The acne-fighting aspect of skin care is a crowded space, and one that is often very hard to sift through to find the right match for your skin concerns. So, we reached out to the experts who have perfected the acne-clearing recipe to find out where to start. The below cleansers are what they deem as the best of the best.
“Stacked Skincare’s Prebiotic Gel Cleanser ($26) has polysaccharides derived from chicory root that feed the skin’s good bacteria, so they can fight off bad bacteria that trigger breakouts and skin sensitivity. It is also formulated with copper gluconate, a blue copper salt that has antioxidant benefits and draws moisture into the skin.
I also really like CeraVe Renewing SA Cleanser ($15). This is an inexpensive cleanser that has lots of active ingredients, including salicylic acid to gently exfoliate and dislodge pores, hyaluronic acid to draw moisture to the skin and niacinamide, a powerful antioxidant that has been shown to balance oil.”
—Kerry Benjamin, aesthetician and founder + CEO of StackedSkincare
“My recommended cleanser for clearing and preventing acne is the Alpha Beta AHA/BHA Daily Cleansing Gel ($38). It is a non-stripping formula formulated with alpha- and beta-hydroxy acids to gently exfoliate and promote cell turnover, farnesol to inhibit the growth of acne-causing bacteria on skin and bisabolol, which has anti-microbial properties and helps soothe skin. It also has chelators, a must-have if you live in a place with hard water because they prevent the metals in the water from getting into skin and causing blockages, breakouts and large pores.”
—New York dermatologist Dennis Gross, MD
“When looking for a cleanser to treat acne, I look for something effective enough to be used in the treatment room but also gentle enough to be used at home. I’m loving the Gentle Exfoliating Daily Cleanser ($24) from Ghost Democracy. It’s sulfate-free so the formula gently cleanses without stripping the skin of its natural moisture, which could lead to breakouts. It contains 4.1 percent glycolic acid and 1.8 percent mandelic acid to gently exfoliate and ‘unglue’ dead skin cells from the surface of the skin to fight acne and remove pore-clogging impurities.”
—Joshua Ross, celebrity aesthetician
“I have three top cleansers for acne. First is the Restorsea Reviving Cleanser ($67). This has salmon egg enzyme extract, which lightly exfoliates acne and is great for sensitive, normal or even oily skin that is acne-prone. It improves the texture and the tone of the skin through the light exfoliation and has mushroom extract and vitamin C.
Secondly, Neutrogena Oil-Free Acne Wash ($6) is an over-the-counter favorite with two percent salicylic acid that helps to work with acne.
Lastly, Skin Medica AHA BHA Exfoliating Cleanser ($47) has 12 percent alpha-hydroxy acid, which improves the texture and tone of the skin. The salicylic acid is at two percent, which also helps to clear the acne. Clearing acne can only be done with mild acne—moderate or severe acne must use topical and even oral medication.”
—New York dermatologist Jeanine Downie, MD
“For acne-prone skin, one of my favorite CeraVe products is Acne Control Cleanser ($16). It is a gel-to-foam wash formulated with two percent salicylic acid to clear breakouts, niacinamide to calm skin, and three essential ceramides to help restore the skin’s natural barrier. I love this cleanser because it unclogs pores to treat acne and also prevent new breakouts. Plus, it contains oil-absorbing technology to remove excess oil and reduce shine.”
—Jaclyn Marrone, vice president of marketing at CeraVe
“I’m a big fan of Revision Skincare’s Purifying Cleansing Gel ($38). It contains both salicylic acid and lactic acid, which help exfoliate the skin and deep clean the pores. Salicylic acid is oil soluble, so it penetrates deep into the skin to dissolve dead skin and break down oil in the pores. It also decreases the skin’s oil production which means fewer breakouts for the future.”
—New York dermatologist Julie Russak, MD
“One Love Organics Enzyme Cleansing Oil ($42) uses gentle oils to remove pollutants, makeup and sebum deeply set within pores. This cleanser is gentle, yet extremely effective for acne-prone skin. Papain and papaya allow the skin to be gently exfoliated through enzymes, which eat away at dead skin, dirt and debris without compromising the skin. This is a great first step in a double cleanse routine!
January Labs Pure and Gentle Cleansing Gel ($32) is a simple yet powerful cleansing gel full of acne-fighting ingredients. Included in the bottle is white willow bark, a natural form of salicylic acid. This will soothe breakouts and prevent future congestion.”
—Geneva Stockdale-Shaw, aesthetician and founder of The OC Esthetician
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