Whether you're dealing with acne on your face or body, the cleanser you use will be the foundation of your skin care routine — so make sure you choose yours wisely. Face washes, shower gels, and cleansing bars all fall under the "soap" umbrella, but note that the cleansing vehicle you choose matters a lot less than the formula itself. According to Dr. Sunitha Posina, M.D., the best soaps for acne usually contain salicylic acid, benzoyl peroxide, or an alpha hydroxy acid like glycolic acid. "Salicylic acid and benzoyl peroxide are the most common acne-fighting ingredients that have been clinically proven and historically used to control acne," Dr. Posina tells Elite Daily, and both are effective at removing dead skin cells and gently exfoliating. But she says that salicylic acid is best for treating blackheads and whiteheads, whereas benzoyl peroxide is her choice for all types of acne lesions including pus-filled acne (a.k.a. pustules). Finally, glycolic acid has antibacterial properties that are helpful for treating acne, and it too helps unclog pores and support skin cell turnover.
Depending on the type of acne you’re experiencing, and whether it's on your face or body (or both), there's an excellent soap out there that will suit your needs. To see the full list of the best cleansers for acne, including a doctor-approved pick, keep on scrolling.
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1. The Best Salicylic Acid Face Wash
Dr. Posina recommends La Roche-Posay's Effaclar Medicated Gel Cleanser. It contains 2% salicylic acid, a beta-hydroxy acid, as well as lipo-hydroxy acid, a salicylic acid derivative; these two ingredients work together to deep-clean pores and promote smoother, clearer skin, and though it's technically designed for your face, you could totally use this on your body, too. One of the iconic, French pharmacy brand's best-selling products, this face wash is free of oil, fragrance, and parabens, and is ideal for oily, acne-prone skin.
2. The Best Benzoyl Peroxide Face Wash
This Differin Acne Face Wash contains 5% benzoyl peroxide — that's the percentage that's recommended for your face, whereas a higher percentage, like the 10% in the Humane Body Wash featured below, is fine for the less delicate parts of your body. All of Differin's products are designed for acne-prone skin, and they also happen to be super affordable (and effective) — and this cleanser is no exception. It's free of both fragrance and oil, and it contains moisturizing glycerin to balance out the potentially drying effects of the BP. Snag it for just over $10 on Amazon.
3. The Best Azelaic Acid Face Wash
The Keep It Clear cleanser from derm-developed line TULA contains a whole host of ingredients that are used to treat acne: 2% salicylic acid to unclog pores, tea tree oil for its natural antibacterial properties, complexion-brightening licorice root, the AHA lactic acid for gentle exfoliation, and azelaic acid, which is often used by dermatologists for the management of acne and rosacea. This cleanser is free of sulfates, fragrance, and alcohol, and, like all TULA products, contains probiotics to support strong, balanced skin.
4. The Best Salicylic Acid Body Wash
Looking for a budget-friendly body wash to keep in the shower? Well, you can't go wrong with this grapefruit-scented pick from Solimo. Formulated with 2% salicylic acid, it's ideal for anyone dealing with body acne or bumpy skin. And considering that you get over 8 ounces of product, you simply can't beat the $5 price tag.
5. The Best Benzoyl Peroxide Body Wash
If you find prefer benzoyl peroxide to salicylic acid, this Humane Maximum-Strength Acne Wash is another great contender for in-shower use. Due to the high percentage of BP, this wash shouldn't be applied to your face, but you can use it on the rest of your body without worry. It's a non-foaming, sulfate-free cleanser that's free of fragrance as well, and it comes with 8 ounces of product in a handy, pump-top bottle.
6. The Best AHA Body Wash
If you have skin that's on the dry side, you may like this Glytone body wash. Designed for rough, dry skin and people who have keratosis pilaris, this fragrance- and oil-free cleanser contains glycolic acid for exfoliation, as well as moisturizing ingredients like glycerin and urea, which is also known for its skin-softening abilities. "It helps keep my skin smooth and body acne free, but also is gentle enough that it doesn't exacerbate my dry skin," summed up one Amazon reviewer.
7. The Best Bar Soap For Acne
Traditionalists, this one's for you: It's a no-frills bar soap made with sulfur and salicylic acid — sulfur has antimicrobial and antifungal properties, and a lot of people swear by it for keeping their acne in check. This soap can be used on your face and body, though some people with dandruff also use it to wash their hair to help reduce flaking and itching. This one, $7 bar should last you ages, so it's a great value as well.
Dr. Sunitha Posina, M.D., board-certified internist, New York City.