The best acne cleanser
If you’re someone who struggles with acne, you’re probably aware that your skin-care routine is a bit more complex than the average person’s. One product that belongs in your regimen, then, is an acne cleanser.
In addition to removing impurities from the face, acne cleansers have active ingredients, like salicylic acid, to keep breakouts under control. Not only do they remove acne-causing irritants, but they’re also effective at cleansing and unclogging pores. Some acne cleansers even offer gentle exfoliation to slough away dead skin and help even out your complexion.
With so many acne cleansers on the market, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the selection. To help make your choice a simple one, we’ve put together this buying guide covering essential features to compare. We’re even sharing a few of our favorite acne cleansers at the end, including our top choice, EltaMD Foaming Facial Cleanser. It’s simple yet effective deep-cleansing formula makes it a favorite for those with ultra-sensitive skin.
Considerations when choosing acne cleansers
Benzoyl peroxide is considered the most effective ingredient among acne cleansers. It kills acne-causing bacteria on the face before they seep into pores and cause breakouts. Unfortunately, they’re prone to drying skin and often leave bleach stains on towels and clothes.
Salicylic acid, a beta-hydroxy acid (BHA), keeps acne under control by exfoliating dead skin cells that clog pores and cause breakouts. It has anti-inflammatory properties and is gentler than benzoyl peroxide. However, it takes prolonged use to see major results.
Other popular active ingredients
Acne cleansers with plant-derived ingredients often include tea tree oil for its natural antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties. Glycolic acid, an alpha-hydroxy acid (AHA), aids in exfoliation to slough away pore-clogging gunk. Some acne cleansers have clay, which is effective at absorbing excess oil that triggers breakouts.
Gel cleansers are effective at deep cleaning and unclogging pores. They’re a favorite among individuals with oily and combination skin. Foaming cleansers are also ideal for these skin types, though they’re considered more lightweight and easier to apply. Cream cleansers are known for their rich textures and hydrating ingredients, making them ideal for those with dry or sensitive skin.
It’s recommended for those with oily skin to stick to oil-free formulas. After all, excess oil only contributes to breakouts. However, some people may find that oil-free acne cleansers are somewhat drying.
Noncomedogenic acne cleansers are free of ingredients that clog pores. While each formula will be different, for the most part, these cleansers leave out ingredients like beeswax, certain oils, cocoa butter, and a variety of synthetic ingredients.
Those with sensitive skin often experience breakouts triggered by perfumes in beauty and skincare products. Fragrance-free varieties, on the other hand, are free of chemical fragrances. Many individuals that experience migraines also benefit from fragrance-free varieties, especially if they have scent-related triggers.
Acne cleansers range in price from $5 to $100. Drugstore acne cleansers cost $20 and below. Those from premium beauty brands with multiple active ingredients run closer to $40, while formulas by luxury skincare brands with high-end ingredients run as high as $60 to $100.
Q. Should I use an acne cleanser every day?
A. It depends on the severity of your acne as well as how sensitive or dry your skin is. Some people with oily skin end up using an acne cleanser daily. Those with sensitive or dry skin, however, may benefit from using it no more than a couple times to avoid drying or irritating skin.
Q. Will acne cleanser remove makeup?
A. It’s often recommended to use a makeup remover prior to using an acne cleanser. Given the active ingredients in these cleansers, it’s also best to keep them away from the eyes since they will burn or irritate them.
Acne cleansers we recommend
Best of the best: EltaMD Foaming Facial Cleanser
Our take: Earns praise among those with sensitive skin for its balanced, gentle formula.
What we like: Effective at removing impurities without stripping or drying skin. Enzyme-infused formula calms skin and keeps inflammation and redness at bay. Simple formula leaves out harsh chemical irritants.
What we dislike: Not ideal for those prone to dryness or flaking.
Best bang for your buck: Neutrogena Oil-Free Acne-Fighting Face Wash
Our take: A favorite among consumers for its affordability and long-term benefits.
What we like: Formula has 2% salicylic acid to keep breakouts under control. One of the few affordable options that helps control cystic acne. Can be used on a daily basis without drying or irritating skin.
What we dislike: Users recommend removing makeup before using the face wash for best results.
Choice 3: Mario Badescu Acne Facial Cleanser
Our take: Excels at clearing up breakouts and toning skin. Great for nighttime skincare routines.
What we like: Aids in evening out complexion and helps reduce the appearance of acne scars. Clarifying formula with antibacterial properties that keeps skin clean down to the pores. Infused with natural extracts and botanicals.
What we dislike: Formula is strong, so it’s recommended to limit use to a few times a week.
Sian Babish is a writer for BestReviews. BestReviews is a product review company with a singular mission: to help simplify your purchasing decisions and save you time and money.
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