33 Face Washes for Acne That Dermatologists Recommend

, 33 Face Washes for Acne That Dermatologists Recommend
, 33 Face Washes for Acne That Dermatologists Recommend

There’s no one-size-fits-all for acne. If there were, it would be a thing of the past. Similarly, when it comes to the best face washes for acne, there are different options for different skin types, acne types, and more. And while it can take time to figure out what combination of skin-care products works best for you, dermatologists agree that finding an acne cleanser—and scrupulously face washing—is the first place to start. 

The best face washes for acne-prone skin can help with exfoliation, clearing dirt and debris out of pores and blackheads, and getting rid of existing acne. They also take the necessary steps to prevent any more whiteheads from popping up. 

How does cleansing help fight acne?

“In simple terms, acne is the blocking of the hair follicle unit, so maintaining effective skin hygiene to reduce pore obstruction is the first—and sometimes the only—step in preventing and clearing acne,” says Benjamin Marks, M.D., a dermatologist at Northwestern Medicine Glenview Outpatient Center. “As such, an effective face wash is the starting point of good skin hygiene.” 

What ingredients should you look for in face washes for acne-prone skin?

When it comes to the ingredients list on your face wash, salicylic acid and benzoyl peroxide are the main players. Salicylic acid is a beta-hydroxy acid (BHA), which is particularly effective for acne-prone skin due to its ability to deeply penetrate the hair follicle unit. “This allows exfoliation of skin cells within the blocked follicle,” Dr. Marks explains. 

Benzoyl peroxide is an antimicrobial agent that helps to remove bacteria and impurities from the skin and tackle the inflammation that contributes to acne development. “I recommend a benzoyl peroxide concentration less than 5%, particularly in patients of color, to minimize irritation and subsequent hyperpigmentation,” board-certified dermatologist Prince Adotama, M.D., an assistant professor at the NYU Grossman School of Medicine, tells SELF

Dr. Adotama notes that there can still be associated dryness and irritation with lower-strength benzoyl peroxide, so consider using it every other day initially, and always use a moisturizer and sunscreen (as you normally would) to prevent any further skin irritation. 

You might also want to look for concentrations of vitamin C, an antioxidant that brightens residual dark spots and acne scars over time. Niacinamide is a great ingredient too; it works to even out skin tone and texture. Hyaluronic acid is a supremely hydrating ingredient that is lightweight (versus ingredients like shea butter) and won’t clog your pores. You might also look for calming botanicals like chamomile, aloe, and green tea which can soothe redness and irritation.

How do you find the right cleanser for your skin type?

Taking your skin type into account will help you narrow down your options too. “For oily skin, I usually recommend a foaming cleanser,” Dr. Adotama says. “If your skin is on the dryer side, a gentle hydrating cleanser is preferred. Avoid harsh scrubs if you have sensitive skin.” 

You can also mix and match your acne treatments for best results. Dr. Marks often recommends a salicylic acid face wash for one wash of the day and a benzoyl peroxide wash for the other (in the shower if possible, as it does have the potential to bleach your clothes). There are also back acne washes if you experience breakouts anywhere else on your body. Just remember that it’s always best to check in with your dermatologist before you switch up your skin-care routine

Here, are a range of expert-recommended face washes for acne, from drugstore beauty brands like CeraVe and Neutrogena, and other fan favorites from Paula’s Choice, SkinCeuticals, Murad, and more.

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