18 Blemish-Busting Cleansers Experts Say Actually Help Clear Acne

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18 Blemish-Busting Cleansers Experts Say Actually Help Clear Acne featured image

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. Whether you’re struggling with clogged pores or full-blown breakouts, finding products that reduce the appearance of spots without irritating the skin is no easy feat. In pursuit of the best acne cleansers on the market, we reached out to the experts who have perfected the acne-clearing recipe to find out where to start.

While it may seem rational to reach for strong, astringent products when you’re looking to clear acne, finding a cleanser that is hydrating and gentle is just as important when it comes to combatting acne and maintaining a healthy skin barrier. Ahead, find out which cleansing products took the cake as the expert-approved, best-of-the-best when it comes to acne-prone skin.

The Best Cleansers for Acne, According to Experts

1 / 17

Aveeno Positively Radiant Clear Complexion Foaming Cleanser ($7)

“Aveeno Positively Radiant Clear Complexion Foaming Cleanser is medicated with salicylic acid but also contains soy and glycerin for hydration.  Salicylic acid is a comedolytic and exfoliatior, which means it’s attracted to oil, so it helps cell turnover in and around the sebaceous follicles.”—New York dermatologist, Heidi A. Waldorf, MD

BUY NOW – $7

2 / 17

Caudalie Vinoclean Gentle Foaming Cleanser ($30) and Vinoclean Makeup Removal Oil ($30)

“It’s important not to over-dry acne prone skin. Since acne-fighting ingredients like retinoids, benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid can be irritating, I recommend starting with a gentle cleanser, especially for those with sensitive skin. One of my favorites is Caudalie Vinoclean instant foaming cleanser. It uses several non-sulfate surfactant ingredients like sodium cocoyl glutamate to remove oil and dirt gently along with anti-inflammatory naturals. As a foam, it clears completely with water leaving the skin feeling clean, but not tight. It can be mixed with the brand’s Vinoclean Makeup Removal Oil for removal of stubborn makeup.”—Dr. Waldorf


3 / 17

afa Cleansing Cream ($60)

“Many of my patients with acne also have sensitive complexions, so cleansers with traditional exfoliating ingredients aren’t always suitable. I recommend the afa Cleansing Cream as it uses a dermatologist-developed molecule called afaLUXE to promote gentle, yet effective exfoliation to help prevent breakouts. The cream formula is excellent for removing makeup, excess oil, and any impurities that can clog pores.”—Omaha, NE dermatologist Joel Schlessinger, MD

BUY NOW – $60

4 / 17

Relfekt 1 Daily Exfoliating Face Wash ($34)

“One of my favorite cleansers for acne-prone skin that I always recommend to my patients is the Reflekt 1 Daily Exfoliating Face Wash! This cleanser is beneficial for acne-prone skin because it gently exfoliates the skin and contains ingredients like glycolic and salicylic acid, which help to unclog pores, remove dead skin cells and prevent breakouts. Regular exfoliation also improves skin texture and tone, which ultimately reduces the appearance of acne scars.”—Amy Peterson, medical aesthetician

BUY NOW – $34

5 / 17

MBR Enzyme Cleansing Booster ($270)

“MBR Enzyme Cleansing Booster is one of my absolute favorites, especially for acne prone skin. Enzyme cleansers are gentle yet effective for acne-prone skin because they work to break down excess oils and impurities without stripping the skin’s natural moisture barrier. The Enzyme Cleansing Booster contains enzymes like bromelain, which have anti-inflammatory properties and can help soothe redness and irritation associated with acne.”—Amy Peterson

BUY NOW – $270

6 / 17

ZO Exfoliating Cleanser ($49)

“ZO Exfoliating Cleanser is another great option for acne prone patients. This cleanser is formulated with exfoliating ingredients such as salicylic acid or microbeads. They help to remove dead skin cells, excess oil, and impurities that can clog pores and contribute to acne. Additionally, it contains hydrating and soothing ingredients to balance the skin and prevent over-drying, which is essential for maintaining healthy skin barrier function in acne-prone individuals.”—Amy Peterson

BUY NOW – $49

7 / 17

Stacked Skincare Prebiotic Gel Cleanser ($29)

Stacked Skincare’s Prebiotic Gel Cleanser ($29) 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.”—Kerry Benjamin, aesthetician and founder + CEO of StackedSkincare

BUY NOW – $29

8 / 17

Alpha Beta AHA/BHA Daily Cleansing Gel ($39)

“My recommended cleanser for clearing and preventing acne is the Alpha Beta AHA/BHA Daily Cleansing Gel. 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

BUY NOW – $39

9 / 17

Ghost Democracy Gentle Exfoliating Daily Cleanser ($26)

“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 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

BUY NOW – $26

10 / 17

Restorsea Reviving Cleanser ($67)

“I love the Restorsea Reviving Cleanser. 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.” —New York dermatologist Jeanine Downie, MD

BUY NOW – $67

11 / 17

Acne Control Cleanser ($19)

“For acne-prone skin, one of my favorite CeraVe products is Acne Control Cleanser. 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

BUY NOW – $19

12 / 17

Revision Skincare’s Purifying Cleansing Gel ($44)

“I’m a big fan of Revision Skincare’s Purifying Cleansing Gel. 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

BUY NOW – $44

13 / 17

One Love Organics Enzyme Cleansing Oil ($42)

One Love Organics Enzyme Cleansing Oil 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! —Geneva Stockdale-Shaw, aesthetician and founder of The OC Esthetician

BUY NOW – $42

14 / 17

CeraVe Renewing SA Cleanser ($15)

“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

BUY NOW – $15

15 / 17

Neutrogena Oil-Free Acne Wash ($9)

Neutrogena Oil-Free Acne Wash ($9) is an over-the-counter favorite with two percent salicylic acid that helps to work with acne.”—Dr. Downie

BUY NOW – $9

16 / 17

Skin Medica AHA BHA Exfoliating Cleanser ($48)

Skin Medica AHA BHA Exfoliating Cleanser 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 over-the-counter only be done with mild acne—moderate or severe acne must use topical and even oral medication.”—Dr. Downie

BUY NOW – $48

17 / 17

January Labs Pure and Gentle Cleansing Gel ($32)

January Labs Pure and Gentle Cleansing Gel 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

BUY NOW – $32

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