www.reviewthis.com

The 10 Best Face Washes for Acne of 2019

Face wash for acne: The best of 2019

Our other differences aside, we all hate acne. Having clear skin feels exponentially better, and the confidence it brings us can change our whole day. Thank goodness there are products specifically to target, conceal, and alleviate acne, from face masks to foundation. It’s no wonder we all dream of finding the best face wash for acne, to solve our problems once and for all. Actually, we don’t just dream of it—we go out and buy and buy and buy sometimes never finding it, trying countless face wash products, all claiming to cure one acne problem or another.

It’s an expensive and frustrating process, and it’s made harder by the fact that skin care companies create new packaging and new formulas at a nearly annual rate. Thankfully, with the right information on hand, finding the best face wash for your acne becomes a less intimidating, less wasteful task. This guide discusses the different types of acne, breaks down the options for daily skin treatment with a face wash, and will walk you through a number of the best face washes to help determine what treatment is right for your acne.

For a wide percentage of us acne-sufferers, painful bumps raising the skin, whitehead pimples, and excessive oiliness compose the ingredients to our trauma. We try an excessive spread of gels, washes, and creams to remedy these distracting, uncomfortable breakouts, with a variety of results—not all good, and some even painful!

Differin’s Daily Deep Cleanser has the key ingredient for treating these problems, AND in a sensitive skin option. At 5 percent potency, this face wash has half the standard amount of benzoyl peroxide medication typically offered in benzoyl peroxide cleansers, which makes it an amazing “in between” option for the acne face wash market.

Some skin types definitely benefit most from a maximum strength, 10 percent benzoyl peroxide wash, while others (who still struggle with acne) are left with red, dry, irritated skin when they try to use more intense washes—even only using them every other day. This unique 5 percent deep cleanser provides medicated treatment for bacterial acne without the unpleasant side effects of stronger washes.

This sensitive skin option is meant to be used daily and does a quality job of eliminating the acne types it targets. It does not necessarily target blackheads, but it is the ultimate cleanser for those of us with frequent acne and oilier skin—but more sensitive skin, as well. On top of being a reduced-strength wash, it also boasts a formula that moisturizes without clogging pores in its wake. This really is a one-of-a-kind product that brings happy, clear, non-damaged skin to so many of us who didn’t have another option!

Key Features
  • 5 percent benzoyl peroxide active ingredient
  • Micronized formula works deeply into skin, eliminating oil while moisturizing
  • Treatment with less dry, irritated skin than harsher washes
Specifications
  • Product Dimensions: 2.4 x 2.4 x 6.5 inches
  • Product Weight: 4.3 ounces
Pros
  • Rare “sensitive skin” option for a benzoyl peroxide face wash
  • Strong acne treatment available over the counter
  • Excellent formula for acne-prone and oilier skin
Cons
  • Must be careful with sunlight exposure when using
  • Does not target blackheads
  • Transfer can bleach towels and clothing
Premium pick

2. EltaMD Foaming Facial Cleanser

9.55 / 10

With all the products available to us for acne treatment and prevention these days, there are really two main ways to shop: with optimism or with fear. Trying new face wash and acne products can be seriously nerve-wracking. Mismatched treatments in the acne world can be catastrophic! Many of us have been burned at least once before, so we tend to develop self-protecting shopping habits, potentially selecting skin care products based on brand, rather than ingredients or purpose.

We all want to choose the products that are going to benefit us most, bringing us each glowing, clear, healthy skin. Sometimes we assume that the most notorious brands must be the only ones worth trusting and trying, but often, our secret skin solution depends solely on finding the right formula to balance the disruptions happening on our skin, individually.

If you don’t know which ingredients are right for you, you can always start with a superior facial cleanser like this foaming, oil-free formula from EltaMD, which works safely on all skin types. This is another cleanser that provides perfect treatment for a large portion of the population, including those of us with sensitive skin. EltaMD’s super gentle formula uses a blend of enzymes and amino acids to cleanse away oil, debris, and even makeup, and provide anti-inflammatory treatment.

It can be used twice daily, but still may not provide enough acne treatment for those with oilier, more acne-prone skin. For a mild to moderate case of acne, however, this is one worth trying!

Key Features
  • Oil-free, paraben-free, pH-balanced foaming formula
  • Enzyme and amino acid blend cleanses makeup, oil, and debris
  • Reduces inflammation; suitable for all skin types
Specifications
  • Product Dimensions: 2.3 x 2.3 x 4 inches
  • Product Weight: 7 ounces
Pros
  • Excellent for sensitive skin
  • Really doesn’t dry out skin
  • Lovely foamy lather
Cons
  • Does not fully remove makeup
  • Too light of a cleanse for oilier skin
  • Dispenser pump clogs easily

This was the first active-ingredient-powered acne face wash I ever picked off the drug store shelf. I was an oily teen struggling through puberty and desperately seeking a remedy for my awful skin. Really, I only chose it because I liked the orange color, and I had seen Neutrogena on TV commercials and in magazines. I knew nothing about salicylic acid, my own skin type, or what to expect from the product. Luckily, this face wash was exactly what I needed at the time, and it worked wonders!

Neutrogena’s Oil-Free Acne Fighting Facial Cleanser with 2 percent max strength salicylic acid provides treatment for blackheads, whiteheads, and excessive oil production. It cleanses deep into pores, preventing future breakouts, as well. Skin feels clean and light after rinsing.

Since this cleanser does such a great job of targeting excess oil, it is important to remember to moisturize to preserve the positive changes to your skin’s acne issues. For some, moisturizing may be more of a necessity during the colder, dryer months, but it is a step worth taking for year-round clear skin, (And this, of course, applies for all face wash routines).

As I got older and moved past hormonal acne, my skin changed, and my face wash needs changed. Since then, I have cycled through other options on this list and beyond, but this product was a lifesaver for me many years ago and is sure to be for many others now and in years to come, as so many of us deal with these same breakout symptoms at some point in our lives.

Key Features
  • 2 percent salicylic acid active ingredient
  • Oil-free formula deep cleans pores and targets blackheads
  • Helps condition skin for future acne prevention
Specifications
  • Product Dimensions: 6.6 x 5 x 2.6 inches
  • Product Weight: 9 ounces
Pros
  • Non-comedogenic (won’t clog pores)
  • No thick residue after washing
  • Max strength salicylic acid treatment
Cons
  • Too intense for sensitive skin
  • Scented formula may be irritating
  • Does not prevent all types of acne

Nothing can make us quite as self-conscious as fast as a whitehead—a feeling that lingers with the irritated mess we leave behind after popping one. Almost all of us have experienced the dread of breaking out on or just before an important day (stress acne), or on a daily basis, even, during periods in our growth when our hormones are adjusting. Once these pimples show up, we know we really only have two choices. But a third option is to tackle the problem and avoid these confidence-crushing days with an effective daily face wash.

For many of us, unsightly blackheads are also a problem, and both of these common issues for people with oilier skin and/or more moderate to severe acne can be pretty effectively tackled by maximum strength salicylic acid acne face washes, like this one from Neutrogena.

This lathering gel cleanser provides treatment for these forms of acne, removing the dirt and excess oil that clog pores and cause breakouts. It also helps to prevent these issues from forming in the future, “acne-proofing” skin, as its name suggests.

Although this face wash will likely be too intense for those with milder acne or more sensitive skin, this is a strong, fresh cleanser for those of us struggling with whiteheads, blackheads, and excess oil production. Don’t forget that products with active ingredients may take a number of days to weeks to provide and really show the full benefits, but the patience is worth daily clear skin!

Key Features
  • 2 percent salicylic acid active ingredient
  • Oil-free lathering gel cleanser formula
  • Helps condition skin for future acne prevention
Specifications
  • Product Dimensions: 1.4 x 2.5 x 6.1 inches
  • Product Weight: 8.2 ounces
Pros
  • Max strength salicylic acid treatment
  • Leaves a fresh and clean feeling
  • Formula feels good on the skin when washing
Cons
  • Scented formula can be an irritant
  • Does not prevent all types of acne
  • Skin can take time to adjust to active ingredient

Another brand that sits at the top when it comes to sensitive, daily cleansers is Cetaphil. Similar to CeraVe, Cetaphil prides itself in offering products that are hypo-allergenic, non-comedogenic, and sensitive enough for twice-daily use.

Cetaphil’s Daily Facial Cleanser for normal to oily skin is a best-selling, award-winning face wash that removes daily debris and oil build up, moisturizes, and gently treats skin. This wash, too, skips any harsh active ingredients.

Unlike most other acne cleansers, this product can be used with or without water, and leaves skin feeling soft and smooth. Thanks to its very mild formula, this daily face wash is safe enough to use for all ages, which is a really important feature. As mentioned elsewhere, acne and skin issues are not only limited to teenagers! Plenty of people experience bouts of acne through their twenties and early thirties, with some folks even suddenly needing a skin care regimen for the first time in their lives well into their fifties. Younger or older, in order to have the healthy, clear skin we all want, we need to be sure we are taking care of our skin, using the gentlest products possible, with effective results.

This cleanser will likely be less effective for those with very oily skin, or those of us with overly oily faces and more troublesome acne; however, for everyone who needs a mild cleanser to keep their skin looking its best, Cetaphil really brings the magic!

Key Features
  • Hypoallergenic ingredients less likely to irritate sensitive skin
  • Low-lather formula works for combination or oily skin
  • Removes oil, dirt, and makeup without removing essential skin oils
Specifications
  • Product Dimensions: 7.5 x 4.3 x 4.1 inches
  • Product Weight: 2.4 pounds
Pros
  • Non-comedogenic (won’t clog pores)
  • Not a harsh, stripping wash
  • Can be used morning and night
Cons
  • Definitely has a fragrance
  • Thicker formula lacks satisfying lather
  • Doesn’t remove all makeup

Fierce older sibling to the Differin face wash above, this foaming, max strength 10 percent benzoyl peroxide wash from PanOxyl delivers some serious pore-unclogging action. No matter who you are, if you’ve got stubborn acne or very oily skin, you’re most likely a part of the “face, chest, and back” acne club. Welcome. I know this is a huge nuisance, and I feel you. I do not feel like my best self with pimples and clogged pores marring up my skin-scape, either.

Not to mention the fact that when we’ve got breakouts happening in multiple locations, a skin care routine can become extremely long and boring! I want a one-stop shop, and this powerful Foaming Acne Wash is recommended for use on the chest and back as well, if needed, which is such a time and energy saver. Rather than having to use multiple cleansers (washing and rinsing hands in between each use to avoid cross-irritating products and potentially harming skin even further), this single formula can be used in all of the big trouble areas—and to that I say hallelujah! When I’m tired in the morning, there are few things I want to do less than focus on an epic skin care routine, ya know?

PanOxyl markets this product with a focus on its strong, deep cleaning capabilities, and they are not playing around! Like any max strength product, this face wash will certainly not be a good fit for sensitive skin types and people working to combat sporadic breakouts. It will, however, be an over-the-counter version of “just what the doctor ordered” for tons of acne-sufferers in need.

Key Features
  • 10 percent benzoyl peroxide active ingredient
  • Max strength benzoyl peroxide treatment
  • Helps condition skin for future prevention
Specifications
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 2.5 x 7 inches
  • Product Weight: 5.5 ounces
Pros
  • Intense acne treatment available over the counter
  • Works on chest and back, as well as face
  • Lovely foamy lather
Cons
  • Too intense for sensitive skin
  • Does not target blackheads
  • Transfer can bleach towels and clothing

Over the years, skin and hair care giant Aveeno has come out with a number of products that landed them on the map again and again, building their reputation as a holistic, therapeutic, and gentle brand. Their formulas have repeatedly received high praise from users, and their packaging and look has become even more simple, calm, and streamlined, contributing to their brand’s image and source of pride. Their mission and vision have created a wide variety of super silky, sensitivity-free products, including this Ultra-Calming Foaming Cleanser and Makeup Remover.

This face wash is special because it focuses on calming redness and irritated skin, on top of being a cleanser and makeup remover. This formula is super satisfying and fluffy, and it is made with calming Feverfew extract to help achieve its soothing skin goals. Also unique to this product is that it is openly recommended for best use in both morning and night. This is a rare suggestion on a cleanser’s package directions, as companies are aware that even a product intended to be very gentle may cause an adverse reaction for a small few out there; I would take Aveeno’s choice as a testimony to their belief in their own formula’s sensitive nature.

This is perfect for the most sensitive skin, offering a soap-free, hypoallergenic, non-comedogenic cleanser that is actively working to alleviate redness. Sometimes this common skin irritation is present due to internal reasons, and other times it can be a side effect of a change in climate conditions or age, but whatever the catalyst, this mild but effective face wash may be the perfect one for you.

Key Features
  • Uses “Calming Feverfew extract” to calm irritated, red skin
  • Removes makeup and washes face with a gentle foaming formula
  • Best to be used both morning and night
Specifications
  • Product Dimensions: 2.6 x 1.4 x 7.3 inches
  • Product Weight: 6.1 ounces
Pros
  • Non-comedogenic (won’t clog pores)
  • Hypoallergenic, soap-free
  • Lovely foamy lather
Cons
  • Too light of a cleanse for oily and acne-prone skin
  • Definitely does have a scent
  • No real signs of any calming effect

Although the previous two Neutrogena products on this list are hard-hitting salicylic acid treatment cleansers, and Neutrogena is known for their medicated acne-fighting and skin care products, the brand also uses its vast resources to help those who can find noticeable differences, real relief, and healthier skin with the use of less extreme cleansing formulas.

One of their absolute top offerings for more sensitive, dry, and mild skin types is the Ultra Gentle Hydrating Cleanser. This creamy, polyglycerin formula is designed to leave behind soft, moisturized skin. It removes debris, oil, makeup, and other dirt with a formula so gentle that it can even be used by those with sensitive skin conditions including rosacea, psoriasis, and eczema.

As seen with other gentle and sensitive cleansers, this product may not have enough fighting power for someone with more aggressive acne and oil production issues, but it is a true contender when it comes to best creamy face washing cleansers for sensitive skin types.

Another huge bonus to this product is that its smell is incredibly mild; when considering many face wash and acne products, “fragrance-free” often has people expecting products that are altogether unscented, which is not necessarily the same thing. This cleanser is only advertised as fragrance-free, but it happens to be rather unscented, as well. Some other cleansers on the market, and even on this list, may advertise their product as fragrance-free, but these can still deliver a product with a natural scent that is quite strong and irritating. If you know that you and/or your skin become irritated due to scented products, this is a great selection for your gentle cleanser!

Key Features
  • National Eczema Association Seal formula
  • Creamy face wash made with hydrating, polyglycerin formula
  • Safe even on sensitive skin types with eczema, rosacea, and psoriasis
Specifications
  • Product Dimensions: 1.7 x 3.4 x 6.7 inches
  • Product Weight: 14.4 ounces
Pros
  • Non-comedogenic (won’t clog pores)
  • Hypoallergenic, oil-free, soap-free, paraben-free
  • Fragrance-free
Cons
  • Doesn’t remove all makeup
  • Still burns thinner skin areas in sensitive skin
  • Too light of a cleanse for severely oily and acne-prone skin

For some of us, maintaining healthy, clear skin means a little refreshing cleanse once or twice a day, but the thought of how dry and irritated our skin might become after lathering up deters us from moving past plain bar soap to something more effective. But we do have options! CeraVe has created a hydrating face wash for all with sensitive, dry to normal skin. This foaming wash skips any harsh active ingredients, in favor of incorporating moisturizing properties. Its formula uses a blend of three targeted ceramides in conjunction with hyaluronic acid to help prevent skin from drying out after washing. Skin that is too dry can cause a host of its own acne and irritation problems, so maintaining moisture is key, especially in sensitive skin types.

CeraVe’s Hydrating Face Wash was also formulated with dermatologists and has earned a national seal that certifies it as a safe product for those with skin conditions like eczema and psoriasis. It is one of the few cleansers on the market that is truly fragrance-free, as advertised, and leaves skin feeling soft and supple. It removes the oil, debris, and dirt from a typical day or night’s sleep and works to protect skin’s natural barrier.

While this face wash will likely be less effective for those with very oily skin, or those of us with more persistent acne battles, if your skin needs a sensitive cleanser to combat the daily grunge and the blemishes that that build-up can cause, this is definitely the best face wash for your acne!

Key Features
  • National Eczema Association Seal formula
  • Uses hyaluronic acid to maintain hydrated skin
  • Foaming cleanser with 3 ceramides for skin health
Specifications
  • Product Dimensions: 2 x 3.4 x 1.6 inches
  • Product Weight: 1.12 pounds
Pros
  • Non-comedogenic (won’t clog pores)
  • Very hydrating for a sensitive cleanser
  • Fragrance-free
Cons
  • Doesn’t remove all makeup
  • Filmy after-feeling on the skin

Not only are product names and packaging changing, even the face washes themselves tend to cycle through certain marketing trends, be it in color, texture, or scent. One trend that has hung around has been the use of charcoal in beauty ingredients, because it has been proven to extract toxins and absorb oils. Bioré has coupled these benefits with a 1 percent treatment of salicylic acid to create a fast-acting charcoal acne clearing cleanser.

This thicker charcoal formula pumps out pitch black and foams to white on the skin as it removes impurities. The formula is also oil-free, paraben free, and is among few face washes that are vegan friendly and cruelty free.

The 1% percent salicylic acid acne treatment, like the 5 percent Differin cleanser, is a great, rare alternative for sensitive skin on the market. While a 2 percent treatment might be too much for some skin types, mixing a lesser 1 percent treatment with the natural, complementary properties of the charcoal can be the elixir to clear, acne-free skin with smaller, cleaner pores.

If a 2 percent salicylic acid treatment seems to be a little too much for your skin type, but on the right track, consider trying Bioré’s Charcoal Acne Clearing Cleanser instead! Moisturizing remains key, as always, but it is never a bad idea to use fewer harsh ingredients, if you can. This is also a fantastic option for people who might be testing out solutions to new skin issues; if your acne has increased and you are just beginning to look for the right medicated face wash to help, always try the most sensitive option first. Over-curing the problem can cause a much more painful problem!

Key Features
  • Japanese Skin Purifying Technology
  • 1 percent salicylic acid acne treatment
  • Charcoal cleanser formula foams white
Specifications
  • Cruelty Free: Yes
  • Vegan: Yes
  • Product Dimensions: 1.5 x 2.6 x 6.5 inches
  • Product Weight: 8.6 ounces
Pros
  • Oil-free, paraben-free
  • Vegan friendly and cruelty free
  • Non-comedogenic (won’t clog pores)
Cons
  • Too harsh for sensitive skin
  • Strong scent can be an irritant
  • Dispenser pump gets blockage issues

A scant few of us ever get lucky enough to completely avoid facing a battle with acne at some point in our lives. For some, hormonal changes during teenage puberty years wreak the most dermal havoc, bringing pimples, blackheads, and oily skin. Others find themselves dealing with their first breakouts later on, under extreme stress at college or when dealing with difficult transitions or work challenges. Adult acne is less common, but still plagues a number of people who need equally effective treatment options.

Just as there are a variety of reasons why and times when acne might rear its ugly head, there are also a variety of ways in which that acne might appear. Combining these factors with the large number of different skin types out there, it quickly becomes clear that there are a high number of variables involved when it comes to skin health and needs. Consequently, the market for products to solve the vast number of skin concerns out there is HUGE.

When selecting the best face wash to help prevent and control your acne, the most important factor is being able to understand face wash lingo and what your needs truly are. For example, for some people, their skin is generally well-behaved, but could be noticeably improved (cleared up, acne and all) by a rather gentle cleanser. This skin type would likely have an adverse reaction to the product that would work best for someone with more severe acne, increased oil production, or hormonal acne issues.

Dealing with moderate to more severe acne often requires a face wash with an active ingredient (as well as ingredients that you should avoid). The two main active ingredients available in over-the-counter face washes are benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid. Intimidating names aside, think of these each as the key ingredient that is formulated like a medicine to purposefully treat certain conditions. Using one of these ingredients on skin that has occasional, sporadic breakouts might actually cause skin damage (like redness, dryness, itchiness, or worse acne), but each of these magic ingredients can be the desperate answer that others are searching for.

Benzoyl peroxide works to kill bacteria and actually impede oil production through the use of a face wash, which can be critical for remedying pimples, especially those painful, beneath-the-skin monsters we all hate until they slowly fade away. For someone dealing more with whiteheads and blackheads, however, a salicylic acid face wash is definitely the answer. This second type of active ingredient essentially strips the top layer of debris-clogged skin, eliminating these pesky little pore problems. This process is actually considered gentle for skin types that truly need it, but again can be too intense for those who do not.

Also keep in mind that regardless of your skin type, acne type, and face wash selection, we all need to moisturize after washing. Even gentle, hydrating cleansers still do strip away some of the natural, good oils on our faces, and the more of those oils we are removing (talking to you, fellow serious-acne sufferers), the more important it is that we replace them. Even the perfect face wash can be foiled by a lack of post-wash moisturizing, tricking the skin into thinking it is too dry and potentially makings things worse. A good primer can also help reduce oil production.

Finally, keep in mind that things like diet, exercise, exposure to bacteria, stress, and repeated exposure to skin-covering accessories like headphones and hats can all contribute to issues with acne. Some serious acne may need medical attention, and some face washes and medications may take 4-6 weeks to take full effect and really show your positive progress, so just be patient! It is so much better to do things the right and safe way than to permanently scar your face or cause yourself a lot of pain and discomfort with the wrong treatment.

Hopefully, with the help of this guide, we can find you the right acne face wash for your needs, without getting too lost in the countless number of products on the market.

Resources — Mayo Clinic, WebMD

Share this Buyers Guide