Acne is a real pain and can cause all kinds of problems in everyday life, from trying to decide if something in your diet is causing the condition, or whether you should avoid using cosmetics in an attempt to alleviate the suffering. There is no single product which works for everyone with acne since everyone has a different skin type, however if you want to clear up your acne quickly without any itching or flaking side effects, there are a few face washes and cleansers which work well for all types of skin, whether oily, sensitive or dry. Here, we look at some of the best and what to look out for when choosing the best face wash for acne.
Best face washes & cleansers for acne prone skin
1. Humane Benzoyl Peroxide
With its maximum 10% strength of benzoyl peroxide, this acne wash is not suitable for those with sensitive skin. It kills bacteria, however, and prevents breakouts from reoccurring. As it is a non-foaming lotion, it absorbs rapidly and it is also cruelty free, using no animal products, fragrances, SLS, or parabens. It can be used on the back, face and body and has a high EWG rating. It is ideal for treating severe or moderate acne, however use of an oil-free moisturizer following use is important to guard against irritation. The results may take as long as 6 weeks to be evident, however its powerful medicated ingredients kill the bacteria in the pores to change your skin for the better.
2. Neutrogena Oil-Free
This face wash cleanses the skin to prevent breakouts, using salicylic acid to treat acne as well as microclear technology which boosts the medicine’s delivery. Unclogging pores effectively, it can be used twice per day by applying it to the hands, adding water and then working into a lather before massaging gently onto the face and rinsing. Stopping acne before it appears, this product is recommended by dermatologists and can clean effectively deep inside the pores for clearer skin and fewer blackheads, ensuring that the skin will not be irritated or dried thanks to the oil free formula.
3. Cetaphil Daily Facial Cleanser
Designed specifically for combination, oily and normal skin, this formula removes dirt and oil on the surface of the skin without leaving it dry or tight. It is not irritating and will not clog the pores, but instead, its low lathering formula has been created for use on all skin types without leaving residues to irritate the skin. Hypoallergenic and non-comedogenic, this gentle product can be used every day to guard against acne.
4. Aveeno Clear Complexion
A gentle, foaming facial cleaner, this product from Aveeno prevents and treats breakouts and blemishes without drying the skin. Rich in moisture and made from soy, this formula improves the skin’s texture and tone visibly to make it healthier looking. Free from oil, non-comedogenic, gentle and hypoallergenic, it can be used every day. Soy has been a part of traditional Chinese treatments for centuries and is known to improve skin discolouration and blotchiness. This cleanser transforms uneven, dull skin into radiant bright skin.
5. Facial Wash By Christina Moss Naturals
Ideal for those with sensitive skin, this facial wash is made with no harmful chemicals to improve the condition of your pores and skin. Useful for every skin type it is hypoallergenic, effective and concentrated to cleanse the skin thoroughly and gently without drying, stripping or leaving residue. Economical to use, it requires only a tiny amount to clean the whole face and can be used by men and women alike. This product uses only 100% organic and natural ingredients and its freshness and purity is guaranteed for six months following purchase.
6. Dr Song Benzoyl Peroxide
This facial wash offers buyers a 100 day money back guarantee for complete peace of mind. Long lasting and easy to use, it is a 10% benzoyl peroxide treatment for acne in the form of a treatment wash that can be used on the back, body and face. Its non-irritating formulation deeply penetrates the skin thanks to its medical grade micro-benzoyl peroxide. Made in the USA, it is recommended for use by dermatologists and uses no animal testing or parabens for a very safe and ethical option.
7. La Roche-Posay Gel
This medicated wash for acne was created in conjunction with dermatologists and uses 2.0% salicylic acid to target pimples, oil, whiteheads and blackheads and to clear the skin. Tested in clinical conditions to reduce the excess amount of surface oil on the skin by nearly 47%, it leaves skin less greasy all day long while fighting acne breakouts. Thanks to its exclusive use of micro exfoliating lipo hydroxy acid it targets the skin’s surface oily areas to remove dirt and debris precisely cell by cell. Free from fragrance, parabens and tested for allergies, it should be used twice daily for best results.
8. Neutrogena Oil-Free Acne Face Wash
Exfoliating and cleansing the face effectively, this acne treatment uses salicylic acid to treat and prevent acne. Containing no microbeads, it unclogs the pores to leave the skin clean and clear while its micro-clear technology boosts the delivery of the medication deep into the pores to reduce breakouts. Cutting efficiently through oil, it unclogs the pores for smoother skin.
9. Clean & Clear Advantage 3-in-1
This foaming face wash cleanses the skin effectively while helping to treat problem acne and prevent future breakouts. It contains salicylic acid at maximum strength to fight acne yet it is gentle enough to use every day. This 3 in 1 solution cleanses effectively, and thanks to its oil free ingredients, it is non-comedogenic too.
10. Acne.org Cleanser
This cleanser is ultra-gentle and is pH balanced to ensure the skin isn’t stripped or dried out. Producing a thick and luxurious lather, it cleanses optimally before rinsing perfectly clean. A generous sized bottle, it can be used either alone or with other products as part of TheAcne.org skincare regime.
What causes acne?
Acne comes in several forms, however its common form, acne vulgaris, is usually caused as a result of changes in the hormones. Most common during the teenage years, it can be attributed directly to increases in the levels of the hormone androgen which rise on entering puberty. When the level of androgen rises, the oil glands, which sit under the skin become enlarged, producing more sebum. When the pores become filled with this extra sebum, the walls of the surrounding skin cells rupture, creating a breeding ground for bacteria. The sebum tries to escape out of the pores and can then attach to dead skin cells and bacteria to cause a blockage that then starts the formation of pimples. For some people, acne continues long into adulthood, or has a later onset due to hormonal changes. Genetics may also play a role in breakouts, and those whose first degree relative suffered from the condition are more likely to suffer themselves. Stress is another known factor for exacerbating breakouts while other factors such as making the wrong choice of diet and cosmetic products and smoking have a role to play too.
How To Prevent It
If you are suffering from acne and are looking for a way to prevent the problem, here are some top tips:
- Make sure your face is cleaned thoroughly twice per day to ensure all dead skin cells, excess oil and impurities are removed. Avoid hot water but use warm water with a mild cleanser. Avoid harsh soaps as this can cause worse irritation. Don’t scrub your skin with a washcloth or exfoliating glove. Instead, use a soft cloth or just your hands and then rinse properly, drying your face thoroughly with a clean, fresh towel.
- A lot of acne products use ingredients which can be drying to the skin, so using a moisturizer which minimizes peeling and dryness is important. A non comedogenic product is important and choosing a moisturizer which is made for your skin type is also vital.
- Over the counter products may help. Containing ingredients like glycolic acid, lactic acid, salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide, they dry the skin so starting with only a small amount is important. OTC topical retinoid gels also help to prevent acne, but none of these products may be suitable if you suffer from extremely sensitive skin.
- Be careful when using makeup, and when you’re experiencing a breakout, avoid blush, powder and foundation. When you do choose to wear makeup, you should always wash your face thoroughly before going to bed. Wherever possible, use cosmetics that are oil free and which contain no added chemicals or dyes. Non comedogenic makeup will help to prevent acne.
- Avoiding the use of oils, gels, pomades and fragrances on your hair will help to avoid your skin’s pores from becoming blocked and your skin from becoming irritated. Always use gentle conditioners and shampoos, and since greasy hair can also make your face greasy, wash your hair frequently, and tie back long hair.
- Avoid touching the skin on your face. This can spread the bacteria around and irritate inflamed skin. Never pop spots or pick at scabs using your fingers as scarring and further infection could be the result.
- Avoid sunbathing as the ultraviolet rays may increase redness and inflammation as well as causing post inflammatory hyperpigmentation. There are many medications for acne which also make the skin sensitive in sunlight, so limit the amount of time you’re outside in the sunshine during the hottest part of the day and always wear protective clothes such as a broad brimmed hat, long sleeved shirt, and long pants. Always use a sunscreen that has an SPF of at least 30 20 minutes before going outdoors and make sure you’re choosing a sunscreen which is labelled as non comedogenic.
- Feed the skin with healthy foods like vegetables and fruits rather than chocolate, junk food and greasy food. Foods which contain a lot of processed sugar or have a high dairy content could also trigger acne, so avoid them.
- Exercise every day as this is not just good for your body but it’s good for your skin too. However always wear loose exercise wear which doesn’t rub your skin or irritate it, and bathe or shower immediately afterwards.
- Relax – stress causes acne to become worse, so try to relax more.
Different Skin Types
There are four main kinds of skin – oily, combination, dry and normal – and everyone’s skin type is determined by their genes. However, the condition of your skin varies depending on external and internal factors.
- Normal skin is well balanced, without excess oil or dryness. It is characterized by good blood circulation, fine pores, a smooth, soft and velvety texture, no blemishes, and a rosy and fresh uniform colour. It is not prone to be sensitive.
- Dry skin produces less sebum than you would find in normal skin. This means it has too few lipids to retain essential moisture and therefore it builds up a shield to protect itself from external influences. Dry skin looks dull and feels rough and tight.
- Oily skin produces too much sebum resulting in visible pores and a glossy sheen
- Combination skin is a mix of the other three types. Many people have skin which varies in type between the cheeks and the T zone
Choosing The Right Facial Cleanser
When choosing the best acne cleanser for your skin, choose the format that best suits your preferences. Liquids, bars, foaming and non-foaming versions all work well as long as they contain the right ingredients so choose the one you like best. On the other hand, if you naturally have dry skin or you are using a drying form of acne treatment, a non-foaming cleanser will dry your skin less.
There are some medicated cleansers for acne prone skin which are available either with a doctor’s prescription or over the counter. These contain sulphur, salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide and can reduce breakouts and blocked pores if used regularly. They are really only suitable if you aren’t using any other kind of acne treatment. If you’re using a treatment for acne already, you should avoid medicated cleansers as they can leave the skin very dry. Use a non-medicated one instead that is designed for sensitive skin.
Ensure that you’ve chosen a cleanser which is specifically designed for the face and not the body. This is because facial skin is delicate and thin, and body cleansers are often too strong and will irritate the skin.
Higher priced products are not necessarily the best, so relying on how it makes your skin feel rather than its cost is probably best. Checking with others for recommendations or seeking professional help from a dermatologist could be the way forward.
General Directions – How To Use a Facial Wash or Cleansers
When using a facial cleanser, you should use it twice every day, once in the morning and then again before bed. If you only use it once, there will be impurities remaining on the skin. This is especially important if you wear makeup as you should always cleanse before application and then again before bed.
When using a facial cleanser, follow these steps:
- Splash your face with warm water to dampen it.
- Using a small amount of cleanser, apply it gently to the face using your fingertips or a soft cotton wash cloth.
- Use a circular movement while applying the cleanser gently to your facial skin. Cover all areas of the face from the forehead down to the cheeks, then the nose, chin and neck. Focus on the dirtiest areas, especially around the nose if you are prone to blackheads. The best face wash for blackheads will help to remove the grime in this area to leave smooth skin.
- Massage for one minute and leave the cleanser in place for a couple more minutes so it can fully penetrate.
- Rinse with lukewarm water thoroughly to remove every trace of the cleanser. Use a cotton pad if you need to.
- Splash your face with cold water as this will shrink your pores to boost blood circulation.
- Dry your face thoroughly with a clean and soft towel. Pat instead of rubbing as this can damage your skin.
- After drying your face, apply your toner and moisturizer.
Key Ingredients in a Good Face Wash / Cleanser
Most people can manage their acne problems by choosing a good quality facial wash or cleanser which has been designed to combat problem skin. There are a few key ingredients to look out for:
- Benzoyl Peroxide – this strong compound kills bacteria, removes dead skin cells and eradicates excess oil. This strong ingredient often causes redness, scaling, stinging, burning and dry skin, and it should only have a maximum strength of 10%. Really, you should be looking for products with around 3% benzoyl peroxide to minimise bleaching and irritation.
- Retinoids – these are ideal for those with more severe acne as they unclog pores allowing medication to penetrate fully. They reduce the chance of more outbreaks and scarring.
- Alpha-hydroxy acids – these synthetic acids come from sugary fruits and remove the dead skin cells and reduce inflammation. Lactic acid and glycolic acid are two common kinds which can be found in OTC products. Alpha-hydroxy acids improve the appearance of the skin and any existing scars, making the pores appear smaller by helping to stimulate healthy new skin to grow.
- Salicylic acid – this common ingredient reduces the redness and swelling of acne while unclogging pores and exfoliating the skin. Quite strong, it will be available in a maximum strength of around 2% and it could irritate and dry out sensitive skin.
- Sulphur – this element removes excess oils and dead skin cells which may block the pores, however don’t use it excessively or it will cause excess dryness.
- Resorcinol – usually paired with sulphur, resorcinol breaks down scaly and rough skin and fights infections. It can also be used in the treatment of warts, psoriasis, eczema and corns and can be found in a maximum strength of 2%.
- Lichochalcone – this molecule is derived from liquorice root and is anti-inflammatory and antibacterial to control the production of oil and to soothe and calm acne prone skin. It is fine for use in those who have sensitive and combination skin.
- Feverfew – often called wild chamomile, this plant has been in use for centuries to treat diseases and ailments. As an anti-inflammatory it reduces and prevents swelling and redness while being high in antioxidants to heal from the inside out.
- Tea tree oil – this antibacterial ingredient combats the bacteria that causes acne. It is also effective as a standard spot treatment.
You should be looking for a product which combines several of these quality ingredients when searching for the best acne face wash for you.
What Ingredients to Avoid?
Good facial washes for acne will contain none of the irritants that are known to cause problems for acne prone skin. Some of these additives include:
- Mineral oils
Always check the packaging of any product that you buy. If you avoid these ingredients, you should find that the irritation and redness on your face will be greatly reduced.
Living with acne can be unpleasant, especially if you are struggling to get rid of it. However, choosing the right products when washing and cleansing your face can ensure that your skin stays as healthy as possible, with no excessive redness, tightness or dryness, and the oil and dead skin cells will be effectively removed to reduce the chances of experiencing a further breakout. As long as you use the correct technique to clean your problem skin and choose products which do not contain any of the ingredients which are known to be irritants, you stand the best chance of keeping your skin clear and free from spots, blackheads and blemishes.