Acne is almost a rite-of-passage for teenagers, but it’s all too common in adults. It’s often the result of fluctuating hormone levels, environmental factors (such as a humid environment), diet, health, and — the one thing we never want to hear — genetics. Essentially, acne arises when the skin overproduces sebum, which goes on to clog pores. Bacteria can infect these plugs, irritating the blocked pores and causing redness, swelling, and pain. The involvement of bacteria is where a simple breakout transitions to acne.Using the right face wash is one of the best ways to prevent bacteria from seeping into your pores, reducing the appearance of current acne and preventing it for the future.
It’s easy to lose hope with acne. The battle is often difficult, trying to source the right products to save your skin. If you’re noticing your skin refusing to improve, it may be time to shift towards acne-targeting products with rich, nutritious ingredients. Acne prone skin should be treated with a cleanser that dissolves oils, unclogs pores, and exfoliates dead skin cells without stripping the skin or irritating existing acne.Finding a product that is simultaneously effective and gentle sounds impossible — but we’ve got you covered.
The best acne-targeting products are equipped with highly effective ingredients that can be used every day, and slot seamlessly into an active skincare routine. Ignore the bells and whistles of the beauty industry: the right products are simple, genuine, and reliable. Read on to discover our collection of the 9 best face washes for acne prone skin.Your skin’s new best friend is right around the corner.
1. Blu Atlas Volcanic Ash Face Cleanser
Elevate your skincare routine with Blu Atlas Volcanic Ash Face Cleanser. This revolutionary product tops our list because it is packed full of organically derived ingredients that simply work. That’s right: no fuss, mess, or beating-around-the-bush. The Volcanic Ash Face Cleanser brings out the best in your skin with every wash. As its name suggests, the key ingredient is volcanic ash, which is composed of fine particles that deeply penetrate the skin for multi-layered rejuvenation. Even the most stubborn of pores are cleansed for supple, even skin. Other fantastic ingredients include lactobacillus ferment filtrate for intense soothing and strengthening, and vitamin-rich pomegranate seed oil which exerts antioxidant actions to support anti-aging.
Blu Atlas is changing the skincare game. This New York based brand refuses to adhere to the norms of the beauty industry. With a transparent, no-funny-business attitude, each product strives to revitalize your skin using the sheer power of natural ingredients. It’s backed by dermatologists and is the subject of hundreds of rave reviews. Although it’s impossible to pick a favorite of their impressive skincare line-up, their Volcanic Ash Face Cleanser is an absolute stand-out.There’s seriously no better way to treat your skin.
To use Blu Atlas cleanser, apply a small amount across the face and scrub with gentle circular motions. The slightly exfoliating formula will dissolve dead skin cells and eliminate grime while balancing the skin’s natural pH levels. It’s suitable for all skin types — even those who are acne prone. You need to get your hands on this stuff ASAP.
2. Cetaphil Acne Gentle Clear Face Wash
Cetaphil is a brand we all know and love — and for good reason. Their Acne Gentle Clear Face Wash is the optimal product for those battling stubborn acne. Designed for sensitive skin, this gentle formula is ideal for skin susceptible to irritation after other anti-acne treatments. Using salicylic acid — one of our skincare gems — the Acne Gentle Clear Face Wash effectively fights breakouts, unclogs blocked pores, and evens the skin tone without drying out the skin. Aloe vera and white tea extract are infused into the formula to soothe the skin of any irritation, reducing redness or dryness that can worsen oil accumulation. Your skin’s natural barrier will become reinforced for long lasting health.
The hype around Cetaphil is well-deserved. Not only are their products highly affordable, but they’re incredibly effective — even beating out some higher-end skincare brands. If you’re just beginning your skincare journey, Cetaphil is a great place to start. You don’t have to commit to an expensive product to see fantastic results.
In a 12-week clinical study, Cetaphil’s Acne Gentle Clear Face Wash improved skin health in 96% of participants. It’s fragrance free, paraben free and hypoallergenic, making it the perfect solution for acne prone skin, no matter the type. Seriously — what are you waiting for?
3. CeraVe Acne Foaming Cream Cleanser
There’s something about CeraVe that we can’t quite get enough of. With reliably affordable products and scientifically-backed formulas, they’re one of the first brands we think of when it comes to skincare. The Foaming Cream Cleanser is a fantastic option for acne prone skin as it’s infused with benzoyl peroxide, a highly effective acne fighter, and hyaluronic acid to seal in the skin’s natural moisture. There’s more — niacinamide works to soothe and detoxify the skin, allowing your complexion to heal over time.
CeraVe are the masters of the foaming formula. It initially glides onto the skin in a creamy texture and lathers easily. It’s small details like these that lift CeraVe to the top of the podium. No longer is washing your face an expensive obligation; the Acne Foaming Cream Cleanser proves that the best skincare should be easy.
When it comes to clearing acne, benzoyl peroxide is unbeatable. Make CeraVe’s Acne Foaming Cream Cleanser the first step in your anti-acne regimen.
4. La Roche-Posay Effaclar Deep-Cleansing Foaming-Cream Cleanser
Move out of the way — La Roche-Posay is here to save the day. As if its name doesn’t give it away, the Deep-Cleansing Foaming-Cream Cleanser is composed of a blend of glycerin and salicylic acid that thoroughly cleanses the skin of dirt, debris and excess oil. Glycerin, derived from vegetables, retains the skin’s hydration levels by promoting water absorption and minimizing water loss. Importantly, glycerin continues to act throughout the day, meaning your skin’s moisture is preserved even in the face of external aggressors. Salicylic acid works by gently exfoliating the skin to reduce clogging and tighten pores.
La Roche-Posay knows how to hit the mark. The French brand carefully formulates each product without parabens or irritants, making it suitable for sensitive or allergic skin. Every one of their products includes La Roche-Posay’s hallmark prebiotic thermal water, which is rich in the natural antioxidant selenium to detoxify the skin of harmful free radicals. Their products sway towards the affordable end of skincare, so you won’t have to burn a hole in your wallet for fantastic, clear skin.
Designed for oily skin, the Deep-Cleansing Foaming-Cream Cleanser targets enlarged pores, uneven texture, and skin sensitivities. Give it a go — the results will speak for themselves.
5. Neutrogena Oil-Free Salicylic-Acid Acne-Fighting Face Wash
Don’t let the price fool you — Neutrogena’s Oil-Free Salicylic Acid Acne-Fighting Face Wash is one of the best washes for acne prone skin on the market. The formula is oil-free, so it gently cleanses the skin without contributing to oil accumulation. Salicylic acid is included to clear pimples, blackheads, and breakouts, as well as even your skin’s texture. Neutrogena’s infamous MicroClear technology ensures each active particle is delivered into the deep layers of the skin, ensuring every cell within the skin’s structure is strong and healthy.
Neutrogena is a staple of the skincare world. You’ve likely tried out a Neutrogena product before, or at minimum have spotted one of their products on the supermarket shelves. There’s a reason this long-serving brand continues to dominate the ranks: their formulas just work. After only 1 week of using the Oil-Free Salicylic-Acid Acne-Fighting Face Wash, you’ll notice smoother, clearer skin with visibly shrunken bumps.
If you’ve ever been sceptical of anti-acne products, give Neutrogena a chance to change your mind. They’ll fulfil all your skincare dreams — and more.
6. Murad Clarifying Cleanser
Healthy, happy skin is only one product away. The Clarifying Cleanser by Murad is one of the best face washes for acne prone skin. Formulated with two forms of salicylic acid, Murad guarantees deeply cleansed skin with no tightness or stripping. In fact, 97% of users in a clinical study noticed a significant reduction in oil, and 94% noted cleansed, refreshed skin with fewer impurities. The secret is Murad’s dual salicylic acid: a free form begins treating pores as soon as the product is applied, while an encapsulated form continues healing the skin even after rinsing. Green tea extract supports calm skin, reducing signs of inflammation. If you’ve struggled with angry acne, the Clarifying Cleanser is your optimal choice — it treats yet soothes, maintaining the health of your skin barrier for long-term glowing, clear skin.
When it comes to skincare, Murad has been around the block. They recommend washing your skin with the Clarifying Cleanser each morning and night for maximum results.
7. Drunk Elephant Beste No.9 Jelly Cleanser
Stirring up a storm on the internet, it’s no wonder why Drunk Elephant’s Beste No.9 Jelly Cleanser has secured a spot on our list of the 9 best face washes for acne prone skin. This vegan formula is enriched with the goodness of virgin marula oil, a substance packed with antioxidants for skin protection and omega 6 and 9 for effective dissolving of skin debris. Glycerin is included for intensive hydration, replenishing any moisture that may be lost during the cleansing process. Meanwhile, cantaloupe fruit extract soothes any skin irritation. The Beste No.9 Jelly Cleanser is truly a triple threat.
Although all those with acne-prone skin can benefit from the No.9 Jelly Cleanser, we recommend it for oily skin types specifically. The cleansing action is incredibly thorough, making sure to dissolve even the tiniest particles of debris on the skin. To use, massage a small amount of the product into damp skin before rinsing. A squeaky clean complexion has never been this easy!
8. Aveeno Ultra-Calming Foaming Cleanser
Treat yourself with Aveeno’s Ultra-Calming Foaming Cleanser. Unlike other acne treatments, this product is the ultimate luxurious experience — bringing the opulent relaxation of a spa right into your own home. We love Aveeno’s inclusion of chamomile into this high-quality formula. It gently clears any redness, lifts away dirt, oil, and makeup, and improves the strength of sensitive skin.
You’ve likely heard of therelaxing properties of chamomile before. It’s historically therapeutic, coveted for centuries for its medicinal properties including headache relief and fever management. One splash of Aveeno’s foaming cleanser is all it takes to bring out fresh, youthful skin. It’s non-comedogenic, hypoallergenic, soap free and fragrance free, so it’s guaranteed to never aggravate vulnerable skin cells.
Best used in both the morning and night, the Ultra-Calming Foaming Cleanser is your one-stop shop for radiant, even skin. We highly recommend it for ultra dry or sensitive skin — even those with eczema won’t flare up with this incredible formula. If your dryness and flaking won’t budge with even the most intensive moisturizers, give this one a try.
9. True Botanicals Nourishing Cleanser
If you’re after a natural, organic product that works just as well as chemical-based acne treatments, this one’s for you. True Botanicals are the masters of organic ingredients that bring out the best in your skin. Harnessing the power of green tea leaf extract, glycerin, camellia seed oil, aloe vera, and white tea leaf extract (to name only a few!) the Nourishing Cleanser gently balances breakout prone skin for supple cleanness and regulated hydration. Acne is no match!
Congested skin sometimes needs a gentle touch — and True Botanicals is the perfect brand to provide it. They strive to use organic ingredients derived directly from nature to fight blemishes. Harsh chemicals aren’t necessary when it comes to clearing your skin; in fact, these can often strip the skin’s natural moisturization, leading to oily, dysregulated complexion. Green tea leaf extract, for example, diminishes texture and discoloration in the skin, while aloe vera soothes any irritation. The Nourishing Cleanser is scented with the natural fragrances of lavender, carrot seed, and helichrysum, brightening both your skin and senses for an invigorated appearance.
Your skincare routine deserves an upgrade. Washing your face can be a luxury with the right formula — and True Botanicals have one ready for you to try.
Oily vs. Dry Skin
Skin can be differentiated into two main types: oily or dry. When there is a mix of the two, the skin is referred to as a “combination” type. Determining which type of skin you have will set the foundation for your entire skincare routine, as dry skin requires different levels of care than oily skin, and vice-versa.
Dry skin is hallmarked by flaky, scaly patches and a sensation of tightness. You’ll likely notice dry skin when applying foundation or other base makeup products — the product will not settle on the skin, but will instead emphasize dry texture. You will have minimal shine in the T-zone. Skincare for dry skin aims to replenish the skin with moisture for balanced hydration levels.
Oily skin occurs with excess sebum production. This leads to an uncomfortable greasy feel, with noticeable shine all across the face and particular clogging in the T-zone. Makeup products may feel slippery on your skin. Generally, oily skin is more susceptible to acne, so acne-fighting products will aim to reduce the amount of oil accumulating on your skin.
There are multiple ways you can determine your skin type. You can cleanse your skin thoroughly, then wait 30 minutes to see how much oil your skin produces. If you notice shininess across every region of your skin (T-zone, cheeks, forehead, chin), you likely have oily skin. If you don’t see any change in shine, or if your skin is gradually feeling tighter, you likely have dry skin. If you only have shine in the T-zone, whereas the rest of your skin feels a little more dry, you may have combination skin.
There is no miracle solution to acne. Unfortunately, resolving acne is not a sprint to the finish line — it takes consistent care and dedication, using the right skincare products over a long period of time. If your skin is acne prone, try to determine the underlying reasons why this is. Is your skin excessively oily? It may be time to swap out your moisturizer for something more lightweight. Perhaps you’re using too strong of an exfoliant, and require a more gentle product. Is your skin dry and textured? Dead skin cells can become trapped in pores, creating bumps and pimples. You can invest in an ultra-hydrating moisturizer to soften the skin and avoid any stripping cleansers.
Keep in mind that your acne journey is highly individual. What works for someone else may not work for you. It’s worthwhile investigating products that cater to your skin type, and try them for a period of time to see how effectively they clear your skin. The best face washes for acne prone skin are, ultimately, the ones that you see the best results with.
Frequently Asked Questions
Why is my skin oily?
Skin naturally produces oil. Sebum, the oily substance released by sebaceous glands within the skin, is important for the health of your skin and hair. Regular levels of sebum protect the skin and hair and increase lubrication — without enough of it, your skin and hair will appear frizzy, dry, and brittle. However, when an overproduction of sebum occurs, your skin and hair becomes excessively lubricated, leading to grease and shine. Oily skin, therefore, is the result of overactive sebaceous glands.
Of course, other factors can influence whether you’ll have oily skin or not (i.e., the lack of a regular skincare routine, puberty) but oily skin is generally genetically predetermined. This means your oily skin is 100% normal! In fact, oily skin often ages slower than dry skin, as the excess hydration prevents wrinkles and lines developing. Regulating your skin’s oil levels with the right skincare products will leave you with healthy, glowy skin and a comfortably clean sensation.
How do I prevent breakouts?
Breakouts are the result of clogged, irritated pores, often arising from oily skin. While breakouts have many underlying causes — hormones, family history, health conditions, medication — multiple preventable factors also impact the health of your skin. You’ve likely heard the advice to “not touch your face,” and it’s true; introducing bacteria to your skin will cause clogged pores to become inflamed and angry, leading to acne. If you must touch your face, make sure to thoroughly wash your hands first!
Other easy tips that can help prevent breakouts include drinking more fluids to improve skin hydration, dedicating adequate time to sleeping, managing stress, and avoiding tanning products. Skincare plays a huge role in regulating acne prone skin. Some of our favorite skincare ingredients are listed below — look out for these if you’re wanting to avoid future breakouts.
As one of the staple ingredients in anti-acne skincare, salicylic acid works hard to clear debris, dirt, and dead skin cells from the skin. It deeply penetrates pores with its lipophilic actions to absorb any plugged material. The result? Smooth, bright skin — not a blemish in sight.
If you’ve used anti-acne skincare before, you’ve probably heard of benzoyl peroxide. This acid-based ingredient kills the germs lingering on the skin and triggers a new skin cycle, promoting the replacement of old cells with healthy, new ones. You’ll likely notice dry, peeling skin after using benzoyl peroxide — don’t worry! This is a completely normal part of the process. Your skin will continue to slough away all the acne and blemishes until the fresh skin beneath is revealed.
Tea tree oil
Tea tree oil has natural antiseptic, antibacterial, and anti-inflammatory properties. This makes it perfect for acne prone skin, as it fights off inflammation-causing debris without stripping the skin like chemical alternatives. You can apply tea tree oil directly to existing pimples, or use a face wash that incorporates it as a key ingredient.
Niacinamide is a powerhouse skincare ingredient, recently knocking the skincare scene off its feet. With a plethora of hard-hitting benefits, including soothing, detoxification, oil absorption, and collagen strengthening, it’s no wonder why niacinamide is packed into most modern skincare products.
Clay is a popular ingredient in face masks, especially beneficial for oily skin. It absorbs oil from the skin without disturbing the skin’s natural hydration levels. Think of it as a giant oil-blotting sheet. Clay is also fantastic for removing stubborn blackheads, hence why it’s included in blackhead-treating face washes.
Retinol is a miracle ingredient your skin needs. It promotes cell turnover, meaning dead skin cells are rapidly replaced with fresh, young cells. This improves the collagen structures within the skin and enhances elasticity for an overall bouncy, youthful glow. Dermatologists often prescribe topical retinol products to acne patients; however it’s possible to get diluted versions over-the-counter — or even snuck into your favorite skincare products.
Can I wear moisturizer if I have oily skin?
It’s a common myth that oily skin does not require moisturizer. In fact, many believe that a moisturizer will only contribute to excess oiliness, and avoid it altogether. However, a moisturizer is absolutely essential for oily skin. The overproduction of sebum is often a result of imbalanced hydration levels — almost like a compensatory mechanism. This is why totally stripping the skin with harsh exfoliants is actually counter-productive: your skin will feel cleansed and smooth for a while, but it will produce even more oil in the long run to restore hydration.
Using a moisturizer after cleansing will retrain your skin to remain at an optimal hydration level. Consistently applying moisturizer will regulate your oil production, leading to long-term skin health and a noticeable reduction in greasiness, shine, and clogged pores. Take our word for it — never skip your moisturizer!
How often should you cleanse oily skin?
It may be tempting to cleanse your skin more frequently to combat oiliness. However, it’s important to ensure your sebum production remains regulated, as over-cleansing can lead to excess dryness and worsen sebum accumulation. With acne prone skin, your best bet is to cleanse twice a day — morning and night — within a catered skincare routine, including toner, moisturizer, nourishing serums and sunscreen. This allows you to remove any debris that has settled on the skin during the night, and also wash off the grime of the day. Two cleansing sessions a day is more than enough to remove bacteria and promote healthy, clean skin.
If you notice tightness or dryness after cleansing, you may need to swap out your face wash for something less drying (i.e., a product with more moisturizing agents) or reduce the frequency with which you wash your skin. Some people may actually see benefits from cleansing thoroughly only once a day! Alternatively, if your skin still feels greasy after cleansing, don’t keep reaching for the face wash. Switch it out for a product with salicylic acid or other active ingredients. Dermatologists also recommend cleansing after sweating, or exposure to oil (such as cooking over a skillet), as these can clog pores and trigger breakouts. Make sure to pack your favorite face wash in your gym bag!