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From the moment we hit puberty, acne becomes a big part of most of our lives. In fact, according to the American Academy of Dermatology, acne is the most common skin condition in the United States, affecting about 50 million Americans every year. But you may not get off scot-free after your teen years. For many, acne doesn't just disappear. Instead, it can carry on into adulthood, or develop then for the very first time.
That’s why the skincare products we use every day are so important—starting with our face wash. Lucky for you, we searched high and low to find the best cleansers on the market to banish zits and keep them from forming in the first place.
Read on for the best acne face washes you can buy now.
Best Overall: Neutrogena Oil-Free Acne Fighting Face Wash
This classic, dermatologist-recommended cleanser is a best-seller for a reason. It’s formulated with salicylic acid, which is often the best ingredient to try if you find yourself dealing with acne. It’s a beta hydroxy acid, which means it works to exfoliate and clear dead skin cells that are clogging up your pores. That translates to less frequent breakouts and overall clearer-looking skin.
Best for Sensitive Skin: InstaNatural Acne Cleanser
The ingredients that help to fight acne can be harsh to even the least sensitive skin types, so when it comes to picking a cleanser for skin that gets irritated easily, it’s important to find a good balance. This acne wash is formulated to not only clear up blemishes but to calm skin. The salicylic acid clears out clogged pores and prevents breakouts from popping up while extracts like vitamin E and aloe work to soothe your skin.
Read more reviews and shop for the best natural face washes you can feel good about using.
Best for Oily Skin: Differin Daily Deep Cleanser
When it comes to clearing up acne, benzoyl peroxide is a total powerhouse ingredient. It kills the bacteria on your face that causes acne to form, so not only will it banish your pimples, but it’ll stop them from forming in the first place. It’s important to use benzoyl peroxide carefully though since it can be drying to sensitive and dry skin types. But for oily skin, it’s a great option and can even slow the overproduction of oil.
Speaking of oily skin, follow up your cleansing routine with one of these best toners for oily skin.
Best Oil-Free: AcneFree Oil-Free Acne Cleanser
If you tend to go for oil-free formulas to counteract skin that already produces too much oil, this formula is a great option. It’s formulated with benzoyl peroxide to kill acne-causing bacteria and glycolic acid to exfoliate the skin and get rid of clogged pores without drying them out.
Best Drugstore: CeraVe Renewing SA Face Cleanser
This acne face wash is not only budget-friendly, but it also works hard to get rid of blemishes and keep skin calm and clear. The formula is non-comedogenic, so it won’t clog up pores, and it's non-drying and non-irritating—perfect for anyone with sensitive skin. It’s also developed with dermatologists and uses good-for-skin ingredients like salicylic acid, ceramides, hyaluronic acid, niacinamide, and antioxidant vitamin D.
Check out our guide to the best drugstore cleansers on the market.
Best for Redness: Neutrogena Redness Soothing Cleanser
Acne can, of course, cause unattractive zits to pop up, and with that can come redness as well. This cleanser is formulated to get rid of blemishes and the redness that makes skin look even more irritated. The salicylic acid clears up acne while naturally derived aloe and chamomile extracts work to calm the skin and soothe it.
See more of our top picks in our roundup of the best face washes money can buy.
Best Exfoliating Scrub: St. Ives Acne Control Apricot Face Scrub
This formula uses crushed walnut shells to slough away dead skin cells—an important step in clearing away clogged pores and stopping them from forming. But that's not all. It also uses a chemical exfoliator, so it does double duty in the exfoliation department. While the walnut particles work on the outer layer of skin, salicylic acid works its way down into the pores to clear them out. That means fewer pimples and fewer blackheads.
Take a look at our favorite face exfoliators available today.
Best for Combination Skin: Clean & Clear Advantage Acne Control Foaming Wash
Dealing with combination skin can be tricky since parts of the face are oily—usually around the T-zone (the forehead, nose, and chin)—and the other areas tend to be dry. So, picking the right cleanser is important in keeping your skin balanced and happy. This formula has acne-fighting salicylic acid, but it’s also gentle enough to use daily.
Take a look at other options in our roundup of the best cleansers for combination skin.
Best for Blackheads: Bioré Charcoal Acne Clearing Cleanser
By now you probably know the whole schpeel about how charcoal benefits the skin, so we won't get into it here, but just know that this charcoal-infused cleanser is the stuff, particularly if you're dealing with blackheads. The hard-hitting combo of charcoal and salicylic acid removes impurities from the skin so pores are purified (no more of those black dots pebbling your nose) and breakouts are left at bay.
See more reviews of our favorite blackhead treatments.
Best for Whiteheads: Mario Badescu Acne Facial Cleanser
From the brand that created the ultimate acne spot treatment (if you know, you know) comes this equally-great acne face wash. It's a clarifying formula with salicylic acid, aloe vera, and thyme extract to help remove pore-clogging dead skin cells while preventing the skin from drying out.
Best Sulfur Formula: Kate Somerville EradiKate Daily Cleanser Acne Treatment
When it comes to acne, you hear a lot about the wonders of salicylic acid and benzoyl peroxide. Nothing against them (they're acne-fighting great ingredients for certain) but let's also give some due praise to sulfur, which makes a big 3% cameo in this cleanser. When used over time, you can expect to see visibly clearer skin and minimized pores.