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Tackling acne should start at the very beginning of your skincare routine, and the first step is to cleanse your skin with an acne face wash! According to the Mayo Clinic, there are many different types of acne — and beyond that, so many different skin types in general. Naturally, this makes finding the right cleanser seem like a monumental task. If you’ve been searching for a new cleanser and feel like you’re shopping blind, you’ve come to the right place.
This guide can help you better determine which of the best acne face washes will work for your skin and actually clear up your complexion in the process. You’ll also get a sense of the various washes on the market, which will help you make a better-informed decision. And to get started right away, we have 10 of the absolute best acne face washes already lined up for you below — read on and shop now!
The 10 Best Acne Face Washes
Best Overall: Paula's Choice CLEAR Pore Normalizing Cleanser
To balance out the skin-purifying and exfoliating properties, this cleanser includes arginine and pro-vitamin B5 to help soothe irritation and give your skin a soft feel. Yes, you want your skin to feel properly cleansed, but not totally stripped of all its suppleness, which is what this face wash aims to do. Paula’s Choice is an industry leader in acne-fighting products, and this pick is no exception.
- Made for all skin types
- Top-selling product
- Smaller size
- May not clear up more severe acne
- May irritate extra sensitive skin
Best Drugstore: CeraVe Renewing SA Cleanser
Shoppers claim that it does a good job of keeping pimples at bay and leaving skin feeling clean, but if a more serious acne flare-up comes around, they use other spot treatments to help target those areas. If you’re a low-maintenance skincare person, some reviewers say that over time, this acne cleanser worked in their favor and helped keep their blemishes banished for good. Bonus: CeraVe products are famously skin-friendly, so you don’t run much risk of irritation.
- Safe for sensitive skin
- Gentle exfoliation
- Glowing reviews
- Not designed for severe acne
- Slightly more expensive for a drugstore product
- Takes time to see results
Best for Sensitive Skin: Fresh® Soy Hydrating Gentle Face Cleanser
Although this isn’t a cleanser specifically designed for acne-prone skin, reviewers enthusiastically say that it’s helped them clear up their breakouts without any redness or additional flare-ups. One shopper proclaimed this product as the “best cleanser I have found for my sensitive yet acne prone skin.” While it may not work for everyone’s acne situation, it’s seriously worth a try — especially for those with sensitive skin!
- Extra gentle formula
- Paraben, phthalate, sulfate, fragrance and soap-free
- Three different size options
- Not specifically designed for acne
- May not treat severe breakouts
Best for Mature Skin: Youth to the People Superfood Cleanser
This blend of ingredients helps clean out your pores without stripping your skin. Shoppers report that it’s “mild yet effective” and has been great at addressing issues the tricky combo of having mature yet acne-prone skin presents. This cleanser is basically the ultimate green juice for your skin, and we all know hydration is key when fighting acne!
- Glowing reviews
- Gentle formula
- pH balancing
- Not specifically designed for acne
- May irritate extra sensitive skin
Best for Men: Jack Black Acne Remedy Balancing Foam Cleanser
This cleanser only contains a 0.5% concentration of salicylic acid, while many other cleansers women traditionally use have 2% or higher. In general, men’s skin is far less oily than women’s, so using a cleanser which has a higher salicylic acid potency can cause excessive dryness (which can lead to more breakouts). This won’t happen with this cleanser, and shoppers can attest to that! It does help control excess oil which may cause breakouts — but in a non-irritating, stripping way.
- Designed for men
- Foam consistency works well for beards
- More affordable
- Only one size available
- Smaller bottle
- Too gentle for more severe acne cases
Best for Teens: T-Blast Foaming Facial Cleanser
The cleanser only has 0.4% natural tea tree oil, which while particularly mild, is enough to actually help treat acne. Of course, if the adolescent acne is more severe, this cleanser likely won’t do the trick in full. But for the typical pre-teen or teenage acne which almost everyone gets once in a while, this is an excellent cleanser to help control the breakouts and keep confidence up!
- Mild, all-natural formula
- Specifically made for ages 8-17
- Light foam texture
- Not for severe acne
- Very small bottle
- Slightly pricy
Best for Pregnancy: TULA Skin Care Supersize Cult Classic Purifying Face Cleanser
With pregnancy comes a great deal of lifestyle adjustments, and you may feel bummed out you’re being forced to temporarily part ways with an acne cleanser that you know and love, but you may be pleasantly surprised by switching things up. The nourishment this cleanser provides has made it a staple in the routines of acne-fighting shoppers.
- Gentle exfoliating formula
- Pregnancy approved
- A bit pricy
- May not work for extra oily skin
- Might trigger mild irritation
Best for Hormonal Acne: Murad Acne Control Clarifying Cleanser
One form starts treating blemishes right away on contact, while the other keeps working well after you rinse the cleanser off. This time-release feature is what shoppers say makes this cleanser specifically suited for hormonal acne. When you have a cleanser like this one that continues treating acne throughout the day, it can make a huge difference in how quickly your skin clears up and stays looking clear. As noted, this will be a secret weapon for those suffering from pesky hormone-related pimples that never seem to disappear.
- Time-release salicylic acid
- Extra-strength formula
- #1 bestseller
- More expensive
- Not for sensitive skin
- May be a bit drying
Best for Extra Oily Skin: LANCER Skincare The Method: Cleanse
Using this cleanser helps you control oil and unclog your pores to tackle existing breakouts and stop future acne from popping up. It also helps to refine the look of your pores via lilac stem cells to make them appear smaller and less noticeable. It’s the perfect example of a product whose benefits are shown right away, but it’s actually working overtime to help you achieve your goals.
- Amazing oil control
- Exfoliating formula
- Helps minimize pores
- Only one size available
- Fewer reviews
Best for Exfoliating: Kate Somerville® ExfoliKate® Cleanser
The best part about this cleanser is that it’s safe to use on a daily basis. Many other exfoliating products are more of a once-in-a-while type of situation, but with this cleanser, you can maintain clean pores on a regular basis. If you have sensitive skin, you might need to slightly limit your usage, but if your complexion doesn’t deal with excessive irritation, you’re ready to go! Kate Somerville’s products are all staples for good reason, after all..
- Safe for most skin types
- Gentle enough for daily use
- Great reviews
- More expensive
- Not ideal for extra sensitive skin
- May require double cleansing
Finding the Best Acne Face Washes: A Buyer’s Guide
Complaining about a pimple may sound childish, but acne certainly doesn’t help boost anyone’s confidence. But luckily, a proper skincare routine can help make those acne flare-ups far less frequent or disappear altogether, and the first step in any regimen starts with the right acne face wash!
Everyone’s acne is very different; it can range from extremely mind infrequent cases, to serious and severe hormonal acne. Because everyone’s acne varies, this guide was created to help you pinpoint the type of issue which you’re dealing with and hopefully find the ideal cleanser to help.
What to Consider When Choosing the Best Acne Face Washes
When choosing the best acne face washes for your needs, it may help to consider the following features:
Whenever you shop for any type of skincare product, there will be cheaper options and high-end ones, but price doesn’t necessarily dictate whether or not a product is effective or not! Always consider how much you’re willing to spend on a cleanser when shopping around to pick out the one which suits your budget.
Size and price should definitely be looked at hand-in-hand when you’re in the market for a new acne cleanser. The price of the one you’re interested in may be right, but when you look at how much product you’re actually receiving, it may not be worth what you’re spending. Again, making this determination is completely up to you!
Always know what your skin type is when shopping for acne cleansers, because this information will make the chances of you finding your perfect fit that much more possible! If you have oily skin, you definitely want to get a cleanser that addresses this specific concern so your complexion doesn’t get any oilier — and you can apply this logic for whichever skin type you have!
Severity of Acne
Here’s the one consideration which may force you to have a little more wiggle room when it comes to the price of your acne cleanser. For those who have very mild or infrequent breakouts, you may be able to find a great fit at a lower price point. But if you have hormonal acne or more persistent breakouts, an advanced formula that might cost more is likely the way to go.
There are tried and true ingredients which are effective in treating breakouts, like salicylic acid, benzoyl peroxide, sulfur and many more. But if you have sensitive skin, these elements in an acne cleaner may cause unwanted irritation. Thankfully, there are plenty of alternatives which can also keep your skin clear, so be mindful and attentive to the ingredients list while shopping for your ideal acne cleanser!
What are the Different Types of Acne Face Washes?
The following are the most common types of acne face washes.
Gel cleansers are the best way to go — one of the most common causes of acne is oily skin, which is what gel cleansers are designed to target. Creamier ones may only exacerbate oiliness and cause breakouts to continue. But even if your skin is on the drier side, you’ll be able to find a gel cleanser that’s hydrating at the same time, so you shouldn’t turn away from them solely based on your skin type!
These acne cleansers are certainly less common, but they’re a gentler option which function exceptionally well for extra sensitive skin. Foam feels a lot lighter on the skin by nature, and you wind up using less product in the process, which may be the better way to go for certain skin types.
If you really want to dig deep down to unclog your pores, make sure your acne face wash has an exfoliating element in its formula! There are options out there reportedly even safe enough for daily use, which is amazing for anyone who deals with acne on a fairly regular basis.
What are the Different Uses for Acne Face Washes?
The following are the reasons why people use acne face washes.
Treat Existing Acne
Using an acne face wash as the first step in your skincare routine means you’re treating breakouts right from the jump. Essentially, if you have pimples and want to get rid of them as quickly as possible, incorporating acne-fighting formulas in as much of your skincare as possible is absolutely crucial. It’s a fine line, and you don’t want to overdo it — but luckily, cleansers are usually a safe option.
Using acne face washes even when you’re not breaking out is a great way to avoid new pimples from forming in the future. If you know you suffer from surprise acne flare-ups semi-frequently it’s a great idea to use this type of cleanser to stop them before they start.
An excellent feature of acne face washes is they often incorporate ingredients which help handle excessive oil. As noted above, excess sebum and oil is one of the main causes of breakouts, but oily skin doesn’t always mean acne-prone skin. If you’re not dealing with breakouts regularly but want a cleanser which can control oily skin, acne face washes are a great option to explore (even if you’re not struggling with blackheads and whiteheads)!
Additional Questions and Tips to Choose the Best Acne Face Washes
When narrowing down your list, ask yourself these questions and consider these buying tips help to ensure you pick the best acne face washes for your needs.
Is this cleanser safe for my skin?
This question basically boils down to skin sensitivity. Many acne face washes will have harsher ingredients that your average cleanser won’t have. Make sure you’re taking a particularly close look at how intense the cleanser you’re considering is, and compare that with how sensitive your skin is. If you don’t feel like the two are aligned, take a different route!
Does this cleanser match my pH?
This question may be a bit more technical, but it will be easier to understand once we break it down for you. The pH of skin is reportedly somewhere between 4.5 and 5, so you’ll want an acne face wash which closely matches that figure. When you go into the pH 9 category or higher, you may inadvertently be using a cleanser which creates an environment that’s ideal for bacteria to thrive in. Absolutely not!
Would my dermatologist approve?
When it doubt, go to a professional. If you don’t have the most serious case of acne-prone skin, you may be able to get away with making your acne face wash choice on your own — but for anyone who has intense and persistent acne, it can never hurt to turn to your dermatologist and figure out if the cleanser you have in mind is right for you.
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