23 Acne-Fighting Face Washes For Every Budget and Preference

POPSUGAR Photography | Matthew Kelly
POPSUGAR Photography | Matthew Kelly
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  • Finding the best acne face wash is all about narrowing down your individual skin-care needs.
  • Cleansers with ingredients like salicylic acid can treat current breakouts, while alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs) can prevent them in future.
  • Some of the best acne face wash options are less than $20.

While it's true that acne is the most common skin condition in the US, we get it: breakouts can still be annoying and sometimes even painful. That's why we have done our research (and tested hundreds of products) to find the best face washes for acne-prone skin — no matter your budget or preferences.

As with any skin-care product, the key to finding the best treatment option for you is to determine which ingredients work for your particular acne type. Some cleansers contain acne-fighting ingredients to treat current blemishes like salicylic acid (to clear the pore from dirt and grime) and benzoyl peroxide (to kill acne-causing bacteria). Others contain alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs) to help gently exfoliate the skin and keep breakouts from forming in the future. (Or maybe you want a great face wash with none of those at all, and instead sticks to the basics.) There are plenty of options to choose from, and we're here to help you decide.

Whether you opt for a gentler option like our pick from CeraVe that is easy to pair with other acne medication or you want something that will eliminate zits all by itself like our favorite from Clean & Clear, you're sure to find an acne face wash you'll love ahead.

Clean & Clear Continuous Control Acne Cleanser
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Clean & Clear Continuous Control Acne Cleanser

An editor-favorite (and dermatologist-approved) drugstore option for years, the Clean & Clear Continuous Control Acne Cleanser ($6) contains a whopping 10 percent benzoyl peroxide to kill bacteria on the skin and minimize breakouts. Leave it on for a few minutes while sudsing to get the most out of the powerful ingredient.

CeraVe Renewing SA Cleanser
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CeraVe Renewing SA Cleanser

Acne treatments are notoriously harsh, which is why sticking with a gentle cleanser is key. This CeraVe Renewing Gentle SA Cleanser ($14) is mild but also sprinkles in a low dose of salicylic acid that dissolves a day's worth of grime without stripping the skin.

Renee Rouleau Rapid Response Detox Cleanser
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Renee Rouleau Rapid Response Detox Cleanser

Some people might think the Renee Rouleau Rapid Response Detox Cleanser ($43) smells too "medicinal," but we think it smells like it works. Which, by the way, it does: we use it after spending too much time in our makeup, and it completely dissolves all dirt and gunk from pores — no breakouts in sight. It does come out a bright yellow shade (which, in truth, isn't pretty), but it's what's on the inside that counts.

The Inkey List Salicylic Acid Cleanser
sephora.com

The Inkey List Salicylic Acid Cleanser

You can consider maskne a thing of the past with the The Inkey List Salicylic Acid Cleanser ($10). Packed with 2 percent of the pore-clearing salicylic acid, plus oil-controlling zinc, it gently dissolves any dirt and grime while treating breakouts in the process.

Biore Charcoal Acne Clearing Cleanser
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Biore Charcoal Acne Clearing Cleanser

From the brand that brought you everybody's favorite pore strips, the Biore Charcoal Acne Clearing Cleanser ($6) is a gentle sudser that contains natural charcoal, which absorbs excess oil and sebum. It also contains a low dose of salicylic acid to help treat current zits and prevent future breakouts from forming.

Paula's Choice Clear Pore Normalizing Cleanser
sephora.com

Paula's Choice Clear Pore Normalizing Cleanser

A tried-and-true favorite for years, the salicylic-acid-spiked Paula's Choice Clear Pore Normalizing Cleanser ($13) dissolves any gunk chillin' in your pores but never leaves the skin feeling tight or dry.

PanOxyl Acne Foaming Wash with 10% Benzoyl Peroxide
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PanOxyl Acne Foaming Wash with 10% Benzoyl Peroxide

You know it's effective when it's recommended by the American Academy of Dermatology acne guidelines, which is exactly why the PanOxyl Acne Foaming Wash with 10% Benzoyl Peroxide ($9) is almost always a winner. It features 10 percent benzoyl peroxide, which works to reduce skin bacteria.

Kate Somerville ExfoliKate Cleanser Daily Foaming Wash
sephora.com

Kate Somerville ExfoliKate Cleanser Daily Foaming Wash

A bestselling cleanser for a reason, the Kate Somerville ExfoliKate Cleanser Daily Foaming Wash ($40) uses a blend of alpha hydroxy acids (hi, glycolic and lactic acids!) to gently exfoliate your skin, preventing future breakouts.

Neutrogena Ultra Gentle Daily Cleanser
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Neutrogena Ultra Gentle Daily Cleanser

While it's not specifically formulated for patients with acne, many dermatologists recommend the Neutrogena Ultra Gentle Daily Cleanser ($11) to acne patients, since this skin type can be sensitive and should be treated delicately. Plus, many acne products tend to be drying, so a gentle wash will prevent overstripping of the natural oils, thereby preventing further irritation.

Peter Thomas Roth Acne Clearing Wash
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Peter Thomas Roth Acne Clearing Wash

This bottle will last you a while: a little of the Peter Thomas Roth Acne Clearing Wash ($39) goes a long way. The formula features two percent salicylic acid to banish excess oil and bacteria.

Eminence Mangosteen Daily Resurfacing Cleanser
eminenceorganics.com

Eminence Mangosteen Daily Resurfacing Cleanser

It doesn't just smell good; the Eminence Mangosteen Daily Resurfacing Cleanser ($42) also features a potent blend of lactic acid to remove dead skin cells, which often clog pores and cause acne.

Neutrogena Clear Pore Cleanser/Mask
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Neutrogena Clear Pore Cleanser/Mask

Dozens of dermatologists agree: the Neutrogena Clear Pore Cleanser/Mask ($7) is gentle but effective, thanks to its gentle 3.5% benzoyl peroxide that kills bacteria and helps to unclog pores. It is mild enough to be used as a daily cleanser, and works to treat inflammatory acne on the face, chest, and back. Even better? It can also be used as a mask when you want to do a little self-care skin care.

Kiehl's Blue Herbal Acne Cleanser Treatment
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Kiehl's Blue Herbal Acne Cleanser Treatment

Clear out your pores with the Kiehl's Blue Herbal Acne Cleanser Treatment ($25). Those with oily skin will love its ability to banish both blackheads and whiteheads while sloughing off dirt and debris.

Boscia Purifying Cleansing Gel
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Boscia Purifying Cleansing Gel

The surprising hydrating Boscia Purifying Cleansing Gel ($28) features hydrangea, which adds moisture back into the skin while also gently cleansing your pores.

Tatcha The Deep Cleanse
sephora.com

Tatcha The Deep Cleanse

The natural fruit extracts in Tatcha's The Deep Cleanse ($38) gently exfoliate your skin, preventing dead skin cells from clogging your pores.

Neutrogena Rapid Clear Stubborn Acne Cleanser
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Neutrogena Rapid Clear Stubborn Acne Cleanser

If you have sensitive skin but still tend to prefer benzoyl peroxide to salicylic acid, the Neutrogena Rapid Clear Stubborn Acne Cleanser ($8) contains a low amount of the former to help kill off acne-causing bacteria without causing any irritation.

Tata Harper Clarifying Blemish & Oil Control Cleanser
sephora.com

Tata Harper Clarifying Blemish & Oil Control Cleanser

For people with an affinity for natural products, the Tata Harper Clarifying Blemish & Oil Control Cleanser ($76) is the one for you: the gel-foam formula contains salicylic acid and alpha hydroxy acids to banish breakouts and uneven texture.

Neutrogena Pore Refining Exfoliating Cleanser Face Wash
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Neutrogena Pore Refining Exfoliating Cleanser Face Wash

The Neutrogena Pore Refining Exfoliating Cleanser Face Wash ($7) contains both alpha and beta hydroxy acids, which work simultaneously to help remove oil and dirt that sit deep in the pores. It gently exfoliates the skin, leaving the skin smooth and soft.

CeraVe Foaming Facial Cleanser For Normal to Oily Skin
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CeraVe Foaming Facial Cleanser For Normal to Oily Skin

Not only is the CeraVe Foaming Facial Cleanser For Normal to Oily Skin ($14) extra gentle, but it's also formulated with ceramides to restore moisture to your skin.

Estée Lauder Perfectly Clean Multi-Action Foam Cleanser
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Estée Lauder Perfectly Clean Multi-Action Foam Cleanser

Gently cleanse your face with the Estée Lauder Perfectly Clean Multi-Action Foam Cleanser ($27), or leave it on for three minutes for a purifying treatment that will keep acne at bay.

Alba Pore Purifying Pineapple Enzyme Facial Cleanser
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Alba Pore Purifying Pineapple Enzyme Facial Cleanser

The Alba Pore Purifying Pineapple Enzyme Facial Cleanser ($9) smells like a tropical paradise, and the pineapple and papaya fruit enzymes also brighten and exfoliate the skin, keeping pores from getting clogged.

Neutrogena Oil-Free Acne Fighting Face Wash
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Neutrogena Oil-Free Acne Fighting Face Wash

A classic for a reason, the salicylic acid-spiked Neutrogena Oil-Free Acne Fighting Face Wash ($10) works best on mild acne and blackheads. Put it on, leave it sit for 30 seconds to a minute, then rinse.