top of page

Acne Cleansers | How to choose one

Acne cleansers are great because they do not stay in contact with your skin for too long making them effective without being too irritating for the skin. Read more...




acne cleanser

Photo: Wix

Disclaimer: This page contains an affiliate link to products. We may receive a commission for purchases made through this link.

Can you list and discuss the main ingredients found in face washes for acne?

The main ingredients found in acne washes at the drugstore include:

  • Salicylic Acid: Salicylic acid breaks apart superficial skin cells to help remove dead skin cells from the surface. It is used in acne medications but can also be found in higher concentrations in wart treatments. It can be effective without being too irritating. In scalp products, it can help remove excess dry skin and scale.

  • Benzoyl Peroxide: Benzoyl peroxide can clear dead skin cells from the surface of the skin. In addition, it can kill acne-causing bacteria on the skin that lead to the inflammation found with acne. By gently exfoliating and treating bacteria on the skin, benzoyl peroxide can be very useful in people that have inflammatory acne. Benzoyl peroxide can reduce the buildup of dead skin cells in our pores which leads to blackheads developing. These products can be a bit more irritating.

  • Charcoal: Charcoal applied to the skin is overall harmless and is not likely to irritate the skin. The theory behind adding it to products is that it may possibly absorb extra oil from the skin. If you have found a benefit in treating your scalp with charcoal-containing topicals then it is perfectly ok to continue. It would likely be best for people that have an oily scalp. It is a milder alternative to help reduce the oiliness without excessively drying the skin or hair.

  • Sulfur: Although sulfur is not widely found in acne cleansers, it actually addresses each aspect of acne from excess keratin and oil, to bacteria, and inflammation. There can be an odor associated with sulfur-containing products that can make them less favorable to some.

Video: Techei

What types of acne and skin types are these ingredients best for?

  • Salicylic acid is great for early mild acne and sensitive skin.

  • Benzoyl peroxide is reasonable for oily skin with excess inflammation or pustules.

  • Sulfur is good for most skin types and is safe for sensitive skin.

  • Charcoal is appropriate for oily skin types.

Are there any ingredients that certain acne and skin types should avoid in face washes?

If your skin is very sensitive, dry, easily irritated, flaky, or has a combination of both excess oil in some areas and dryness in others, it is important to see your dermatologist to verify that you do not have an added component of seborrhea that needs to be addressed. Also, if you have a tendency to flush or blush, a tendency to get pimples that don’t quite come to a head, and if they do you just get clear fluid out of them but they don’t even go away- it is a good idea to see your dermatologist verify you do not have a component of rosacea aggravating your breakouts. Traditional acne products may aggravate both of these conditions.

How should a cleanser be used?

Cleansers require a dollop or dime size amount of product poured into the palm of the hand. Take the other hand to gently massage and evenly distribute the product into the skin, then rinse. No need to use washcloths or special tools to achieve the right result.

How should I shop for an acne cleanser?

If you are in the market for an acne cleanser because you are dealing with breakouts, then you will need something that works. The only active ingredients for acne cleansers are:

  • Salicylic acid

  • Benzoyl peroxide

  • Sulfur

Remember, active ingredients listed on a label mean that these ingredients have been evaluated to be both safe AND effective. If there are no active ingredients on the label, don't bother with the product if you are seeking a product that has more to back up its claims.

Which acne washes have salicylic acid as an active ingredient?

In cleanser form, salicylic acid comes in concentrations of 0.5% to 2% as an active ingredient in acne cleansers.

Want to read more?

Subscribe to to keep reading this exclusive post.


Couldn’t Load Comments
It looks like there was a technical problem. Try reconnecting or refreshing the page.

Get in the know!

Join our email list and get access to specials deals exclusive to our subscribers.

Thanks for submitting!

bottom of page