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15 Best Face Washes for Acne, According to Dermatologists

Banish breakouts — from cystic to hormonal acne — with these effective cleansers.

best face wash for acne

We updated this article in June 2022 to add more information about each featured product, based on expert recommendations by the Good Housekeeping Institute Beauty Lab. We've added four additional products — including picks from PanOxyl, La Roche-Posay and ALOISIA Beauty — to our original list.

Whether you've been dealing with the sudden onset of adult acne or you've spent years spent fighting pimples, acne spares no one. But the right blemish-banishing ingredients can put your skin at ease. There are tons of acne-fighting products on the market (both over the counter and prescription), but it's not always a simple task to put together an acne skincare routine that will help treat your breakouts. Everyone's acne journey is different, but the one product that can help: An effective acne face wash.

Our Good Housekeeping Institute Beauty Lab has decades of experience testing thousands of beauty products, including the best face wash formulas. We test face washes both in Lab and on our panel of consumer testers for cleansing efficacy and results on different skin types, including oily and acne-prone skin. The picks ahead were selected from our recent face wash tests, recommended by GH Beauty Lab scientists, dermatologists and verified online reviewers. These are the 15 best face washes for acne you can buy to help treat and prevent pimples.

Our top picks:

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Best Overall Face Wash for Acne
Normaderm PhytoAction Daily Deep Cleansing Gel
Best Value Face Wash for Acne
Oil-Free Acne Wash
Best Acne Face Wash for Dry Skin
Acne Foaming Cream Cleanser
Best Face Wash for Cystic Acne
Effaclar Medicated Gel Acne Face Wash
La Roche-Posay
Best Acne Face Wash for Sensitive Skin
Reviving Cleanser
Best Face Wash for Acne and Dark Spots
AHA & BHA Exfoliating Cleanser
Best Face Wash for Hormonal Acne
Sebium H2O Purifying Cleansing Micelle Solution
Best Acne Face Wash for Teenagers
Rapid Rescue Deep Treatment Wash
Best Calming Face Wash for Acne
REFRESH Jade Purifying Cleanser
Aloisia Beauty
Best Exfoliating Face Wash for Acne
Acne Clearing Cleanser
Best Acne Face Wash for Combination Skin
BPO 5% Cleanser
PCA Skin
Best Acne Face Wash for Large Pores
Clarifying Cleanser
Best Face Wash for Adult Acne
Ain't Misbehavin' Medicated AHA/BHA Acne Cleanser
Best Face and Body Wash for Acne
Acne Foaming Wash
Best Foaming Face Wash for Acne
Toleriane Purifying Foaming Facial Cleanser
La Roche-Posay
How we choose the best face wash for acne

The Good Housekeeping Institute Beauty Lab has decades of experience testing face washes and body washes from drugstore brands and high-end lines for cleansing efficacy and their effects on skin. While our Beauty Lab scientists have not run a formal test specifically for acne face washes, we've tested hundreds of cleansers over the years, keeping factors like texture, scent and how effectively they wash away makeup, impurities and excess oil in mind.

Traditionally, the GH beauty team label masks products to eliminate brand bias before distributing them to hundreds of consumers across the country. Testers use the products in their regular skincare routine. Based on all this data, the Beauty Lab makes recommendations. Above, we've included a variety of tested picks, top vetted reviews and dermatologist recommendations.

What to look for when shopping for the best face wash for acne

✔️ Breakout-fighting ingredients: When it comes to choosing the best cleanser for your acne, "look for specific ingredients, including salicylic acid, glycolic acid, benzoyl peroxide or sulfur," recommends Dr. Downie. These top acne-fighting skincare ingredients, found in both cleansers and treatment products, can absorb excess oil, degunk pores and slough away dead skin and bacteria for a clearer complexion.

✔️ Gentle formulas: "Foaming cleansers tend to be gentler, while gel cleansers can be harsher," Dr. Downie explains. She recommends foaming cleansers for people with dry and sensitive skin and gel cleansers for those with oily skin.

What’s the best way to use a face wash for acne?

Once armed with the right cleanser, you need to know how to use it properly. Dr. Downie recommends using an acne face wash twice a day if your skin can tolerate it (or even up to three times a day if you sweat a lot or are extremely active). But just as not all acne is created equal, your cleanser usage depends on your skin type. If your skin is dry or sensitive, you may want to use a regular gentle cleanser in the morning and an acne cleanser just in the evenings, to remove the impurities of the day.

Can face wash remove pimples?

Though acne face washes that contain FDA-approved active acne ingredients (benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid, for example) can treat acne breakouts, Wnek notes that leave-on OTC acne products with these ingredients can potentially treat acne breakouts more quickly, since "the active ingredients are left on skin for a longer period of time than rinse-off cleansers," she explains.

Why trust Good Housekeeping?

Our Good Housekeeping Institute beauty experts collaborated to round up the best face wash recommendations for acne. Those who gathered this list include freelance Beauty Editor Dori Price who has over 15 years of experience researching and writing skincare stories; Beauty Assistant Catharine Malzahn who works closely with the Beauty Lab to help deliver fact-based, science-backed beauty coverage; and GH Beauty, Health & Sustainability Lab Chemist Danusia Wnek who has been testing skincare products, including but not limited to serums, facial oils and more, for over seven years at GH. Wnek also regularly weighs in on the benefits of skincare ingredients like vitamin C, retinol and niacinamide.

We also consulted board-certified Jeanine B. Downie, M.D., founder of Image Dermatology PC in Montclair, New Jersey, to round out our expert picks.

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