Best face washes for acne—Top picks

Maintaining healthy skin and clearing existing acne can be challenging. But the appropriate skincare routine makes it easier—starting with your choice of facial cleanser. 

Image of a white woman carrying out skincare routine that involves cleansing the face with a face wash

Before now, physical exfoliators have been a trend for clearing acne and reducing sebum production, but they end up damaging the skin. For this reason, dermatologists advise that instead of using products that cause harsh bruises to the skin, mild cleansers containing active ingredients that can melt away dirt and kill acne-causing bacteria should be a better alternative. 

Since skincare product manufacturers launch a lot of products into the market with promises to deliver the best quality, how do you know the right cleanser to buy?

Choosing dermatologist-approved face washes will be your best bet, and below, we reviewed some of the best facial washes for acne.  

Round up of the best facial washes for acne scars

  • Best overall face wash for acne: Paula’s Choice Clear Pore Normalizing Cleanser
  • Best facial wash for sensitive skin: CeraVe Renewing SA Cleanser
  • Best facial wash for oily skin: The Inkey List SA Acne + Pore Cleanser
  • Best for face wash for acne Rosacea: CeraVe Acne Foaming Cream Cleanser
  • Best face wash for dry skin: The Ordinary Squalene Cleanser
  • Best overall face wash for cystic acne: Panoxyl Acne Foaming Wash 
  • Best face wash with glycolic acid: Skinfix Acne + 2% BHA Cleanser
  • Best facial wash with Benzoyl peroxide: Replenix Benzoyl Peroxide 5% Acne Wash
  • Best face wash for kids: Cetaphil Gentle Skin Cleanser
  • Best face wash for teenagers: California Kids Superclear Face Wash

1. Paula’s Choice Clear Pore Normalizing Cleanser

This gel cleanser is one of the best face washes for acne. With 0.5% salicylic acid, Paula’s Choice Clear Pore Cleanser goes hard on breakouts but soft on the skin, dissolving pore-clogging impurities and clearing blackheads without drying out the skin. 

The presence of panthenol in this product helps with moisture retention, leaving the skin feeling smooth and fresh. 

With these properties, it is gentle and good for all skin types. If you are worried about how your skin will react to active ingredients, you should try this cleanser first.


  • Suitable for all skin types
  • Dissolves makeup
  • Fragrance-free
  • paraben-free
  • non-comedogenic


  • It may irritate sensitive skin

2. CeraVe Renewing SA Cleanser

It is often not easy for people who have sensitive skin and are prone to acne to find the right facial cleanser. But with CeraVe Renewing SA Cleanser, this problem is handled. The Cereva Renewing Cleanser is arguably one of the best face washes for acne.

It is a mild salicylic acid cleanser that washes away impurities and leaves the skin feeling smooth and refreshed. 

With 3 essential ceramides, this non-irritating exfoliating cleanser protects the skin barrier, utilizing hyaluronic acid and niacinamide to retain moisture and calm the skin, which makes it stand out as a game changer for sensitive skin types. 

It is fragrance-free, non-comedogenic, and enriched with vitamin D, 


  • Non-comedogenic
  • Fragrance-free
  • Affordable 


  • It may cause skin drying.

3. The Inkey List SA Acne + Pore Cleanser

This face cleanser is a rare gem. Although it contains 2% salicylic acid, InKey List SA completely clears acne and scars, gently exfoliates, and unclogs pores without drying out the skin.

It also contains zinc which helps to reduce oil production and fight acne-causing bacteria and 0.5% Allantoin, which calms the skin and prevents irritation.

For oily skin, dermatologists highly recommend this cleanser. But, because it has a foamy texture, it may not be the best option for people with dry and sensitive skin as it can cause the skin to get overly dry.


  • Affordable
  • Fragrance-free


  • Cover not tight
  • May cause skin drying

4. CeraVe Acne Foaming Cream Cleanser

If you want to try out skincare products containing benzoyl peroxide, the CeraVe Acne Foaming Cleanser is a great option for testing the waters. Alongside the Renewing SA cleanser, the Acne Foaming cleanser is also one of the best face washes for acne.

This cleanser has 4% benzoyl peroxide, which is mild for new users of active ingredients but very efficient in fighting acne, preventing new ones from forming, and allowing the skin to heal. 

To crown it all, it contains 3 essential ceramides to restore and protect the skin barrier, hyaluronic acid to retain enough skin moisture, and niacinamide to calm and smoothen the skin. 

Although this cleanser is a perfect choice for benzoyl peroxide testers, the foamy texture hinders it from being a great choice for people with dry skin type, but a win for those with oily skin. 


  • Non-comedogenic
  • Developed by dermatologists


  • Drying for the skin
  • Benzoyl peroxide can bleach materials
  • May cause irritation 

5. The Ordinary Squalane Cleanser

Is your skin drooling for moisture? Then don’t let the Ordinary Squalane Face Cleanser pass you by.

Dermatologists advise patients to stay away from active ingredients in cleansers if they have dry skin, but you can lay a base with a mild moisturizing cleanser to avoid stripping the skin of its moisture. 

At first, the consistency of this cleanser feels oily, but when the product is rubbed together in the palm for some minutes, the consistency changes. 

This product is soap-free and formulated with squalane, a known moisturizing factor, alongside lipophilic esters, a skin softener. It completely dissolves specks of dirt and removes makeup. 

The ordinary squalene cleanser is suitable for all skin types. It is also one of the best face washes for acne.


  • Oil-free
  • Affordable
  • Fragrance-free
  • Suitable for all skin types


  • Not user-friendly

6. Panoxyl Acne Foaming Wash

Dermatologists recommend this face wash for cystic acne because it contains a higher percentage of benzoyl peroxide.

It clears even the worst acne and prevents recurrence.

Panoxyl Acne Foaming Cleanser contains moisturizers to prevent the skin from drying out while reducing oil production and fighting acne. 

This cleanser is suitable for oily skin and acne-prone skin. It will cause further skin dryness in people who already have dry skin and can cause skin irritation in people with sensitive skin. 


  • Very affordable
  • Fragrance-free
  • non-comedogenic


  • Drying 
  • Benzoyl peroxide can bleach clothes. 
  • Irritation

7. Skinfix Acne + 2% BHA Cleanser

If your goal is to combat acne scars and reduce the chances of acne recurrence, Skinfix acne + 2% BHA Cleanser should be at the top of your list. 

With this face wash, hyperpigmentation is not an issue. 

It contains powerful active ingredients like; 2% salicylic acid to fight off acne and reduce sebum; 1% azelaic acid to reduce inflammation and fade acne scars; 2% niacinamide to reduce the appearance of pores; and 3% glycolic acid to unclog pores, exfoliate the skin, and reveal brighter skin.

This wash is good for normal to oily skin, but it may be too harsh for dry or sensitive skin. 


  • Fades scars
  • Fragrance-free
  • No essential oils


  • Has an unpleasant smell
  • Products are not much in the container
  • Not foamy
  • Does not remove makeup
  • Expensive
  • Inconvenient packaging

8. Replenix Benzoyl Peroxide 5% Acne Wash

For the best benzoyl peroxide experience, aestheticians recommend this soap-free, 5% benzoyl peroxide acne face wash. 

Replenix face wash kills the bacteria that cause acne, clears out clogged pores, reduces inflammation, and prevents the formation of blemishes.

Because of its soap-free texture, it is less drying and beneficial to all skin types depending on the duration of use. 


  • Fragrance-free
  • Affordable 


  • Benzoyl peroxide can bleach clothes
  • It can be extremely drying

9. Cetaphil Gentle Skin Cleanser Fragrance-free

Because kids have tender skin, skincare experts do not recommend applying products that contain active ingredients on their skin. Rather, it is best to stick with products that are very subtle and can replenish their skin's moisture.

Cetaphil Gentle Skin Cleanser is specially developed to deep clean and moisturize the face, both for children and adults. It is fragrance-free and suitable for kids with skin allergies. 

Its niacinamide and panthenol ingredients rejuvenate their tender skin and help with skin healing.


  • Hydrating
  • Paraben and fragrance-free
  • Suitable for all skin types


  • Expensive
  • An issue with the dispensing pump

10. California Kids Superclear Face Wash

California Kids Cleanser is one of the dermatologists' favorites, not just for kids but for teenagers as well. With this cleanser, the journey to combating acne gets easier for teenagers. 

This facial wash is one of the best for acne and is formulated with salicylic acid derived from willow's bark and clears up problematic skin and mild acne outbreaks.

It lightly exfoliates without drying or irritating the skin. 

This product is for all skin types.


  • Very mild 
  • Plant-based
  • Allergy tested


  • Awful smell
  • Quantity is small
  • Costly

What to look out for when buying a face wash for acne

Face washers make direct contact with the face before any other product, so choosing one that is effective can be a good base for layering other products. 

There are factors to consider before choosing an acne face wash to avoid mistakes. They include:

The Skin type

There are different skin types, and the mode of treatment differs for each. 

If you want to know your skin type, wash your face with a mild cleanser and pat it dry. 

After 30 minutes, if your face feels shiny, you have oily skin. If it feels shiny in the T-zone (forehead and nose bridge), then it's a combination of skin. If it feels dry, then it's dry skin. And if it is neither dry nor shiny, you have normal skin.

The Cost

An expensive face wash does not always mean an effective face wash. If you cannot afford to buy the more expensive ones, look for a pocket-friendly cleanser with the necessary active ingredients, and you will reap similar benefits as the expensive ones.

Active ingredients

The main active ingredients to look out for in an acne treatment cleanser are benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid. 

Also, it should be non-comedogenic and fragrance-free to avoid clogging pores and triggering acne.

For the sake of safety and achieving an excellent result, dermatologist-recommended products should be at the top of your list. 

Products that have been tested and trusted by dermatologists mean experts trust them to be safe and effective for use. Instead of using some fad products out there, it may be safer to opt for the one's skin care experts typically recommend.

In all, blind buying is not the best option for you when purchasing quality skincare products. 


Using face cleansers to treat acne is a win, but take care not to over-use these products to avoid stripping the skin of moisture and its natural protective barrier. In all, when it comes to skincare, moderation is the key.