facial Bar

Price: $7.02

Main ingredients: tea stearate, glycerin, and triethanolamine

Neutrogena’s Transparent Facial Bar has a hypoallergenic formula. It does not contain harsh detergents, dyes, or hardeners.

The manufacturers claim that the soap removes excess oil from the skin without leaving any pore-clogging residue.

Pros and cons

Reviews state that the soap is gentle on the skin and does not cause dryness.

However, some Amazon product reviews state that the soap can cause a rash in people with sensitive skin.

Best acne soap for dandruff: Vanicream Z-Bar

Price: around $11

Main ingredient: pyrithione zinc

The Vanicream Z-Bar is formulated to help relieve itching, flaking, and redness. It is dermatologically tested and pH-balanced. It is also noncomedogenic, meaning it will not block pores.

The product is free of the following:

  • dyes
  • fragrance
  • lanolin
  • parabens
  • phosphates
  • formaldehyde and formaldehyde releasers
  • oils
  • gluten

Pros and cons

This soap can help reduce rashes and breakouts and may help control seborrheic dermatitis. Many users apply the product as a shampoo to help eliminate dandruff.

Some users report that it took time to start noticing results. Others report worsening breakouts or skin irritation after using the soap.

Best allergy-tested acne soap: Clinique Acne Solutions Cleansing Bar

Price: $18

Main ingredient: salicylic acid

Clinique’s Acne Solutions Cleansing Bar is a gluten-free cleansing bar that helps unclog pores and reduce breakouts. People can use the bar on any part of their body.

The product is allergy tested and formulated without parabens, phthalates, oils, or fragrance.

Pros and cons

Some people report that the cleansing bar helped control their breakouts without causing skin dryness.

However, other users reported not being able to use the whole bar, as it irritated their skin.

The chart below provides a comparison of the chosen acne soaps:

Distinguishing featureMain ingredientsPriceReview rating
Cetaphil Gentle Cleansing Barformulated for sensitive skinglycerin$18.984.8 stars
The Yellow Bird Activated Charcoal Soap Barvegancharcoal, lemongrass, and lavender$9.954.5 stars
Beessential All Natural Tea Tree Small Batch Bar Soapformulated for adults and childrentea tree oil, shea butter, beeswax, and coconut oil$6.994.3 stars
Joesoef Anti-Acne Soaphas antibacterial propertiesprecipitated sulfur$35.97 for a pack of 34.6 stars
DermaHarmony Sulfur and Salicylic Acid Bar Soapworks on rosaceaprecipitated sulfur and salicylic acid$7.895 stars
Neutrogena The Transparent Facial Barcost-effectivetea stearate, glycerin, and triethanolamine$7.024.7 stars
Vanicream Z-Barworks on dandruffpyrithione zinc$114.6 stars
Clinique Acne Solutions Cleansing Barallergy-testedsalicylic acid$184.6 stars

The American Academy of Dermatology provides the following tips for helping control acne breakouts:

  • Using oil-free products: A person should buy products that do not contain oil. Oil-free products are less likely to clog pores and cause breakouts.
  • Trying one product at a time: It is best to try one product and wait a few weeks to see how the skin reacts. The organization states that people may have to wait up to 8 weeks to see improvements.
  • Avoiding popping acne lesions: Popping acne lesions may push pus and dead skin cells deep into the skin, causing inflammation. This can lead to pain and scarring.

Learn about preventing pimples here.

The National Health Service (NHS) recommends that people see a dermatologist if the products they are using do not work or if they experience any of the following:

  • papules and pustules on the face, chest, and back
  • painful nodules
  • scarring

Below are answers to some frequently asked questions about acne soaps.

Which soap is best for removing acne?

The best soap for removing acne depends largely on a person’s skin type. In general, people should opt for a product that does not contain oils, as oil-free products are less likely to clog pores and worsen breakouts.

People with sensitive skin should choose a fragrance-free soap, since some fragrances can cause skin irritation.

How can I clear acne?

The Office on Women’s Health provides the following self-care tips for helping prevent acne flare-ups:

  • avoiding squeezing or picking acne lesions
  • cleaning the skin with mild soap or cleanser twice a day
  • wearing sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher
  • using makeup and hair products labeled as noncomedogenic or nonacnegenic

How much do acne soaps cost?

The price of acne soaps ranges from a few dollars to around $35. When buying an acne soap, a person should also consider the following:

  • shipping costs
  • whether the product is returnable or exchangeable
  • whether there are any fees for returning the product

Acne is a common inflammatory skin condition that occurs when an overproduction of sebum clogs the skin’s pores. There are six different types of acne lesions that vary in severity: blackheads, whiteheads, papules, pustules, nodules, and cysts.

Some companies offer soaps that may help reduce acne breakouts. When selecting a soap, a person should consider a product’s ingredient list and whether the product is suitable for their skin type.

People who experience persistent or worsening acne should consult a doctor or dermatologist who will be able to recommend other treatments.