Those constantly struggling with acne or even blemished skin are probably already familiar with salicylic acid. And those that aren’t might find the term salicylic acid slightly menacing. But that’s not the way to describe this very commonly used gentle anti-acne active ingredient.
In fact, the best salicylic acid face washes are incredibly effective when it comes to deep cleansing. These skin-friendly formulas get rid of excess oil from your sebaceous glands. Therefore, eliminating the root cause of acne.
Let me also bring to your attention that salicylic acid is a form of beta-hydroxy acid. In simple words, it’s a natural exfoliator that removes dead skin cells and unclogs pores. It’s also oil-soluble, which implies deeper penetration into your skin’s layers for thorough cleansing. And it facilitates anti-inflammatory action as well.
So, without further ado, let’s get to the list of top 20!
Top 18 best Salicylic Acid Face Washes & Cleansers
Top Choice – Vichy Normaderm Daily Acne Treatment Face Wash
The #1 pick is the best salicylic acid face wash for acne. The formulation is infused with salicylic acid that deep cleanses even acne-prone and oily skin. It unclogs and purifies your pores without causing any dryness or irritation.
In fact, the face wash’s salicylic acid content combines with glycolic acid and LHA for gently exfoliating your skin. It’s a translucent textured gel that doesn’t take too long or too much of an effort to lather.
A refined skin texture and noticeably healthier skin are results that appear in no time. That’s the best part. That and the fact that Vichy Normaderm is allergy-tested, paraben-free, thus perfect for sensitive skin too.
Vichy Normaderm Daily Acne Treatment Face Wash Key Features
Ultra-effective yet ultra-gentle
Salicylic acid + glycolic acid + LHA for exfoliation
Suitable for acne-prone, oily, and sensitive skin
Runner-Up Choice – Neutrogena Oil-Free Acne and Redness Facial Cleanser
It’s time to get to know all about the oil-free salicylic acid face wash Neutrogena has to offer. The brand is highly recommended by dermatologists worldwide. Plus, Neutrogena products are easily available everywhere.
This solution contains naturally soothing chamomile and aloe for treating not only acne. It also helps in reducing redness often accompanied by acne and other common skin conditions like rosacea.
The creamy, rich formula powerfully yet gently clears away your breakouts as well as blackheads. The best part is that the creamy cleanser calms the most irritated skin and makes it feel healthier and look clearer.
The one unique characteristic about this and every Neutrogena formulation is the use of Micro-Clear technology. Along with clinically-proven salicylic acid, this fights acne by cutting through your skin’s oil to unclog congested pores and get rid of impurities and dirt.
A thorough cleansing action much-needed in case of frequent breakouts!
Neutrogena Oil-Free Acne and Redness Facial Cleanser Key Features
Infused with naturally soothing chamomile and aloe
Clears blackheads, acne, and redness
Dermatologist-recommended acne-fighting cleanser
Best Budget Choice – Clean & Clear Oil Absorbing Cream Facial Cleanser
For controlling shine and treating acne in the most effective and affordable manner, Clean & Clear offers the best solution.
This oil-absorbing formulation delivers double action. The first consists of how it washes away excess oil by 85-percent. And the dual function is to penetrate and unclog pores for clearing existing and preventing future blemishes.
Even with the exclusive Powderparticles technology, the face wash is gentle for everyday use. The same applies to salicylic acid that gets the acne-fighting, pore-unclogging, and deep-cleansing jobs done without causing any skin irritation or even dryness.
It’s not just oil-absorbing, but also non-comedogenic. Therefore, my budget-friendly pick works best for acne-prone skin and oily skin.
Clean & Clear Oil Absorbing Cream Facial Cleanser Key Features
Creamy daily face wash controls and clears breakouts
Made with oil-absorbing Powerderparticles
Non-comedogenic, thus ideal for acne-prone and oily skin
Best for Acne – LAVO Glycolic Acid Face Wash
Let me present to you a face wash with salicylic acid and glycolic acid that offers the most powerful solution against acne. In fact, this LAVO formula also contains lactic acid. Together, these three ingredients exfoliate, get rid of oil, unclog pores, and fight acne-triggering bacteria.
All three have the ability to penetrate your pores to dissolve dead skin cells. Then there’s papaya and pineapple enzymes for doing what they do best to make your skin feel fresh. Watercress extract is also added for providing antioxidant-rich vitamins. And for repairing UV damage.
Then comes lavender along with Vitamin B for keeping sebum production in check, reducing inflammation and redness, and fighting acne-causing bacteria. And lastly, the formulation is also equipped with soapwort extract. This helps in breaking up and dissolving oil.
Needless to say, the 3-in-1 solution is ideal for treating and preventing acne, clogged pores, blackheads, whiteheads, and blemishes.
LAVO Glycolic Acid Face Wash Key Features
Made with salicylic acid, glycolic acid, and lactic acid
Rich in antioxidants and vitamins
Refreshing minty and menthol scent
Best for Oily Skin – Burt’s Bees Natural Acne Solutions Purifying Gel Cleanser
If your skin could talk, it would certainly thank you for using this purifying gel cleanser on a daily basis. After all, when excess oil from the skin is eliminated, your skin is bound to look and feel healthier and fresher.
This is the best natural salicylic acid face wash. Natural because it’s infused with naturally-derived salicylic acid from willow bark. The ingredient excels at penetrating congested pores to treat and prevent breakouts.
Speaking of which, there are beetroot and evening primrose extracts that calm acne-prone and soothe irritated skin. Excess oil and even dirt and impurities don’t stand a chance against Burt’s Bees.
The brand, even though all-natural, is dermatologist-tested and incredibly effective when it comes to providing the best acne treatment.
Burt's Bees Natural Acne Solutions Purifying Gel Cleanser Key Features
Formulated with naturally-derived salicylic acid
Contains minerals, vitamins, phytonutrients, and antioxidants
Non-comedogenic and clinically-tested
Best for Blackheads – Lauda Botanicals Blackhead Remover Cleanser
If you have stubborn blackheads, then this unique gel formulation by Lauda Botanicals is here to help. It ranks as the best salicylic acid cleanser for blackheads and also acne-prone and oily skin.
The face wash controls excess production of oil to keep your skin looking fresh and vibrant. It also plays a huge part in preventing the enlargement of your pores. With this at your disposal, you don’t have to waste time and money using blackhead pull off masks.
Both beta-hydroxy acid and alpha-hydroxy acid are involved. The former, obviously, is salicylic acid while the latter is lactic acid. When paired together, these two active ingredients deep cleanse and unclog pores.
And here’s the greatest news of all. The blackhead removing cleanser shows visible improvements in only 2-3 washes.
Lauda Botanicals Blackhead Remover Cleanser Key Features
Exfoliating blend of salicylic acid and lactic acid
Removes blackheads, whiteheads, and dark spots
Made with high-quality natural, organic ingredients
Best for Sensitive Skin – CeraVe Salicylic Acid Cleanser
Gently exfoliate and detoxify your sensitive skin with CeraVe. It’s such a relief to know that each and every product this brand manufactures is developed by dermatologists
As for this salicylic acid formulation, it removes oil and dirt whole also smoothing, softening, and soothing sensitive skin. It’s an exfoliating cleanser with salicylic acid instead of harsh beads.
Another noteworthy quality is the presence of essential ceramides. These help in restoring and maintaining the natural barrier of your skin.
Hyaluronic acid and niacinamide are also included. The first is the best for hydration. And the latter works best in terms of repairing your skin’s natural protection barrier and improving appearance.
Speaking of protection, Vitamin D antioxidants are infused as well. That’s another form of protection booster. In all, the cleanser is gentle and non-irritating even if your skin type is sensitive.
CeraVe Salicylic Acid Cleanser Key Features
Deep cleansing and exfoliating salicylic acid
Also contains hyaluronic acid, niacinamide, ceramides, etc.
Fragrance-free and non-comedogenic
Best for Men – Neutrogena Men Skin Clearing Daily Acne Face Wash
It goes without saying that the skin of men and women is not the same. And Neutrogena is a brand that fully understands that fact. The proof of this is their best men's face wash with salicylic acid.
Formulated with 2-percent salicylic acid, which is the ideal amount for activating all the acne-fighting action, this skin clearing face wash gets deep into your pores and unclogs them. And that goes a long way when it comes to treating and preventing acne.
In fact, the formulation is also very useful for softening your facial hair right before shaving. On top of that, the solution is non-comedogenic and oil-free. Meaning it not only treats congested pores but also prevents them.
So men who would like to reap the amazing skin benefits of salicylic acid can certainly make this face wash a part of their daily skincare routine.
Neutrogena Men Skin Clearing Daily Acne Face Wash Key Features
Pro-Soothe technology prevents shaving irritation
2% salicylic acid for active acne treatment/prevention
Non-comedogenic and oil-free
Salicylic Acid Face Wash – Who Should Use It?
The active ingredient salicylic acid belongs to the family of beta-hydroxy acid. What it does is penetrate deep into your pores to unclog and cleanse them. Salicylic acid face washes also get rid of dead skin cells. And since it dissolves oil and such impurities, your skin is bound to look more radiant.
In that case, if you have acne-prone, oily, or even dull-looking skin, then facial cleansers with salicylic acid are the best for you. The beta-hydroxy acid also activates anti-inflammatory action. And this makes it suitable for calming skin sensitivities or irritation as well.
Salicylic Acid Face Wash – What Are the Benefits?
I’ll get straight to the point here:
It Gently Exfoliates the Skin
It Fights Acne
It Reduces Excess Sebum Production
It Treats Hyperpigmentation
It Acts as an Astringent
Salicylic Acid Face Wash – How to Choose?
It’s just good sense to take certain important factors into account when buying an acne-fighting facial cleanser with salicylic acid.
Type of Skin
To be honest, most salicylic acid-equipped face washes are suitable for all skin types. At least the ones I’ve reviewed are. They’re oil-free, non-comedogenic, non-irritating, non-drying, hypoallergenic, dermatologist-recommended, etc.
In simple words, the best for oily, acne-prone, dry, sensitive, irritated, and combination skin.
Concentration of Salicylic Acid
It’s only natural to ask the question, how much salicylic acid is safe for daily use? The answer is 2-percent. This explains why most skincare products with this beta-hydroxy acid, including face washes, have not more than 2-percent salicylic acid.
Otherwise, if it’s greater than 2-percent, the formulation tends to dry out your acne and aggravate it further. But anything between 0.5-percent to 2-percent is safe.
Speaking of the primary ingredient i.e. salicylic acid, in some formulas this is naturally derived from willow bark. Aside from that, you should look for natural, botanical ingredients. Some of them include aloe vera, oat extract, jojoba, green tea, and the like.
The more important goal here is to make sure your facial cleanser doesn’t contain harmful or harsh ingredients. Such as parabens, artificial fragrances, sulfates, etc.
My reviews section is proof that you don’t have to shell out big bucks just to keep your skin healthy, radiant, and acne/blemish-free. Affordability is a huge part of the buying decision because you’re going to be using the face wash on a daily basis.
Just make sure to read through the list of ingredients since cheaper priced products are often loaded with more artificial, drying, or harsher elements.
Salicylic Acid Face Wash – How to Use?
It’s best to follow the instructions provided by the brand. But here’s the general consensus nevertheless.
Start by splashing some warm water on your face.
Then gently massage your salicylic acid face wash into the skin for about half a minute. Use a circular motion for building foam and spreading the formula all over your face.
And now rinse your face thoroughly with warm water.
Then comes the part where moisturizing your skin is very important.
First, pat your skin dry using a clean, fresh towel. And then moisturize to prevent dryness and the loss of natural moisture.
As to how many times to wash the face with salicylic acid?, the answer depends on how oily your skin is. Generally speaking, twice a day should suffice. That is once when you wake and once before you sleep.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q. How Often to Use Salicylic Acid Face Wash?
If you’re just transitioning into this acne-fighting skincare routine, then do it slowly. Start with once a day and then move on to twice a day if you don’t experience any side effects like skin irritation or dryness.
You can wash your face with a salicylic acid formulation on a daily basis, there’s no harm in that. As long as the concentration is not more than 2-percent, even those with dry or sensitive skin have nothing to worry about.
Speaking of which, make sure the list of ingredients includes soothing and calming natural elements like aloe, chamomile, oats, etc.
Q. What Is the Best Dermatologist-Recommended Face Wash for Acne?
Most dermatologists worldwide recommend using salicylic acid as the most effective acne treatment. This beta-hydroxy acid unclogs pores, reduces inflammation, and eliminates dead skin cells.
Salicylic acid destroys the very source of breakouts by dissolving the acne-causing bacteria itself.
Q. Salicylic Acid Is the Best Treatment for What Type of Acne?
Adult acne, hormonal acne, and cystic acne; along with whiteheads and blackheads. After all, salicylic acid prevents your pores from getting clogged. So you don’t have to deal with such common concerns on a daily basis.
Q. Does Salicylic Acid Help in Treating Psoriasis and Dandruff?
It’s best and highly advisable to not expose your skin to a salicylic acid concentration of more than 2-percent. However, a higher level of salicylic acid does indeed peel away your dead skin cells. And that means getting rid of dandruff, psoriasis scales, and even warts.
Q. Are There Salicylic Acid Face Wash Side Effects?
OTC facial cleansers formulated with salicylic acid don’t cause anything more than mild dryness or redness if at all. And when infused into shampoo formulations, salicylic acid can cause temporary hair weakness and hair loss.
Another thing to keep in mind, whatever your skin type or situation, is that applying sunscreen after using salicylic acid is very important. And that’s because the ingredient makes your skin more susceptible to sun damage and sensitivity.
Whatever the case, there’s no denying that salicylic acid works like magic when it comes to getting rid of excess oil and acne. Just make sure the concentration is not more than 2-percent. Otherwise, serious side effects like diarrhea, headache, vomiting, dizziness, etc. might occur.
Q. What Is the Difference Between Salicylic Acid and Benzoyl Peroxide?
Both are effective as acne-fighting ingredients, thus either or both are used in face wash formulations for treating acne. But what is the difference between the two?
Salicylic acid targets breakouts like whiteheads and blackheads. It also prevents the formation of potential or future comedones. As for benzoyl peroxide, it’s the most effective ingredient for targeting acne. The thing works best on red, pus-filled pimples.
Apart from that, benzoyl peroxide also helps in getting rid of dead skin cells and excess oil. It kills the bacteria that’s giving rise to acne below your skin.
In terms of usage and side effects, you should know that benzoyl peroxide is more drying in comparison to salicylic acid. It’s also not a such a safe and gentle option for sensitive skin.
Q. What Is the Difference Between Salicylic Acid and Glycolic Acid?
Salicylic acid is a beta-hydroxy acid while glycolic acid is an alpha-hydroxy acid. The former penetrates deep into your pores to loosen dead skin cells and unclog pores. As for the latter, it breaks down and eliminates dead skin cells completely.
In the case of salicylic acid, it treats acne. On the other hand, glycolic acid exfoliates your skin to prevent dryness, dullness, pigmentation, and the like. Along with increasing collagen production, which means anti-aging benefits. Apart from fighting acne of course.
Salicylic acid is more suitable for oily, acne-prone, and sensitive skin. And glycolic acid is a well-tolerated alpha-hydroxy acid for the majority of skin types.
Q. What Is the Difference Between Salicylic Acid and Lactic Acid?
Lactic acid is much like glycolic, which means it’s another alpha-hydroxy acid. But it’s the gentler version of glycolic acid. Both glycolic and lactic are chemical exfoliators that eliminate dead skin cells and improve skin complexion.
But the added advantage of lactic acid is that it treats dry skin and improves hydration. As opposed to salicylic acid, which only performs the task of unclogging pores and fighting acne.
Q. Why Is Salicylic Acid Better Than Face Scrubs for Exfoliation?
You may think using a scrub helps in getting rid of dead skin cells. I mean just the idea of scrubbing off dry and dead layers of the skin sounds appealing, right?
But an abrasive scrub does more harm than good. The granules present in these scrub formulations are simply tearing and damaging your skin. And when your skin has micro-tears, it becomes more susceptible to sun damage, pollution, and environmental stressors.
So what is the safer alternative to abrasive scrubs? It’s the use of chemical exfoliants like salicylic acid.
Other best Salicylic Acid Face Washes & Cleansers We Reviewed
COSRX Salicylic Acid Daily Gentle Cleanser
This gentle salicylic acid cleanser COSRX has formulated is the best when it comes to eradicating dead skin cells that are otherwise very difficult to get rid of. Even in the case of irritated skin, the daily cleanser feels mild and effective.
A single tube of this lasts for almost half a year. That’s because you only need a teeny tiny amount for it to work. And work it definitely does because of the inclusion of acne-fighting beta-hydroxy acid.
COSRX Salicylic Acid Daily Gentle Cleanser Key Features
Formulated with botanical ingredients
A little goes a long way
Suitable for sensitive skin and hormonal acne
InstaNatural Acne Face Wash
InstaNatural’s acne treatment solution is a blend of salicylic acid and natural extracts. This effective combination treats and prevents clogged pores. And it does so by dissolving oil and impurities.
The formulation is powerful enough for keeping future blemishes at bay. A healthy complexion and nourished skin are inevitable. Thanks to the addition of aloe vera, oat extract, ginger extract, and willow bark extract.
InstaNatural Acne Face Wash Key Features
Works for acne and enlarged/blocked pores
Foaming gel formula
Salicylic acid for acne and Vitamin E for UV damage repair
Exposed Skin Care Facial Cleanser Acne Treatment
When the product title says “Acne Treatment” you know there’s salicylic acid present. After all, what other active ingredient is going to shrink and unclog those pores!
The facial cleanser is special in many ways. First off, it’s got pro-Vitamin B5 that regulates sebum production. Then there’s sage extract for preventing skin irritation and dryness.
Plus, it’s hypoallergenic and specially formulated to prevent blemishes on sensitive skin.
Exposed Skin Care Facial Cleanser Acne Treatment Key Features
Infused with olive leaf extract and salicylic acid
Soothing blend of pro-Vitamin B5 and sage extract
Hypoallergenic, soap-free, and gentle
Paula’s Choice Clear Pore Normalizing Cleanser
You can make Paula’s Choice your go-to choice if your priority is to get rid of clogged pores, acne, blackheads, dullness, redness, and an even skin tone. This cleanser has the capacity to eliminate all of that, along with excess oil and makeup.
It’s gentle for morning and evening routines. No amount of fragrances or parabens are added to spark skin sensitivities and trouble. Only science-backed, effective ingredients that target breakouts.
Paula’s Choice Clear Pore Normalizing Cleanser Key Features
Reduces the size of large pores and the severity of acne
Refreshing, acne-fighting gel formula
Only 0.5-percent salicylic acid, thus gentle for sensitive skin
Neutrogena Oil-Free Pink Grapefruit Acne Wash
Here’s yet another Neutrogena oil-free formula, but this one is infused with pink grapefruit. This particular ingredient, along with Vitamin C, helps in treating and preventing breakouts the most naturally and effectively.
You can even expect it to eliminate blackheads and blemishes. On top of that, there’s the exclusive MicroClear technology Neutrogena adds for dissolving oil and boosting the delivery and effectiveness of salicylic acid.
Neutrogena Oil-Free Pink Grapefruit Acne Wash Key Features
Rich and creamy lather
MicroClear technology to stimulate salicylic acid
Dermatologist-recommended acne treatment
La Roche-Posay Effaclar Medicated Gel Acne Face Wash
Effaclar by La Roche-Posay is a medicated acne face wash with the recommended amount of salicylic acid. And that is 2-percent. It effortlessly targets pimples, excess oil, whiteheads, and blackheads.
On daily use, the formula minimizes excess oil present on the surface of your skin by half. That means your skin is bound to feel much less oily all day long.
This medicated formulation is also very useful for exfoliation. Thanks to micro-exfoliating LHA that targets your oily zones and removes dirt and debris.
La Roche-Posay Effaclar Medicated Gel Acne Face Wash Key Features
Medicated face wash for acne breakouts
Cooling menthol effect on skin
Dermatologist-tested, fragrance-free, and paraben-free
Glytone Acne Self Foaming Cleanser
This salicylic acid-infused foaming cleanser is a non-irritating formula. So that those with sensitive skin can also make the most of its ability to control blemishes. The formulation clears up stubborn breakouts like acne, whiteheads, and blackheads.
But it works the best for managing your oily zones and moisturizing the dry areas. This is great news for those who have combination skin.
The nice, light fragrance is also of immense help if your skin type is edging a little toward delicate or sensitive.
Glytone Acne Self Foaming Cleanser Key Features
Non-irritating, self-foaming cleanser
Deep cleansing if you leave it on for 30 seconds
Clean, refreshing scent
Acne-Free Blackhead Removing Exfoliating Face Scrub
This exfoliating scrub doesn’t just have acne-fighting salicylic acid. It also contains charcoal and jojoba. The former offers excellent skin purifying properties to draw out dirt and impurities. As for jojoba, it moisturizes, hydrates, and soothes your skin the most naturally.
Maximum strength 2-percent salicylic acid does the job of addressing acne simply by getting rid of dead skin cells. Deep cleansing, pore clearing, blackhead removing, and acne fighting; these are all the skin benefits of using a natural exfoliating face scrub like this.
Acne-Free Blackhead Removing Exfoliating Face Scrub Key Features
Oil-soluble exfoliator salicylic acid
Moisturizing jojoba and purifying charcoal
Good for adult acne and sensitive skin
Obagi CLENZIderm M.D. Daily Care Foaming Cleanser
A light salicylic acid foaming face wash, CLENZIderm is an effective tool for unclogging pores and getting rid of dead skin cells. Before anything else, let me bring to your attention that it’s the most suitable for sensitive or irritated skin as well. All thanks to calming menthol.
Furthermore, allow me to also inform you that you’re looking at a face wash with salicylic acid and benzoyl peroxide. 5-percent of the latter is included to specifically target the source of your acne.
Obagi CLENZIderm M.D. Daily Care Foaming Cleanser Key Features
Light, foaming acne cleanser for daily use
Formulated with antimicrobial benzoyl peroxide
Cooling and calming menthol
Aveeno Clear Complexion Foaming Oil-Free Facial Cleanser
Aveeno body lotions are very popular for sensitive skin. So it should come as no surprise that the brand has its very own oil-free foaming facial cleanser as well. It’s gentle, no doubt, and helps in treating and preventing breakouts and blemishes.
But what’s so unique here is the inclusion of moisture-rich soy formula. And then come the labels oil-free, non-comedogenic, and hypoallergenic. This is typical of Aveeno, which is the best part.
Aveeno Clear Complexion Foaming Oil-Free Facial Cleanser Key Features
Gentle salicylic acid adult acne treatment
Infused with moisturizing soy extract
Highly recommended by dermatologists worldwide
Phisoderm Anti-Blemish Gel Cleanser
The final straw is a formulation devised to use on the face and body. The anti-blemish gel-based cleanser eliminates oil, makeup, and impurities without taking away your skin’s natural moisture protection. Not many cleansers can do that you know, let alone acne-fighting cleansers.
It’s a pH-balanced, non-irritating solution. The content of salicylic acid (2-percent) is safe, effective, and gentle. Even the fragrance is safe and suitable for sensitive skin. Yet it’s abundantly clean and refreshing.
Phisoderm Anti-Blemish Gel Cleanser Key Features
Medicated gel deep cleansing face wash
Rinses easily without leaving any tightness or residue
pH-balanced with a clean, refreshing scent
Garnier Pure Active Exfo-Brusher Face Wash
You know this formula is innovative immediately when you find out that it has ultra-soft flexi-bristles. The concentrated face wash combines with these 180 flexi-bristles to make your daily cleansing routine a transformative experience.
The deep cleansing action, no doubt, helps in getting rid of dead skin cells. And it also eliminates impurities present in your pores. But the way it soothes and exfoliates dry skin is the best part.
Garnier Pure Active Exfo-Brusher Face Wash Key Features
Consists of deep cleansing ultra-soft flexi-bristles
Excellent soothing and exfoliating properties
Suitable for flaky and dry skin
Now you know why salicylic acid ranks as the top acne-fighting ingredient in face washes. In fact, this beta-hydroxy acid also helps in treating conditions like psoriasis. After all, it gets rid of dead skin cells.
Without having to scrub your skin using harsh products, your complexion improves. And all bacteria, dirt, and excess oil that’s actually giving rise to acne in the first place also get eliminated. That’s the power of this highly dermatologist-recommended acne-fighting ingredient.
More Face Washes Product Reviews: