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Struggling with adult acne? We feel your pain! 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 — and though you should consult your own dermatologist prior to starting any new skincare routine, this list should help you along the way.
The top facial cleansers for acne
"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.
"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.
"The use of 2-percent 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 Dr. Ted Lain, board-certified dermatologist.
"This face wash cleanses pores, but does not leave skin dry. It moisturizes the skin and is good for all types," said Dr. Paul Jarrod Frank, celebrity cosmetic dermatologist and founder of PFRANKMD and PFRANKMD Skin Salon.
"This product contains 10-percent 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.
"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.
"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.
"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.
"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-percent concentration. The addition of hydrating hyaluronic acid and calming chamomile minimizes inflammation or irritation," Lain said.
"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.
"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.
"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.
"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.
"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.
"This scrub/cleanser works to clear clogged pores and acne, and the micro-beads 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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