Of all the beauty aisles in a store, the face wash one may just be the most confusing: How do you know which ingredients will work for your skin? What percentage should they be? Should it be foam? Gel? Both?
When it comes to finding the right cleanser for acne, it’s all about looking for something that will treat your specific skin type. “If you have sensitive skin presenting lots of redness and acne, for example, you should use a foaming wash formulated without sulfates,” says Manon Pilon, Medical Esthetician and author of Anti-Aging The Cure: Based on your Body Type. “If you have normal to thick skin with acne and without the presence of diffused redness, you should use an anti-acne gel cleanser, and if you have more than three pimples located in one area, you should use the bacteriostatic cleanser on your entire face (even if your breakout is only in one location).” Sounds simple enough, but if you’re looking for a few perfect face washes that fit the bill, we’ve got you. Below, dermatologists to give us the ultimate list of acne-banishing face cleansers on the market. From drugstore to K-Beauty, there’s one for every concern and price point.
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BioAcne Foaming Cleanser
“A cleanser such as the Nelly De Vuyst Micellar Foam BioAcne is ideal for red/sensitive acne and can be used on rosacea,” explains Pilon. ”This type of cleanser is gentle enough for sensitive skin all while maintaining its effectiveness.”
“For true hormonal acne (which tends to cause deep-seated, painful cysts around the jawline and neck area), hormone therapy like prescription spironolactone or oral contraceptives are the best treatment,” explains dermatologist Dr. Tony Nakhla. “ Eighth Day Facial Tonic and Dark Spot Rx will help with the scarring and hyper-pigmentation that can occur after a lesion occurs.”
Skin Laundry Acne Face Wash
“This citrus scented cleanser, made with tea tree extract, targets excess oil by dissolving sebum in clogged pores,” says dermatologist Patricia Wexler. “The salicylic acid gently exfoliates dead cells, and niacinamide improves the post-breakout texture and tone. This formula targets every stage of acne.”
Gentle Cleansing Foam EX
According to Dr. Kenneth Howe at Wexler Dermatology, those who use prescription topicals for acne don’t need a cleanser to do any extra work. “Cleansers formulated specifically to treat acne are often counter-productive in those cases, because the acne-fighting ingredients they contain leave the skin dried out or irritated,” he warns.That being said, Dr. Howe suggests a cleanser that does a good job at gently clearing dead skin cells and excess oil. “I like Sulwhasoo’s Gentle Cleansing Foam EX. It’s formulated with botanical ingredients like duckweed and an extract taken from the inner shells of chestnuts, and leaves a delicate moisturizing layer on the skin after it’s rinsed off.”
Clear Skin Probiotic Cleanser
If you’re looking for a natural option, Dr. Wexler suggests this one for its powerful cocktail of ingredients like tea tree oil, willow bark, and yoghurt. “It targets irritation-causing bacteria, while shrinking pores and controlling excess oil production,” she says. It also contains a biocomplex of vitamins A, E, C, and coenzyme Q10, which are all “potent antioxidants that fight free radicals and diminish visible signs of aging.”
Gentle Foaming Cleanser with Cottonseed
Using a gentle acne-cleanser in tandem with prescriptions allows the medicine to work more effectively says Dr. Howe. That’s why he’s a fan of this Clarins product: “[It is] just a good solid cleanser that doesn’t dry the skin and stays out of the way of prescription topicals.”
Biore Charcoal Acne Cleanser, 6.77 Ounce
This popular drugstore face wash is a favorite of Wexler for those with blackheads and closed comedones. “The charcoal acts as a detoxifier, and draws out debris from the pores, and the salicylic acid exfoliates the dead surface cells and treats active acne lesions to speed resolution,” she says.
EradiKate Daily Cleanser Acne Treatment
A superstar ingredient Dr. Howe suggested looking for in a cleanser is sulfacetamide/sulfur. “It works well without drying the skin as much as salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide,” he explains. “The sulfur treats acne both by killing P.Acnes, the bacteria that causes acne, and by breaking up the follicular plugs that are the first step in the development of a pimple.”Straight-up sulfur washes are only available by prescription, but Howe said this Kate Somerville one is a solid alternative. “It contains three percent sulfur to treat acne, and an oat extract to absorb and balance excess sebum. It’s a good, versatile product, perfect for acne rosacea but really good for common acne as well,” he said.
PanOxyl 4 Creamy Wash
For mild acne cases, Dr. Howe is a fan of this over the counter wash from PanOxyl 4—especially for teens who are just starting to get acne. Its main ingredient, Benzoyl Peroxide, “is quite effective since kids that age are usually pretty oily. It’s also inexpensive and readily available.”
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