Skincare Products » Best Face Washes & Cleansers » Best Acne Face Washes

Best Face Washes for Acne in 2023

The Glowsly editors independently test and choose the best products. We may receive commissions on purchases made from the affiliate links.

No one likes acne, but it happens to the best of us. Whether your acne is hormonal or occurs when you’re trying to manage stress, the result is the same — blemishes that detract from your lovely face. Instead of popping them (seriously, keep your hands away!), you’ll want to turn to an effective face wash.

A good face wash can clear your pores of dirt and grime and even aid in controlling oil production, making you less likely to experience recurring breakouts. If you’re tired of pimples, blackheads, and whiteheads being the bane of your existence, check out our recommendations for the best face washes for acne. Additionally, we’ll share a few tips on what to look for when shopping for a face wash.

Best face washes for acne overview

How we chose the best face washes for acne

We researched manufacturer specifications, including skin type, formulation, key ingredients, size, and more to create a short list of the top face washes for acne. Then, we combed through detailed product descriptions, ratings, and reviews to find the best face washes for each category.

Our picks for the best face washes for acne

Best overall
Proactiv Solution Renewing Cleanser

What we love

  • Dermatologist-tested formula
  • Oil-free formula ideal for all skin types
  • Clears pores, exfoliates, and kills acne-causing bacteria

What we don’t love

  • Not intended to be used alone
  • Can get expensive when purchased as a system for the long term

Anyone who’s a ’90s kid or younger is probably familiar with Proactiv. The brand burst on the scene when acne products were limited to stinging scrub pads and face washes that yielded inconsistent results. Backed by dermatologist-tested formulas, Proactiv gained a cult following by initially offering a subscription-only product that targeted teenage demographics and lured them (and their parents’ credit cards) in with promises of a better visage in time for prom and graduation pictures. 

Thankfully, the brand made good on those promises. And to this day, Proactiv is still a fan-favorite solution for tackling acne — especially for people suffering from widespread and frequent acne breakouts. While we’re highlighting Proactiv’s original formula suited for all skin types, you can also opt for acne solutions targeting oily, dry, and combination skin. 

The original formula is oil-free and features a proprietary prescription-grade BPO that utilizes super-micronized particles that can penetrate pores deeply to kill acne-causing bacteria and effectively remove dirt, oil, and other impurities. This face wash also has exfoliating beads to aid in removing dead skin cells, which can clog your pores. Meanwhile, the inclusion of chamomile extract works to soothe your skin. 

Keep in mind that this product is intended to be used twice daily in conjunction with the other two parts (toner and moisturizer) of Proactiv’s three-step system. You can make a one-time purchase to test the product or if you only experience occasional breakouts. But most hardcore Proactiv fans agree that the brand’s products work best when you use them long term — especially if you have serious acne concerns.

Skin type: All | Formulation: Cream | Key ingredients: Benzoyl peroxide (2.5%) | Size: 4 fl oz

Best budget Cleanser

What we love

  • Gentle, vegan formula
  • Gluten-free
  • Available in three sizes

What we don’t love

  • No active ingredients to tackle acne
  • Unclear exactly how many uses to expect from small (3.4 fl oz) and large (16 fl oz) sizes

If you’re working on a budget, then we’ll be honest that trying to treat acne can get expensive. The Cleanser is an economical alternative that comes in three sizes that are all incredibly wallet-friendly. This is a gentle acne cleanser that effectively removes oil, dirt, and other pollutants. Note that it’s specifically designed to pave the way for applying your acne treatment. It’s not intended to tackle your acne issues in any way. 

However, you’ll like that it’s a gentle liquid cleanser that’s pH balanced so it won’t strip your skin of critical moisture. It gives a nice lather and is also fragrance- and dye-free, making it ideal for people with sensitive skin. And, we like that the brand confirms exactly how many pumps you’ll get with the 8-ounce midsize container: 120.

Skin type: All | Formulation: Liquid | Key ingredients: Sage extract, cucumber extract | Size: 16 fl oz

Best smoothing
Dermalogica Acne Clearing Skin Wash

What we love

  • Cleanses and works to prevent future breakouts
  • Salicylic acid works to smooth texture
  • Gentle formula ideal for most skin types

What we don’t love

  • A little expensive
  • Not ideal for dry skin types

As if getting acne wasn’t bad enough, one of the worst side effects is that you’re often left with excessive texture even after those pimples go away. So, along with simply preventing acne from occurring or controlling outbreaks, many people also want a product that can work to smooth their skin. 

The Dermalogica Acne Clearing Skin Wash is designed to not just deeply cleanse your pores but also smooth and soothe textured irritated skin. With two sizes available, this face wash is ideal for people with normal, combination, or oily skin. Additionally, it works to prevent future outbreaks with the inclusion of salicylic acid. This beta hydroxy acid (BHA) works to naturally exfoliate your skin, which helps to boost cellular turnover. 

Meanwhile, irritated skin will appreciate the menthol and camphor that work to calm it. And, environmentally minded individuals will like that the 8.4-ounce bottle is entirely recyclable.

Skin type: Normal, combination, oily | Formulation: Foaming | Key ingredients: Salicylic acid (0.5%) | Size: 8.4 oz

Best for dry skin
Skinfix Barrier+ Foaming Oil Cleanser

What we love

  • Designed for dry skin
  • Doubles as a makeup remover
  • Vegan, cruelty-free formula

What we don’t love

  • No active ingredients that target acne

As if dry skin doesn’t have enough to contend with, trying to manage acne breakouts can make life worse. Whereas standard options, such as salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide, may work for certain skin types, these ingredients can be too harsh and further irritate already troubled skin. 

Skinfix’s Barrier+ Foaming Oil Cleanser is a gentle alternative that works to effectively cleanse your face from dirt, grime, and even makeup without stripping essential lipids needed for your skin’s natural moisture barrier. The brand utilizes a patented triple lipid complex that replenishes ceramides and lipids in your skin. You’ll appreciate that this 98% naturally derived formula is meant to smooth texture and correct blotchy skin while also targeting redness. 

The soft cleanser was clinically proven in a dermatologist-led clinical study to improve skin hydration and smoothness. This also includes controlling scaling and flaking. Of the participants, 96% said the cleanser left their skin feeling soft, while 93% noted that it was gentle yet effective and didn’t leave their skin feeling dry. However, as gentle as this product is, note that it’s not designed to tackle acne directly. Rather, it cleanses your face so that your acne treatment can effectively penetrate your skin’s layers.

Skin type: Dry | Formulation: Foaming | Key ingredients: Patented triple lipid complex, coconut-derived cleansers | Size: 6 oz

Best travel kit
E.l.f. Blemish Breakthrough Blemish Control Basics Kit

What we love

  • Great for testing product or controlling acne on the go
  • Can be used as a daily cleanser
  • Cleanses and works to even out skin tone

What we don’t love

  • Only ideal for oily or acne-prone skin

Acne doesn’t take a break just because you have a vacay planned. And, if you’re penny-pinching or not interested in paying for checked luggage, then you’ll need some TSA-approved acne products that can make it through the security checkpoint. E.l.f. Cosmetics’ Blemish Breakthrough Blemish Control Basics Kit is a travel-friendly 360-degree solution that’ll make your skin looks fabulous no matter where your travels take you. 

This three-piece kit comes with the Acne Clarifying Cleanser, Triple-Acid Resurfacing Serum, and Acne Calming Water Cream to help cleanse, tone, and hydrate your skin. Salicylic acid and zinc PCA are the heroes in the brand’s gel cleanser as they work to end current breakouts and prevent new ones from arising. But tranexamic acid and niacinamide are also in there, working to even your skin tone and soothe irritated skin. Note, though, that this cleanser is best for people with oily or acne-prone skin.

Skin type: Oily, acne-prone | Formulation: Gel (for cleanser) | Key ingredients: Salicylic acid 1%, zinc PCA, niacinamide, tranexamic acid | Size: 1.01 oz (for cleanser)

Best for blackheads
Truly CBD Jelly Anti-Blemish Facial Cleanser

What we love

  • Targets blackheads and other forms of acne
  • CBD oil soothes and enriches the skin
  • Contains hydrating ingredients, like agave nectar

What we don’t love

  • Some reviews noted the scent as similar to cleaning fluid
  • May be drying

Many people are surprised to find that acne is more than just pimples. And one very frustrating type of acne is the blackhead. Blackheads can make your pores appear enlarged. In reality, a blackhead is nothing more than a pore clogged with dirt, grime, dead skin cells, and sebum. But that gross concoction is exposed to the air, leading to oxidation that manifests as a black bump. 

Truly’s CBD Jelly Anti-Blemish Facial Cleanser is designed to target blackheads in particular. Along with CBD to calm your skin, salicylic acid works as an exfoliator to remove dirt and clear your pores for smoother, cleaner skin. CBD is rich in antioxidants as well as omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. Plus, the CBD oil fights free radicals, serving as an anti-aging ingredient.

Skin type: All | Formulation: Gel | Key ingredients: Salicylic acid, CBD | Size: 8 oz

Best micellar
La Roche-Posay Effaclar Micellar Water for Oily Skin

What we love

  • Quick option for cleansing your face when you’re in a rush
  • Can also double as a makeup remover
  • Safe for sensitive skin

What we don’t love

  • Won’t actually treat acne
  • Contains synthetic fragrance

Let’s face it: Sometimes, you’re just short on time. While a nice multi-step skincare routine is a good idea to bring out the best in your complexion, there are days when the clock won’t permit it. Enter the La Roche-Posay Effaclar Micellar Water for Oily Skin. Because even when you’re running late, it doesn’t mean you can’t wash your face. 

This micellar water is a no-rinse solution that’s specifically formulated for oily skin. It works effectively to remove dirt, makeup, and topical pollutants. Note that it can also be used by people with sensitive skin, thanks to the gentle formula. The soft, water-like texture means you can use it around your eyes and lips as well. However, this pick doesn’t include any actual acne-fighting ingredients and is intended to work as a quick cleanser only. Also, some people may be displeased to find that this product contains synthetic fragrance.

Skin type: Oily, sensitive | Formulation: Micellar water | Key ingredients: Glycerin, thermal spring water| Size: 13.52 fl oz

Best for sensitive skin
CeraVe Hydrating Facial Cleanser

What we love

  • Accepted by the National Eczema Association
  • Restores and maintains skin’s natural barrier
  • Can also remove makeup

What we don’t love

  • Doesn’t contain any acne-fighting ingredients

When you have sensitive skin, you can’t slap any and every acne cleanser on your face and hope for the best. At best, you’ll dry your skin out, and at worst, this can magnify your skin woes. Thankfully, there’s such a thing as a gentle cleanser that can work to balance your skin while properly cleansing it. 

CeraVe’s Hydrating Facial Cleanser is an excellent option and carries the National Eczema Association seal of approval. It’s made with ceramides and hyaluronic acid — two critical ingredients that focus on hydration and restoring your skin’s moisture barrier. 

While this isn’t a product that specifically targets acne, it does work to effectively cleanse your pores without stripping your skin. It can serve as the perfect first step in a skincare routine, ensuring that acne treatments can effectively penetrate your skin.

Skin type: Normal, dry | Formulation: Cream/gel | Key ingredients: Hyaluronic acid, ceramides | Size: 12 fl oz

Best makeup remover
Bliss Makeup Melt Cleanser

What we love

  • Deep-cleaning makeup cleanser
  • Can also double as a daily cleanser
  • Vegan, clean formula

What we don’t love

  • Doesn’t contain any acne-fighting ingredients

Having acne doesn’t mean that you don’t wear makeup. And if you do wear makeup, you absolutely need to remove it at the end of the day. Bliss’ Makeup Melt Cleanser is a gentle jelly cleanser that can be used on dry or wet skin. The gel-like texture ensures that it breaks down stubborn makeup, like longwear foundation. 

The jelly cleanser is formulated for all skin types with a lavender scent, and it’s specifically designed with sensitive skin in mind. In many ways, this is a clarifying cleanser, as it’s intended to pull makeup out of your pores. But it can also be used as an everyday solution to remove dirt, grime, and impurities. 

Key ingredients in this clean and vegan formula include rose flower extract to calm your skin, pro vitamin B5 to improve the skin barrier, and apple amino acids to act as a natural surfactant or cleanser. Meanwhile, a xylitol blend, shea betaine, and oat amino acids will hydrate your skin to prevent it from feeling dry and tight.

Skin type: All | Formulation: Gel | Key ingredients: Rose flower extract, xylitol, pro vitamin B5, shea betaine, apple and oat amino acids | Size: 6.4 fl oz

Best multitasker
Glow Recipe Blueberry Bounce Gentle Cleanser

What we love

  • Multitasking formula as a cleanser, makeup remover, and deep-clarifying mask
  • Blueberry extract acts as an anti-aging hero
  • Smooths and brightens complexion

What we don’t love

  • Combination of glycolic and lactic acid may be drying for people with dry or sensitive skin

Even if you have all the space in the world in your bathroom, that doesn’t mean you’re interested in being a product junkie. So, put an end to excessive purchasing with Glow Recipe’s Blueberry Bounce Gentle Cleanser. This is a 3-in-1 product that works to remove makeup, cleanse, and pull triple duty as a clarifying mask. 

It’s specifically designed to control blemishes as well as prevent recurrent breakouts. The gel formula aids in improving your skin’s texture and giving you a bright glow. While this pick can be used as your first step in a cleansing process, it also works well as the second step in a double cleanse routine. 

The hero ingredient, blueberry extract, is an antioxidant-rich berry that works to fight free radicals, prevent premature aging, limit inflammation, and control discoloration. Meanwhile, alpha hydroxy acid (AHA) works to refine your pores and exfoliate dead skin buildup. Hyaluronic acid rounds out this trifecta to provide a burst of hydration.

Skin type: All | Formulation: Gel | Key ingredients: Glycolic acid, lactic acid, blueberry extract, hyaluronic acid | Size: 5.41 fl oz

Best wipes
Neutrogena Oil-Free Cleansing Wipes, Pink Grapefruit

What we love

  • Easy-to-use wipe format
  • Contains salicylic acid
  • Oil-free and dermatologist-tested

What we don’t love

  • May be too drying for people with dry or sensitive skin

Once again, being short on time isn’t an excuse to skip cleansing your face. When you really have to race out the door, Neutrogena’s Oil-Free Cleansing Wipes in the pink grapefruit scent are a great way to prioritize your skincare without sacrificing punctuality. The popular grapefruit collection also includes an acne-fighting body wash with the same energizing scent.

These pre-moistened cleansing wipes are formulated with acne-prone skin in mind. They’re oil-free and designed to tackle oil, dirt, bacteria, grime, and other impurities. The dermatologist-tested wipes are also allergy tested. Your skin will feel clean with no lingering residue. 

These wipes contain salicylic acid, so they’re designed to deeply cleanse your pores and control oil. Meanwhile, they’re naturally scented with real grapefruit extract. And because they’re wipes, you don’t need to rinse your face when you’re finished using them.

Skin type: Oily, acne-prone | Formulation: Wipe | Key ingredients: Salicylic acid | Size: 25 wipes

Best vegan
Good Molecules Acne Foaming Cleanser

What we love

  • Vegan, cruelty-free formula
  • 2% salicylic acid to clear pores and kill bacteria
  • Can be used by all skin types

What we don’t love

  • People with sensitive or dry skin may need to adjust frequency to prevent reactions

Acne doesn’t care about your ethical dilemmas. But that doesn’t mean you should compromise them in the name of clearer skin. So if you’re focused on vegan beauty, Good Molecules has you covered with its Acne Foaming Cleanser. 

This exfoliating cleanser leverages the power of 2% salicylic acid to target acne-causing bacteria as well as dirt and grime lurking in your pores. You’ll like the foaming cleanser that further works to exfoliate to remove dead skin that can also clog your pores. The vegan formula has a pH range from 4.0 to 4.4, and it’s also cruelty free. This pick is suitable for all skin types.

Skin type: All | Formulation: Foaming | Key ingredients: Salicylic acid (2%) | Size: 5 fl oz

Clear skin is within reach

Acne may be a frustrating part of life, but it doesn’t have to be a permanent fixture on your complexion. The right acne-fighting face wash is out there, regardless of your skin type. For people with more severe acne, we recommend the fan-favorite Proactiv Solution Renewing Cleanser that’s been clearing up skin since the ’90s. Meanwhile, people with sensitive skin will appreciate CeraVe’s Hydrating Facial Cleanser. While it’s not officially an acne-fighting product, it deeply cleanses pores without stripping your skin — laying the groundwork for a properly washed base to accept your acne treatments and serums. 

How to pick the right face wash for you

Skincare is personal. And this means that you need to take a few factors into account when buying a cleanser rather than blindly following your favorite influencer. Remember that your skin type — as well as the type and frequency of acne that you have — will impact what face wash is right for you. 

Skin type

When it comes to finding a suitable acne-fighting face wash, you need to first think about your skin type. This is because most traditional face washes for acne tend to highlight a few key hero ingredients — salicylic acid, benzoyl peroxide, or another AHA. While they’re effective for clearing your pores, they may cause an adverse reaction, depending on your skin type.

People with normal, combination, and oily skin can rely on a face wash with the traditional acne ingredients listed above and expect minimal reactions. However, these ingredients can be too harsh for people with sensitive or dry skin. As a result, you may experience excessive dryness and even irritation or redness because of the ingredient’s strength. If you have dry or sensitive skin, you might want to consider an alternative face wash that still profoundly cleanses your pores but doesn’t contain those ingredients. Instead, consider hydrating ingredients like ceramides, jojoba oil, or hyaluronic acid.


As you saw in our short list, there’s more than one way to tackle an acne problem. And as mentioned above, your typical acne face wash will feature salicylic acid, benzoyl peroxide, or even zinc PCA. 

Salicylic acid is an AHA that draws dirt, oil, and dead skin cells out of your pores and kills acne-causing bacteria. For most people, this is critical since clogged pores are often the main culprit behind an acne breakout. Salicylic acid is found in a wide range of products and also works to control oil production. But we think it’s best suited for tackling whiteheads and blackheads.

By contrast, benzoyl peroxide is another acne-fighting ingredient better for treating traditional acne or pimples. This ingredient is more drying than salicylic acid, making it unsuitable for dry or sensitive skin. Similarly, zinc PCA is a naturally occurring amino acid that’s often added to target redness and irritation while simultaneously controlling oil production. 

Other AHAs, such as glycolic acid and lactic acid, work as exfoliators. They assist in removing dead skin to reveal a fresh layer of healthier skin. Ultimately, any product containing these AHAs is designed to improve your skin’s texture. 

Alternatively, you’ll also find that many acne-fighting face washes incorporate ingredients like ceramides and hyaluronic acid. Both of these are hydrators. Ceramides work to restore your skin’s moisture and natural barrier, aiding in preventing moisture loss. Meanwhile, hyaluronic acid is known for absorbing significantly more than its weight in moisture. When added to acne products, they counteract the drying effects of pore purifiers like salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide. 

Frequency of use

Skincare routines aren’t a one-size-fits-all affair. Additionally, primary acne-fighting ingredients, such as salicylic acid and benzoyl peroxide, take time to work corectly. So it can take several weeks of consistent use before you see more significant breakouts begin to clear when you start using an acne face wash. 

You need to consider your acne issues and adjust your acne face wash use accordingly. If you have persistent breakouts, then a daily or even twice-daily acne cleanser can be a good idea. Likewise, if you lead a very active lifestyle, you’ll produce more oil than someone with a sedentary lifestyle. However, if you experience excessive dryness or skin irritation, you might want to shift to once daily or every other day. 

People with sensitive skin may need to further reduce usage to every other day or potentially just twice a week — especially if you’re using a product with more substantial ingredient concentrations. If you only have occasional breakouts, you may find that you just need to use an acne face wash when experiencing such a breakout. 


Acne-fighting skin cleansers now come in a wide range of formulations, the most popular being foaming, gel (also known as jelly), oil, and clay. Note that some cleansers are multitaskers and can pull double duty as makeup removers or even deep cleansers for effective pore purification. 

Foaming cleansers are generally liquid in texture, although you can also find cleansing bars for acne. This formulation tends to work with all skin types but is especially ideal for people with oily skin. Your biggest focus is to look for a formula that includes ingredients that cleanse your pores and control oil production. 

Gel is a great option for a wide range of individuals. Depending on the ingredients, most skin types will benefit from this formula, as gels are usually hybrids that either shift into a milky or foaming texture. If you’re concerned about additives such as EDTA (a synthetic ingredient that creates a rich lather), then a gel-to-milk formula that’s low or no lather is ideal. 

Oil-based cleansers are perfect for people with dry or sensitive skin. Generally speaking, these formulas tend to contain hydrating ingredients, ensuring that your skin isn’t stripped of critical moisture, lipids, or ceramides. For a deeper clean — across all skin types — look for a clay formula. These are designed to penetrate and unclog your pores fully. 

In most cases, these will be billed as deep cleansers. They usually aren’t meant to be immediately rinsed but rather treated as a mask. And as an honorable mention, don’t forget that there are other hybrid acne cleansers, such as micellar water and wipes. Micellar water looks like a liquid but isn’t meant to be rinsed off after you swipe it on your face. Meanwhile, a wipe is a fantastic quick solution — especially for athletes or after intense activities. While wipes aren’t a long-term substitute for traditional face washing, they’re a quick solution when you don’t have time to wash up or access a sink. 


What’s the No. 1 dermatologist-recommended face wash? 

While there are plenty of dermatologist-recommended face washes on the market, the answer will depend on your skin type and the severity of your acne. Proactiv’s Solution Renewing Cleanser is a dermatologist-tested formula. But if you’re seeking expert advice before incorporating an acne wash, schedule a visit with a dermatologist to evaluate your skin and receive a recommendation explicitly catered to your needs. 

Does face wash remove pimples?

The answer isn’t as simple as yes or no. A good acne face wash will help to clear your pores and even control an active outbreak. Depending on your skin chemistry and specific concerns, some face washes can help prevent future outbreaks by managing oil production and preventing pore buildup. 

How can I clear up acne fast?

While topical products are designed to quickly minimize the appearance of acne, face washes are usually part of a holistic and long-term solution for controlling acne — especially for people suffering from recurrent breakouts. The typical face wash is meant to achieve results over a few weeks. Meanwhile, topical products like patches and spot treatments can reduce the look of acne anywhere from within a few hours to a few days of use.