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How do I Choose the Best Acne Facial Cleanser?

By Bethany Keene
Updated: May 17, 2024

Acne facial cleanser comes in a number of different forms, including bar form, foaming gel, and non-foaming liquid forms. Different types of acne facial cleanser also come with different active ingredients. To choose the best facial cleanser, it will take some trial and error, depending on your skin type and type of acne you have. Trying a cleanser for a few days, or a few weeks, then deciding if it is right for you, is the most effective way to choose the best acne facial cleanser.

The form of acne facial cleanser you choose is really a manner of personal preference. These cleansers tend to be equally effective whether they are in bar or liquid form, or foaming or non-foaming. Foaming cleansers can be slightly more drying, however. The only thing to remember here is not to use a cleanser for the body, especially an acne cleanser for the body, on the face. This will likely be much too harsh and drying for the sensitive skin on the face.

There are two primary active ingredients often found in acne facial cleanser, and most cleansers will contain just one of the two. These are salicylic acid and benzoyl peroxide. Their effectiveness varies from person to person, and a cleanser with salicylic acid might work better for you, while one with benzoyl peroxide works better for someone else. Cleansers that contain these ingredients can be drying, but are often more effective against acne than a cleanser without them.

Non-medicated acne facial cleanser exists as well, and can be effective for those with mild acne or blackheads. It is also an option for those who find the medicated cleansers to be too harsh. If you experience an allergic reaction with an acne cleanser, it is a good idea to switch to another brand. Some cleansers might cause slight peeling or itching when used for the first few times.

Those taking prescription acne medication should probably avoid medicated cleansers. The combined use might be too drying on the face. It is also important to always wear sunblock when using any type of acne cleanser. If you have persistent acne that doesn't seem to improve with acne facial cleanser, it is also a good idea to consult with a dermatologist.

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Discussion Comments
By candyquilt — On Feb 22, 2014

I've never had very severe acne so my recommendations might not work for everyone. But based on my experience, the best facial cleanser for acne prone skin is a regular, mid cleanser not labeled for acne.

Acne cleansers usually have medications and chemicals to fight acne. But like others said, these cleansers are harsh and end up causing more problems. They make skin extremely dry so skin has to produce more oil to balance itself. Guess what more oil production leads to? More pimples of course.

The best cleanser is a very basic, mild cleanser that doesn't contain oil or any other comedogenic (pore clogging) ingredients. A mild cleanser cleanses without stripping skin of its natural oils so skin doesn't have the need to produce more oil. If skin feels very tight right after washing, this means that the cleanser is not mild enough.

By ysmina — On Feb 21, 2014

@fBoyle-- There are many salicylic acid facial cleansers in stores. I'm sure that you can find a suitable replacement.

I'm on the lookout for a good acne face wash as well. I haven't been sticking to one product. I keep trying different ones to see if I will find something better. For some reason, the acne cleansers I've tried so far are very harsh. They dry out the pimples, but they also dry out my skin. Sometimes my skin becomes red and irritated. Finding the right cleanser is a nightmare for those with acne prone and sensitive skin.

By fBoyle — On Feb 21, 2014

I was using a foaming liquid cleanser with salicylic acid for my acne. It worked extremely well and prevented breakouts without over-drying my skin. Unfortunately, the product has been discontinued. Now I have to find another facial cleanser for acne that works just as well. Any recommendations?

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