The Best Face Washes For Blackheads

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by Isabella Sarlija
Elite Daily/Amazon

Although there are countless tools and products designed to suck blackheads out of the pores, one of the most effective ways to treat (and more importantly, prevent) them is to use a reliable face wash. Some of the best face washes for blackheads contain a chemical exfoliant called salicylic acid, which is a beta hydroxy acid (BHA). “If you have blackheads, the go-to ingredient to look for in a face wash is salicylic acid,” dermatologist Joshua Zeichner tells Elite Daily. “This beta hydroxy acid helps remove excess oil and dead cells from the skin's surface to keep the pores clear,” he explains.

The Expert

Joshua Zeichner, M.D., F.A.A.D., is an Associate Professor and the Director of Cosmetic and Clinical Research in Dermatology at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City. He is also the medical advisor of the hormonal acne-focused skin care brand, JORI.

How To Incorporate A BHA Cleanser Into Your Routine

Salicylic acid is a chemical exfoliant that digs deep into the pores to clear out any excess dirt, debris, or sebum that can harden into a blackhead. Since the BHA works to dissolve material inside your pores, it can also help clear up unwanted whiteheads or acne. For a gentler alternative to salicylic acid, you can opt for an ingredient called willow bark extract, which is thought to have similar properties.

To use a BHA cleanser, Dr. Zeichner recommends allowing the product to sit on your skin's surface before washing it off to let the active ingredients do their job. “Think of your cleanser as more than just a face wash, but rather a short contact treatment,” Dr. Zeichner says. He recommends applying the cleanser and letting it sit while you sing happy birthday to yourself to give the BHA enough time to exfoliate your skin. Since chemical exfoliants can make your skin more dry — especially if your skin is naturally sensitive — always follow up with a moisturizer or serum.

Shop The Best Face Washes For Blackheads

In need of a face wash ASAP? Here are the best face washes for blackheads:

  1. Dermatologist’s Pick: Bliss Clear Genius Clarifying Gel Cleanser
  2. The One With A Cooling Sensation: Dermalogica Clearing Skin Wash
  3. The Affordable One: CeraVe Renewing SA Cleanser
  4. The One With Hydrating Amino Acids: Paula’s Choice CLEAR Pore Normalizing Cleanser
  5. The One With A Jelly Consistency: Hero Cosmetics Clear Collective Exfoliating Jelly Cleanser

1. Dermatologist’s Pick


  • This cleanser comes recommended by Dr. Zeichner.
  • Along with exfoliating salicylic acid, the formula contains soothing ingredients, too.
  • Both vegan and cruelty-free.


  • Its gel consistency may be too drying for those with dry, acne-prone skin.

“The Bliss Clear Genius [Clarifying] Gel Cleanser effectively treats blackheads without causing irritation,” says Dr. Zeichner. He recommends this formula because it contains salicylic acid to dissolve blackheads while being gentle enough to use daily. The Brazilian sea water in this formula helps to soothe and balance skin, while willow bark extract offers further pore-clearing benefits.

Key Ingredients: Salicylic acid, Brazilian sea water, willow bark extract Cruelty-Free: Yes Size: 6.4 oz.

2. The One With A Cooling Sensation


  • Contains soothing and cooling botanicals for a fresh feel.


  • Pricey.
  • Menthol and camphor could potentially irritate sensitive or allergy-prone skin.

If you’re after a fresh feel after using your cleanser, consider Dermalogica’s Acne Clearing Skin Wash. This face wash contains salicylic acid to help clean out congested pores and promote an overall clearer complexion. In addition, it also contains menthol and camphor to relieve irritation, while balm mint and eucalyptus provide a cooling, refreshing feel. Finally, tea tree oil — which has antimicrobial and antibacterial activities — works alongside the salicylic acid to help keep acne at bay.

Key Ingredients: Salicylic acid, menthol, camphor, balm mint, eucalyptus, tea tree oil Cruelty-Free: Yes Size: 8.4 oz.

3. The Affordable One


  • Contains ceramides to support your skin barrier.
  • It’s the most affordable cleanser on this list.


  • CeraVe is not cruelty-free.

CeraVe’s Renewing SA Cleanser is an ideal choice for those with sensitive, blackhead-prone skin since it’s gentle on the lipid barrier while being tough on clogged pores. This cleanser contains ceramides to support the skin’s natural moisture barrier without leading to more clogged pores, since this formula is noncomedogenic. But, the best part? It costs less than a typical salad.

Hot tip: This cleanser is a popular choice for treating body breakouts, too.

Key Ingredients: Salicylic acid, ceramides 1, 3, 6-II, hyaluronic acid Cruelty-Free: No Size: 8 oz.

4. The One With Hydrating Amino Acids


  • Contains a low dose of 0.5% salicylic acid, making it gentler than other formulas.
  • Contains hydrating and skin-building amino acids to promote plumper skin.


  • Although Paula’s Choice claims that this formula is safe to use on sensitive skin, some Amazon reviewers reported burning or redness after using this cleanser.

For combination skin types, it’s possible to have both blackheads in the T-zone while the cheeks remain relatively dry. There are a ton of extra-drying face washes for blackhead-prone skin out there, but Paula’s Choice CLEAR Pore Normalizing Cleanser is formulated with arginine, a moisturizing and hydrating amino acid that also has purported wound-healing benefits. While arginine plumps up skin with moisture, salicylic acid clears out clogged pores while keeping excess sebum at bay.

Key Ingredients: Salicylic acid, arginine, vitamin B5 Cruelty-Free: Yes Size: 6 oz.

5. The One With A Jelly Consistency


  • Contains various exfoliants to clear blackheads, including AHAs, BHAs, PHAs, and fruit enzymes.
  • Has a gel consistency that’s great for oily skin.


  • If you have dry or combination skin, this may contain too many exfoliants for you.

Creamy cleansers can contain too many emollient ingredients for skin that gets easily clogged, but this Hero Cosmetics Jelly Cleanser might be just the thing for oily, acne-prone skin. This lightweight cleanser contains a slew of exfoliators to dissolve dead skin cells and excess sebum: first up are glycolic and mandelic acids that gently buff away dead skin cells, along with gluconolactone (a poly-hydroxy acid, or PHA) that works to resurface and even out skin. Next up is the aforementioned willow bark extract, while vitamin C and fruit enzymes brighten the complexion to give your skin an all-around glow.

Key Ingredients: Glycolic acid, mandelic acid, gluconolactone, willow bark extract, vitamin C, fruit enzymes Cruelty-Free: Yes Size: 5.07 oz.

Studies referenced:

Melaleuca alternifolia (Tea Tree) Oil: a Review of Antimicrobial and Other Medicinal Properties, by C. F. Carson, K. A. Hammer, T. V. Riley;