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The Best Face Washes in 2021

Taking care of your skin can feel like a full-time job, especially when you’re dealing with acne flare-ups. Finding the right face wash is foundational, but unfortunately, acne skin care isn’t one-size-fits-all. Contrary to popular belief, acne-prone skin isn’t always oily. It can be dry, sensitive, or a combination.

We curated a list of our 14 favorite cleansers for acne to make finding the right face wash for your skin easier. Read on to find your perfect match from our selection of favorite face washes for acne below. 

The Best Face Washes For Acne You Can Buy 

The Best Overall Face Wash for Acne: CeraVe Acne Foaming Cream Cleanser

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Photo Credit: Amazon

Price: $11.97

CeraVe is long-respected in the skincare world for a good reason. Their lotions and face washes are developed by dermatologists, so it’s generally safe to use for even the most sensitive skin types. And while it’s made from quality ingredients, it’s not much more expensive than other drugstore brands like Neutrogena or Clean & Clear.

This cleanser does double duty, working to eliminate pimples, whiteheads, and blackheads from your skin while preventing new acne from forming. Its main acne-fighting ingredient is benzoyl peroxide (4%). It also contains hyaluronic acid, niacinamide, and essential ceramides to help your skin retain moisture and protect itself.

 

The Best Acne Face Wash for redness soothing: Neutrogena OilFree Acne and Redness Facial Cleanser

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Photo Credit: Amazon

Price: $7.18

If you have acne, you know that bumps are only half the battle — Redness can call extra attention to blemishes. That’s why the combination of acne-fighting and redness-reducing medicine in this Neutrogena face wash is extra awesome.

The secret to the soothe? Naturally derived aloe and chamomile. On the other hand, 2% salicylic acid is the primary acne quasher. And like all good cleansers, this one also removes dirt, oil, and makeup.

 

The Best Acne Face Wash for Sensitive Skin: La Roche-Posay Effaclar Medicated Gel Acne Face Wash

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Photo Credit: Amazon

Price: $14.99

If you have skin that’s both acne-prone and sensitive, you know the cycle. Break out, try to treat it with a product, break out more. Rinse, repeat. With this cleanser, breaking the cycle may be possible.

The power of this cleanser comes from 2% salicylic acid. Other than that, it’s got no scrubbing particles or abrasive materials that can irritate skin, making it gentle enough for everyday use, even for those with the most sensitive skin. 

 

The Best Face Wash for Stubborn Acne: Neutrogena Rapid Clear Stubborn Acne Face Wash

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Photo Credit: Amazon

Price: $8.12

You’ve tried everything. Unfortunately, there’s only so much face washing and water drinking you can do. If your current cleanser isn’t working for you, you might just need to kick it up a notch. 

This Rapid Clear Stubborn Acne wash contains 10% benzoyl peroxide — compare that to the 4% benzoyl peroxide content in many standard-strength acne face washes. Still, it’s safe for everyday use. Start with just once a day, and work your way up to 2-3 washes per day if needed. 

 

The Best Cruelty-Free Face Wash for Acne: Humane Maximum-Strength Acne Wash

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Photo Credit: Amazon

Price: $23.95 

Don’t let the soft package design fool you — Approach this one with caution. It contains 10% benzoyl peroxide. That’s over double the content of what many standard-strength acne face washes contain. If you’re serious about curbing your acne, this wash offers a strong solution.

Plus, you can feel good about the ingredients. Not only does this brand not use parabens, phthalates, sulfates, formaldehyde, synthetic fragrance/color, GMOs, or animal byproducts. They don’t test on animals either. 

 

The Best Exfoliating Face Wash for Acne: Clean & Clear Oil-Free Deep Action Exfoliating Facial Scrub

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Photo Credit: Amazon

Price: $5.98

If you’re looking for an acne cleanser that’s gentle enough for everyday use but strong enough to penetrate your pores for that deep-clean, fresh feeling, this scrub is for you. The oil-free formula removes makeup, dirt, and oil while refreshing skin, leaving you feeling invigorated and clean without the drying effect of some harsher scrubs.

Another perk: You’ll feel a tingly, cooling sensation as you use this scrub, making it even more refreshing. If you’re looking for something to add to your morning wake-up routine, this scrub is like a cup of coffee for your face.

 

The Best Face Wash for Occasional Breakouts: Neutrogena Foaming Facial Cleanser

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Photo Credit: Amazon

Price: $6.17 

Even those with “perfect skin” break out from time to time, but if your skin is already at a nice equilibrium, there’s no need to go creating problems with an overly-drying face wash. This foaming cleanser from Neutrogena is a great wash because it prevents acne by doing a good job cleansing the skin. 

It’s non-comedogenic, meaning it won’t clog your pores. It removes dirt, oil, and even waterproof makeup while somehow being free of oil, soap, and alcohol. If you already have acne, this wash won’t do much to dry it out. But it does do a great job at cleansing skin and therefore preventing future breakouts. 

The Best Maximum Strength Acne Face Wash: PanOxyl Acne Foaming Wash

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Photo Credit: Amazon

Price: $9.48 

Unless you’re willing to get a prescription from a doctor, 10% is the highest content of benzoyl peroxide you’ll find in an acne wash. This foaming cleanser from PanOxyl meets that criteria, with antimicrobial properties that kill acne-causing bacteria. 

You can use it daily on your face, chest, and back — wherever that stubborn acne lives. And not only does it eliminate existing acne. It also prevents future breakouts. 

 

The Best Salicylic Acid Face Wash for Acne: Neutrogena Oil-Free Acne Face Scrub

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Photo Credit: Amazon

Price: $6.47

So you want a little bit of acne treatment and a little bit of exfoliation. This face wash hits two birds with one stone. The 2% salicylic acid formula is pretty mild, so it’s a great first step for someone who isn’t sure exactly what kind of strength they need in a cleanser. 

The exfoliators are also wonderful for smoothing and clearing complexion, as well as lifting daily buildup of dirt, oil, and makeup. Feel free to use this gentle yet effective scrub every day. 

 

The Best Cream Acne Face Wash: Cetaphil Acne Face Wash

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Photo Credit: Amazon

Price: $9.97 

For whatever reason, a bubbling or foaming cleanser just feels like it’s doing a good job. However, cream cleansers are often more gentle and just as effective. So if you have sensitive skin, a cream cleanser is often the way to go. 

This cleanser has a dual-action formula that works to rid you of breakouts with 2% salicylic acid while hydrating and soothing skin. It also defends against five signs of skin sensitivity, including a weakened skin barrier, irritation, roughness, tightness, and dryness.

 

The Best Gentle Foaming Face Wash: Face Wash by Cetaphil, Daily Facial Cleanser for Combination to Oily Sensitive Skin

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Photo Credit: Amazon

Price: $11.49

Gentle cleansers are great for any skin type, but some people just don’t like the feeling of a creamy, non-foaming wash. Sometimes, it can be tough to feel clean without some lathering action. Luckily, you can have both a gentle formula and a foamy consistency. 

This cleanser from Cetaphil is non-comedogenic, meaning it won’t clog pores, but it’s moisturizing enough to keep your skin from feeling dry. It’s gentle enough for twice-daily use for all skin types — normal, dry, oily, and sensitive. 

 

The Best Gel Acne Face Wash: Paula’s Choice CLEAR Pore Normalizing Cleanser

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Photo Credit: Amazon

Price: $13.00

Another unique and soothing face wash texture is gel. This cleanser from Paula’s Choice is a perfect balance of cleansing without drying. It also dissolves pore-clogging impurities, like oil and dirt, to prevent breakouts, redness, dullness, and uneven skin tone.

You can use this cleanser twice daily, morning and night, no matter how sensitive your skin is. You can also use it in combination with the entire line of Paula’s Choice acne care. 

 

The Best Cooling Face Wash for Acne: Bioré Witch Hazel Pore Clarifying Acne Face Wash

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Photo Credit: Amazon

Price: $6.46

If you’ve ever used Witch Hazel on your skin, you know how this natural astringent leaves skin feeling fresh and clean without drying it out. Combine that with a 2% salicylic acid formula, and you’ve got a plan for acne prevention and elimination. 

This face wash from Bioré — makers of the oh-so-satisfying pore strips — talks a pretty big game, claiming to remove 99% of blemish-causing dirt and oil. Prepare to feel clarified and cleansed. 

 

The Best Mild-Strength Acne Face Wash: Acne Free Oil-Free Acne Cleanser

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Photo Credit: Amazon

Price: $5.99

If you want some benzoyl peroxide action but aren’t ready to zap your face with a 10% or even 4% formula, trying out this 2.5% formula is a great first step. For mild acne or occasional breakouts, this may be the perfect amount of medication to prevent acne without drying. 

It clears and prevents breakouts including pimples, cystic acne, blackheads, and whiteheads. Plus, it’s effective for both face and body acne, working to penetrate deeply both day and night.

 

The Best Acne Face Wash with a Money-Back Guarantee: Dr Song Benzoyl Peroxide Wash 10% Acne Treatment

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Photo Credit: Amazon

Price: $21.97

Though most people have to learn through trial and error, treating acne can feel like a money pit. It can be hard to make the decision to invest in yet another product, even if it’s got a quality formula, for fear of wasting more money on a product that doesn’t work for your skin. And while this is one of the pricier options on this list, we think it’s worth it.

Plus, this 10% benzoyl peroxide cleanser takes some of the anxiety out of the commitment, offering a money-back guarantee. If that doesn’t make you feel good about the purchase, you should know that the formula is paraben and cruelty-free. 

Our Hot Take

Figuring out how to appease acne-prone skin can feel frustrating, exhausting, and anxiety-ridden. When choosing an acne face wash, it’s best to assess your skin first to determine what else you might need to be conscious of, like dryness or sensitivity. 

If you aren’t sure exactly what kind of formula you need, start small. These gentle products will remove dirt, oil, and makeup without any unnecessary drying. If you aren’t seeing results, choose a cleanser with a higher concentration of salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide. 

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