8 Best Face Washes for Acne-Prone Skin, According to Dermatologists

The best part? Drugstore cleansers will get the job done.

best acne face wash
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There are probably many reasons why you wanted to leave your teen years behind, and saying goodbye to your acne was surely one of them.

But don’t freak out if those pesky pimples stuck around. “Adult acne in women is super common,” says Nazanin Saedi, MD, director of the Jefferson Laser Surgery and Cosmetic Dermatology Center in Philadelphia. The main cause: hormonal imbalance. That’s why dermatologists often recommend medications like birth control, which can help keep hormones like estrogen and testosterone in check.

However, what you put on your face also matters. The first step in your anti-acne regimen? A cleanser that you can lather up with morning and night. “Nighttime cleansing washes off dirt and excess oil that’s sitting on skin, while morning cleansing will clear off anything that accumulated overnight,” says Dr. Saedi.

A few ingredients to look for in your face wash: benzoyl peroxide (to clean out the P. acnes bacteria that contributes to acne), salicylic acid (to exfoliate and remove pore-clogging debris and break up blackheads and whiteheads), or sulfur (to lessen inflammation).

One downside is that face washes for acne can be drying. You may also be tempted to overdo it on cleansing—and get irritated as a result (hello, angry skin!). Pro tip: If you do get a bit dry or flaky, scale back to every other day and follow with a noncomedogenic moisturizer designed for oily or acne-prone skin.

Bonus: when it comes to face wash, you don’t have to pick an expensive one—drugstore buys will get the job done, says Dr. Saedi. Here are 8 that have top-notch pimple-fighting power.

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1 Neutrogena Oil-Free Pink Grapefruit Acne Facial Cleanser
Amazon
amazon.com $6.89

With skin-brightening vitamin C and blackhead-banishing salicylic acid, this wash is a “refreshing way to start off your morning and treat acne and red marks,” says Dr. Saedi. The grapefruit scent is a great way to perk yourself up in the a.m., too.

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2 Neutrogena Clear Pore Cleanser/Mask
Walmart
walmart.com $6.67

This product goes double duty as a daily cleanser (to clear breakouts) or face mask (to deep clean your pores). A 3.5% benzoyl peroxide formula is even suitable for sensitive skin types, says Dr. Saedi. It also helps control that shiny forehead you deal with by 3 p.m., thanks to oil-controlling kaolin and bentonite clay.

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3 La Roche-Posay Effaclar Medicated Gel Cleanser Acne Wash
Amazon
amazon.com $14.99

This 2% salicylic acid face wash from La Roche-Posay sops up excess oil and contains lipo hydroxy acid, a micro-exfoliant that buffs away dirt and smooths out skin.

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4 Clean & Clear Continuous Control Acne Cleanser
Amazon
amazon.com $4.97

If anything reminds you of your teen years, it’s probably Clean & Clear products—but they work! This pick contains 10% benzoyl peroxide (the strongest you’ll find), so it offers serious bacteria-killing power if your skin can tolerate it, says Dr. Saedi. Menthol also leaves behind a tingly, cooling effect—great for those painful bumps. While its intended for daily use, lathering up with this every day might be a bit drying, so give your skin a break if it needs it.

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5 Cetaphil Gentle Skin Cleanser
Amazon
amazon.com $9.49

This basic cleanser is a dermatologist favorite for a reason—it’s designed to wash away impurities without irritating, making it great for acne-prone skin. It’s especially soothing for those with a sensitive complexion or eczema, says Dr. Saedi. 

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6 Traditional Sulfur Soap Cleansing Bar
Amazon
amazon.com $5.99

Sulfur calms down redness and inflammation, says Dr. Saedi. Catch is, it’s not always pleasant-smelling. However, reviewers of this bar, which acts as an antiseptic and antifungal, say it has a mild fragrance and (most importantly) really fades both mild and cystic acne.

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7 Bioré Charcoal Acne Clearing Cleanser for Oily Skin (6.77oz)
Amazon
Bioré amazon.com $5.64

The addition of charcoal (a great ingredient for oily skin) to this 1% salicylic acid cleanser helps penetrate clogged pores to clear out blackheads, says Dr. Saedi.

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8 Clean & Clear Advantage Acne Control 3-in-1 Foaming Wash
Amazon
amazon.com $4.78

The 2% salicylic acid in this foaming cleanser treats existing breakouts while keeping P. acnes bacteria at bay to prevent future ones. 

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