When it comes to fighting breakouts, few ingredients are as popular as salicylic acid. You’ll find it in everything from spot treatments to moisturizers to cleansers, and the latter is what you’ll really want to stock up on since the best salicylic acid face washes are key to clear skin. Salicylic acid is a type of beta-hydroxy acid derived from salicin, explains Gary Goldenberg M.D., a cosmetic and medical dermatologist in New York City. “Like many acids, salicylic acid helps to remove the superficial layer of the skin by destroying superficial skin cells,” Dr. Goldenberg says. “This helps skin to turn over and improve in appearance. It also helps to unroof comedones (blackheads and whiteheads), allowing their contents to ‘drain.’ Salicylic acid is also antibacterial, helping to kill the bacteria that cause acne.”
A salicylic acid face wash is typically best for those with oily, combination or normal skin types. Dr. Goldenberg warns that patients with dry or sensitive skin may become irritated by this treatment. “Salicylic acid face wash is a great option for guys,” he says. “I recommend using it in the face and body to help control acne and folliculitis. The concentration is less important than the quality of the product — higher concentration doesn’t always mean better results. A quality product will have salicylic acid in a vehicle that allows it to penetrate into the skin and do its job. Poor quality products may feel chalky; these products are less effective.”
To get the most out of your salicylic acid face wash, Dr. Goldenberg recommends using it once daily, such as after gym. “One can use a soft washcloth or your hands to wash the skin,” he says. “Leave it on for a few minutes before washing off.”
Now that you know the drill, add one of these best salicylic acid face washes to your shelf.
1. Neutrogena Oil-Free Acne Wash
“I usually recommend the Neutrogena Oil-Free Salicylic Acid cleanser because it’s a high-quality product and is well priced,” Dr. Goldenberg says. As one of the best salicylic acid face washes, the formula contains 2% salicylic acid to treat and prevent breakouts while cleansing skin. It gets deep into pores to fight pimples and blackheads before they even form without over-drying skin.
Neutrogena Oil-Free Acne Wash
2. La Roche-Posay Effaclar Medicated Gel Cleanser
Breakouts beware! This medicated face wash will zap excess oil and breakouts every time you suds up with 2% salicylic acid. It’s been clinically proven to reduce excess surface oil by up to 47%, making it the best salicylic acid face wash for those with oily complexions. Designed to be used twice daily, it’ll keep skin from getting oily all day long. It also has the brand’s exclusive lipo hydroxy acid that works to micro exfoliate dirt and debris as an extra step to prevent pimples and blackheads.
La Roche-Posay Effaclar Medicated Gel Cleanser
3. CeraVe Renewing Salicylic Acid Cleanser
If you have combination skin, then this is the best salicylic acid face wash for you. The super gentle formula is safe for sensitive skin, even for those who have psoriasis, since it also contains ceramides to nourish skin and strengthen the natural skin barrier. Additionally, the foaming face wash has hyaluronic acid, niacinamide (aka vitamin B3) and vitamin D to deeply hydrate and deliver antioxidants. Rough, red skin will look and feel relieved.
CeraVe Renewing SA Cleanser
4. Mario Badescu Acne Facial Cleanser
Those who struggle with acne can also have skin that looks and feels red and angry. That’s where the Mario Badescu Acne Facial Cleanser comes in. The best salicylic acid face wash for inflamed skin, it is infused with aloe vera and chamomile extract to naturally calm and soothe. There’s also a botanical blend and thyme extract to clarify, fight impurities with its antibacterial properties and leave skin balanced. Meanwhile, salicylic acid exfoliates and prevents pore congestion.
Mario Badescu Acne Facial Cleanser
5. Bioré Witch Hazel Pore Clarifying Acne Face Wash
Salicylic acid and witch hazel team up in this breakout-busting face wash to remove 99% of the dirt and oil that triggers breakouts. Witch Hazel is a natural astringent, so it cleans out those culprits from pores. The formula delivers a delightful cooling sensation on the skin. And with 2% salicylic acid, with daily use, it’ll reduce blackheads and acne for a clearer complexion.
Bioré Witch Hazel Pore Clarifying Acne Face Wash
6. Murad Clarifying Cleanser
As one of the best salicylic acid face washes, this one keeps fighting breakouts long after you’re done washing at the sink since it contains time-released salicylic acid that stays active after rinsing the cleanser off. It’s clinically proven to clear up current breakouts while preventing future ones. The formula is also spiked with green tea extract to soothe and calm skin.
Murad Clarifying Cleanser
7. Peter Thomas Roth Anti-Aging Cleansing Gel
Fighting fine lines and acne? Then the Peter Thomas Roth Anti-Aging Cleansing Gel is the best salicylic acid face wash for you. In addition to salicylic acid to help keep pores clear, it also contains glycolic acid, a potent chemical exfoliator that minimizes the appearance of fine lines, wrinkles, pores and other signs of aging. The duo of acids teams up to improve the skin’s overall texture while delivering an effective cleanse. There are also brightening botanicals to leave your complexion revitalized and refreshed.
Peter Thomas Roth Anti-Aging Cleansing Gel
8. Caudalie Vinopure Natural Salicylic Acid Pore Purifying Gel Cleanser
Shrinking pores is a common goal for acne sufferers, so if that’s on your list, then this cleanser is the best salicylic acid face wash for you. Powered by 100 percent natural salicylic acid, it tightens and minimizes the appearance of pores, as well as reduces excess oil while treating blemishes. Sebum and blackheads are targeted by the gentle yet effective formula, which is also infused with organic grape water to hydrate and soothe skin. Meanwhile, a cocktail of essential oils tones and purifies skin.