A Guide to the Best Face Wash for Acne (for All Skin Types)

Acne sufferers vary in age, race, and gender. But one thing that unites them all? They know the importance of choosing the best face wash for acne prone skin.

At first glance, a face wash for acne doesn't seem like such a big deal. After all, face wash only stays on your skin for a minute or so at a time. What difference could such a short time possibly make?

A huge difference. The truth is that a good acne wash is your first line of defense against clogged pores and impurities that result in chronic breakouts. And sure, a minute may seem like a short span of time but when you take into account that you wash your face at least twice a day - every day - the time adds up.

Choosing your acne cleanser wisely is also the difference between red, irritated, acne-inflamed skin and healthy, clear skin. It can be tempting to reach for the harshest acne cleansers out there in an effort to scrub your skin clean - but keep in mind that you can't "clean" acne away. And scouring your delicate facial skin with rough exfoliants and harsh ingredients can ultimately do more harm than good.

So what should you look for in a good acne wash? Here's a quick guide...

How to Choose the Best Face Wash for Acne

When you're searching for the best face wash for acne, the most important thing to keep in mind is that everyone has a different skin type. So an acne cleanser that worked wonders for your friend may not have the same results on your own skin.

That being said, there are some factors that make a cleanser better for acne. Here are a few things to keep in mind when you're shopping for the best acne cleanser for your skin...

  • Acne fighting ingredients. It's just a fact - some ingredients are just better at fighting acne than others. There's a wide array of acne fighting ingredients out there - from benzoyl peroxide to salicylic acid - so be sure to get an acne cleanser that includes one or more of these beneficial ingredients.
  • Noncomedogenic. You already know that when it comes to acne, you want to always opt for noncomedogenic products, right? Well, it's the same with acne cleansers - go noncomedogenic and oil free. A quick note on OCM (oil cleansing method) - cleansing with oils is not always a bad idea for acne prone skin but make sure you always choose noncomedogenic oils like hemp oil if you go this route.
  • Exfoliation. Acne happens when your hair follicles get clogged with oil and dead skin cells. So one of the most important things your face wash should be doing is exfoliating your skin so debris and dead skin cells can get cleared away rather than find their way into your pores.
  • The rest of your skin. When you're dealing with acne, it's easy to focus solely on the red, inflamed pimples covering your face...but what about the rest of your lovely facial skin? That skin needs some lovin' too - which is why we recommend choosing an acne face wash that also provides much needed TLC for your overall skin in the form of hydration and nourishment.

Alright, now that you know what's up when it comes to choosing the best face wash for acne, let's go over some of the best acne cleansers on the market.

Since acne happens to a lot of people - all with varying skin types - we've separated the best acne cleansers per skin type. Scroll to find the best acne face wash for your specific skin!

Best Acne Face Wash for All Skin Types

If your skin responds pretty well to most products, thank your lucky stars. The last thing you need is to be dealing with on top of acne is sensitive, overly dry or overly oily skin, right?

Plus, if your skin isn't too finicky, you have the widest array of choices when it comes to acne cleansers. Here are your best bets!

Alba Botanica Acnedote Deep Pore Wash

best face wash for acne

Alba Botanica Acnedote Deep Pore Wash, $8

So simple, so effective, so affordable - Alba Botanica's Acnedote is hands down the best salicylic acid face wash under $10. Its claim to acne-fighting fame is salicylic acid, the BHA (beta hydroxy acid) best known for being oil soluble. That means its able to get into oil-clogged pores to thoroughly cleanse them out, which is exactly what you need when you're dealing with acne!

This acne cleanser is formulated with a whopping 2% salicylic acid. As for the rest of the cleanser? It's got no parabens or synthetic fragrances that can irritate your skin. In fact, it's composed of 100% vegetarian ingredients.

Humane Acne Wash 10% Benzoyl Peroxide

best face wash for acne

Humane Acne Wash, $22

If you have acne with skin that's not too sensitive or prone to dryness, a face wash with benzoyl peroxide may be your perfect match. Humane's Acne Wash is formulated with 10% benzoyl peroxide, which is pretty much the strongest you'll be able to get without a prescription. It also contains no parabens, sulfates or fragrances and has an EWG safety rating of one, meaning the ingredients are as natural as you can get and there's little chance of irritation.

So you get all the straight up benefits of benzoyl peroxide, which destroys the acne bacteria on contact, without any other ingredients that can potentially irritate or dry out your skin.

Yes to Tomatoes Detoxifying Charcoal Cleanser

best face wash for acne prone skin

Yes to Tomatoes Detoxifying Charcoal Cleanser, $7

Yes to Tomatoes offers a two-pronged solution to the acne dilemma: activated charcoal to draw out and absorb impurities from deep within your pores and salicylic acid to deep clean pores and prevent future breakouts. Combine that with tiny jojoba spheres for gentle exfoliation and tomato extract for antioxidants and you get the perfect acne wash for all skin types.

More good news? The deep clean this product offers makes it equally good for getting rid of blackheads and other clogged pore ugliness. The only downside is that this acne cleanser does contain alcohol and can dry out your skin, especially in the dry winter months.

Peter Thomas Roth Blemish Buffing Beads

best face wash for acne
best acne cleanser

Peter Thomas Roth Blemish Buffing Beads, $19

BHAs like salicylic acid are great for clogged pores, blackheads and acne. Salicylic acid is oil soluble so it can penetrate deeply into the pores to provide thorough exfoliation and cleansing. It also helps to remove the oil so that AHAs like glycolic acid can penetrate the skin and provide faster cell turnover (i.e. no red marks from acne).

This is what makes AHA/BHA combination cleansers like Peter Thomas Roth's Blemish Buffing Beads so good for acne - together, these acids work to clear active acne and fade acne marks faster.

The only downside is that when used together, the AHA/BHA combo can be a bit drying so be sure to load up on moisturizers!

Thursday Plantation Tea Tree Foam Face Wash

best cleanser for oily acne prone skin
best acne face wash for oily skin

Thursday Plantation Tea Tree Foam Face Wash, $11

Want a natural alternative to traditional acne fighting ingredients like benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid? Meet Thursday Plantation's Tea Tree Face Wash Foam. It contains tea tree oil, which is gentler than benzoyl peroxide, as well as soothing chamomile extract and clarifying eucalyptus oil.

The best part? It provides a lovely cleanse without overly drying out your skin. That being said, it can dry out your eyes so take caution to not get it in your eyes when washing your face.

Best Face Wash for Oily Acne Prone Skin

Finding the best face wash for oily acne prone skin can be tricky: On one hand, you really, really want to get rid of that excess oil your skin loves to produce. But on the other hand, you know from experience - and reading skin care blogs - that stripping your skin of moisture can actually have the opposite effect, causing your skin to panic and produce even more sebum to compensate!The last thing you want, right?So when it comes to choosing the best face wash for oily skin and acne - choose wisely. Go for a facial cleanser that has smart ingredients like zinc and tea tree to cut down on excess sebum without drying your skin out. Here are our top picks!

Effaclar Purifying Foaming Gel Cleanser for Oily Skin

best face wash for oily acne prone skin
best face wash for oily skin and acne

La Roche-Posay Effaclar Foaming Gel Cleanser, $11

Looking for the best face wash for oily acne prone skin? You'll want to try Effaclar's Purifying Foaming Gel Cleanser. It's oil-free and soap-free, making it safe for acne-prone skin and thoroughly cleansing without stripping your skin of its natural oils. It also boasts a great ingredient for both oily skin and acne: zinc.

Zinc is a cool little ingredient with antibacterial properties that purifies and soothes at the same time.It's a great multi-tasking ingredient that soaks up excess sebum, fights breakouts and is gentle and soothing for your skin.

The result? You get a deep clean and reduced sebum production without that harsh, dry feeling. Instead, it'll leave your skin feeling soft, smooth and clearer over time.

Dermalogica Clearing Skin Wash

best face wash for oily acne prone skin

Dermalogica Clearing Skin Wash, $22

If you want the deep cleansing, acne clearing, oil controlling benefits of salicylic acid without drying out your skin, Dermalogica's Clearing Skin Wash is perfect for you. It contains just 0.5% salicylic acid, which is effective for cleaning pores and clearing up acne while gentle enough to leave your skin's natural oils intact.

Overall, a perfect acne cleanser for oily skin that leaves your skin clean and clear without feeling stripped.

Dr. Woods Tea Tree Facial Cleanser

best cleanser for oily acne prone skin

Dr. Woods Tea Tree Facial Cleanser, $8

Tea tree oil is a great, effective, all natural acne treatment - the only downside? Although it's gentler than harsher treatments like benzoyl peroxide, it can still be drying, which can result in your skin overcompensating by producing more oil.

Which is why Dr. Woods Tea Tree Facial Cleanser is perfect - gently cleansing and removing excess oil without stripping your skin. It does this by combining tough-on-acne ingredients like tea tree oil with soothing, hydrating ingredients like allantoin, aloe vera extract, shea butter and glycerin.

The result? It clears up blemishes and regulates oil production without stripping your skin. Just keep in mind that tea tree oil can take a few weeks to work and that in the process, there can be purging effect - around the second and third week mark. If and when it happens, just remember that your pores are going through a deep decongesting phase and carry on - your skin will be clearer than ever before after the detox!

PCA SKIN BPO 5% Cleanser

best face wash for acne prone skin
best acne face wash

PCA Skin BPO 5% Cleanser, $36

Benzoyl peroxide for acne works. The downside? It can be overly drying. If you're an oily-skinned beauty who seems to have the best luck with benzoyl peroxide products - minus the super dryness - you'll want to check out PCA Skin's BPO 5% Cleanser.

This acne cleanser contains just 5% benzoyl peroxide - and a whole lot of nourishing, hydrating, soothing ingredients to balance out benzoyl peroxide's dryness-causing tendencies. As such, it's perfect for clearing blemishes and cutting down on oil production, all without excess dryness.

Best Face Wash for Dry Acne Prone Skin

Oil and acne may seem to go hand in hand but acne prone skin isn't exclusive to oily skin types. Nope - the unfortunate truth is that even dry-skinned beauties can experience acne, which can be particularly annoying when you're trying to pick the perfect face wash.

On one hand, you want active ingredients that fight acne. But then again, you don't want to risk drying out the rest of your skin. If that sounds all too familiar, rest assured that there are many that face this dilemma.

And the good news behind all of that is - the skin care industry knows and there are a few gentle, nourishing acne cleansers out there that can destroy your blemishes while keeping the rest of your skin hydrated and happy. So what's the best acne face wash for dry skin? Here are our top picks!

Eminence Organic Clear Skin Probiotic Cleanser

best acne wash for sensitive skin

Eminence Clear Skin Probiotic Cleanser, $32

Probiotics aren't just good for your gut - it's also great for acne prone skin. But you don't have to resort to slathering yogurt on your face (although we're all for that as well - yogurt face masks are wonderful!) - you can opt for a probiotic cleanser instead.

Eminence Organic's Clean Skin Probiotic Cleanser is the best probiotic cleanser you can get your hands on. It's formulated using gentle, natural and effective ingredients like cucumber juice, yogurt (lactic acid - yay!), tea tree oil, willow bark extract (a natural form of salicylic acid) and their proprietary BioComplex, which is a mix of antioxidants, Coenzyme Q10 and Alpha Lipoic Acid.

The result is an acne cleanser that is totally mild and leaves your skin soft, bright and nourished instead of drying it out while it clears up blemishes and dark spots. It's the perfect acne face wash for dry, sensitive skin.

Christina Moss Organic Face Wash

best acne wash for sensitive skin

Christina Moss Organic Face Wash, $21

Sometimes, the best thing you can do for dry, acne-prone skin is to treat it as gently as possible - no harsh, irritating ingredients and absolutely no harmful chemicals like sulfates, parabens, dyes, or fragrance that can upset your skin’s pH balance and wreak havoc on your skin in the long run.

Simply nourish your skin with natural, soothing ingredients that do a superb job leaving your face super clean while cutting down on blemishes. The best face wash for this? Christina Moss's Organic Face Wash. This organic face wash for acne is totally gentle with no harsh, irritating ingredients and does a remarkable job cleaning your skin and controlling sebum production.

This way, your dry, sensitive skin gets all the TLC it needs and you can spot-treat those acne pustules without having to affect your entire face.

Best Face Wash for Sensitive Acne Prone Skin

When you're dealing with acne on already sensitive skin, it can feel like being caught between a rock and a hard place. You want to do everything you can to get rid of the acne and that includes using the most potent acne fighting ingredients. But alas, many of the most effective acne treatments are harsh, dry and irritating for sensitive skin.

So what's an acne-prone, sensitive-skinned beauty to do?

Lucky for you, there are a host of acne cleansers that are formulated with your skin type in mind. These face washes either use gentle, natural acne busting ingredients to combat breakouts while keeping your skin happy or combine nourishing, soothing ingredients with stronger acne-fighting ingredients so you can have your cake and eat it too. Wondering what the best face wash for sensitive acne prone skin is? Here are our top picks!

CLNS Skin by Pom

best face wash for sensitive acne prone skin
best face wash for acne prone sensitive skin

CLNS Skin by Pom, $19.50

POM's line of skin care products are relatively new to the market but we're oh, so glad they're around. Especially when it comes to their acne face wash. This gentle acne cleanser is a brilliant combination of natural acne fighters that exfoliate, unclog pores and soothe redness - all without harsh or irritating ingredients.

For starters, the cleanser is mildly acidic and this slightly acidic pH helps limit the proliferation of the acne bacteria better than basic pH soaps. And its lineup of ingredients certainly helps as well: this cleanser is packing lactic acid - an AHA that stimulates cell turnover and provides exfoliation while being more gentle than the more commonly known AHA, glycolic acid - as well as sea salt and green tea, both of which are known to be natural acne busters.

Top it all off with allantoin, glycerin and bergamot fruit oil and you've got yourself a gentle, effective acne face wash that's perfect for even the most sensitive skin!

Dermalogica Clearing Skin Wash

best face wash for oily acne prone skin

Dermalogica Clearing Skin Wash, $22

Love the deep cleansing, acne clearing benefits of salicylic acid but find most salicylic acid products too harsh for your sensitive skin? You'll want to meet Dermalogica's Clearing Skin Wash. This gentle yet effective acne cleanser is formulated with just 0.5% salicylic acid, which is enough to be tough on acne without irritating sensitive skin.

This acne cleanser will leave your skin feeling squeaky clean without dryness and without stripping off your skin's natural oils. Over time, you'll also notice less shine and clearer skin overall. Perfect for oily, sensitive skin types!

Eminence Organic Clear Skin Probiotic Cleanser

best acne wash for sensitive skin

Eminence Clear Skin Probiotic Cleanser, $32

Sensitive skinned beauties, rejoice! Eminence Organic's Clear Skin Probiotic Cleanser may just be the best face wash for sensitive acne prone skin, especially if you also suffer from dry skin.

It's chockfull of nourishing, soothing ingredients like cucumber juice, almond milk and their proprietary BioComplex, which is a mix of antioxidants, Coenzyme Q10 and Alpha Lipoic Acid. But it's also got its fill of acne busting ingredients like yogurt (exfoliating lactic acid - yay!), tea tree oil, and willow bark extract (a natural form of salicylic acid).

The result is an acne cleanser that is totally mild and leaves your skin soft, bright and nourished instead of drying it out while it clears up blemishes and dark spots. It's the perfect acne face wash for dry, sensitive skin.

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