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15 best face washes for acne-prone skin in 2021

Combat your acne problems once and for all.
GIF Illustration of different acne face wash products
TODAY Illustration / Amazon / Dermstore / Walmart / Sephora
/ Source: TODAY

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No matter how old you are, struggling with acne isn't fun. It can happen to just about anyone and adult acne is surprisingly more common than people often think.

The good news is that you don't have to simply accept pesky pimples and redness as a part of life. The right cleanser and a balanced skin care routine can help nip blemishes in the bud before they become unmanageable.

We asked top dermatologists to share their favorite face wash picks that help combat acne and oily skin. Though you should consult your own dermatologist prior to starting any new skin care routine, this list should help you along the way.

The top facial cleansers for acne

1. Bioré Charcoal Acne Clearing Cleanser

"The winning combination of salicylic acid and purifying charcoal works to clean out oil and bacteria, while the cooling sensation leaves your face feeling super clean. Plus, the price can’t be beat!" said New York City cosmetic dermatologist, Dr. Howard Sobel, founder of Sobel Skin.

2. First Aid Beauty Skin Rescue

"This foaming gel cleanser combines red clay and rosemary leaf oil to help cleanse the skin and absorb excess sebum. As an added bonus, it also contains a blend of botanical antioxidants (licorice root, feverfew and white tea)," said Dr. Dendy Engelman, a dermatologist in New York City.

3. La Roche Posay Effaclar Medicated Cleanser

"The use of 2% salicylic acid ensures a quick exfoliation within the pores, where acne develops. In addition, the lipohydroxy acid takes a longer term approach, diving deeper within the pore and causing a more gentle exfoliation that develops over days and does not increase dryness or irritation. This 'turtle and hare' approach makes a lot of sense, since acne is a chronic disease that requires consistent, well-tolerated treatment," said board-certified dermatologist Dr. Ted Lain.

4. Philosophy Purity Made Simple Cleanser

"This face wash cleanses pores, but does not leave skin dry. It moisturizes the skin and is good for all types," said celebrity cosmetic dermatologist Dr. Paul Jarrod Frank.

5. Clean and Clear Acne Cleanser

"This product contains 10% benzoyl peroxide, which is anti-inflammatory and antibacterial, and often used as an acne treatment," said Dr. Julia Tzu, founder and medical director of Wall Street Dermatology.

6. Aveeno Clear Complexion Foaming Cleanser

"Glycerin, a potent humectant, helps to maintain moisture despite the foaming action. Salicylic acid, on the other hand, helps cell turnover in the pores to help clear blackheads and whiteheads and reduce the formation of new ones. Last but not least, this cleanser's soy complex helps reduce dryness, irritation and redness associated with acne treatments and salicylic acid," said Dr. Heidi A Waldorf of Waldorf Dermatology Aesthetics.

7. Kate Somerville Daily Foaming Cleanser

"Sulfur is a great antiseptic and clears the redness in acne. It can smell and irritate the skin, but the soothing oats and honey in this cleanser help prevent these two potential issues," said Dr. Patrick Blake, dermatologist at EllaMD and voluntary clinical instructor at UCSD.

8. Neutrogena Oil-Free Acne and Redness Facial Cleanser

"This lightweight cleanser helps boost the delivery of salicylic acid to help reduce the appearance of acne. Aloe and chamomile help to calm irritation while visibly reducing facial redness," Sobel said.

9. Proactiv Renewing Cleanser

"With this product, Proactiv uses a micronized version of benzoyl peroxide, a mainstay acne treatment, which allows the ingredient to have beneficial effects at a low 2.5% concentration. The addition of hydrating hyaluronic acid and calming chamomile minimizes inflammation or irritation," Lain said.

10. Cetaphil DermaControl Foam Wash

"It has an instant impact on oily, overly shiny skin that many people with acne have, giving more of a matte appearance. Also, it's inexpensive and rarely causes irritation," Blake said.

11. EltaMD Foaming Facial Cleanser

"This is a super gentle cleanser that is great for patients who have acne but also have sensitive, dry skin and are on other topical acne treatments. It does not contain any active anti-acne ingredients, so it does not cause any level of irritation to the skin when other acne medications are applied," said Tzu.

12. Epionce Lytic Gel Cleanser

"This cleanser effectively dissolves dirt, oil and makeup, and calms the visible appearance of irritated skin without over-drying or leaving the skin feeling tight or stripped of its natural oils. It contains willow bark extract, lavender extract, marshmallow root extract, orange fruit extract and menthol," Engelman said.

13. Neutrogena Oil-Free Acne Wash

"This cleanser contains salicylic acid which has anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial properties. It also exfoliates, and unclogs the pores, eliminating whiteheads and blackheads," said New York City-based, board-certified cosmetic dermatologist, Dr. Michele Green.

14. SkinMedica AHA BHA Exfoliating Cleanser

"This cleanser contains alpha-hydroxy acid (AHA) — lactic acid, glycolic acid, citric acid and malic acid — and beta-hydroxy acid (salicylic acid), in addition to jojoba spheres to help exfoliate and enhance skin texture," Engelman noted.

15. iS Clinica Exfoliating Facial Scrub

"This scrub/cleanser works to clear clogged pores and acne, and the microbeads mechanically exfoliate the skin. The botanical enzymes and salicylic acid chemically exfoliate the skin in addition to eliminating stubborn acne," said Dr. Lily Talakoub from McLean Dermatology and Skincare Center.

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This article was originally published on March 15, 2019.