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Cleanse Acne Away: The Perfect Cleanser

Start with good essentials.

Farhaad Riyaz, MD, FAAD
New York, NY

We all deal with pimples from time to time. For some they arise during puberty and persist; for others they start in adulthood. We all want to cure them for good. The foundation to tackling acne starts with cleansing your skin correctly. Cleansing might be the most important part of a daily routine. Why? Cleansers balance pH levels on your face and prevent pimples.

What to Look For

To find the perfect acne face wash, what matters most is the ingredients. Look for active ingredients such as Salicylic Acid, Glycolic Acid and Benzoyl Peroxide.

Salicylic Acid

It works in two ways: eliminating dead skin cells that can clog up pores and reducing blackheads and whiteheads.

Glycolic Acid

It exfoliates deep down to sweep away dead cells, so they can't mix with oil later on, which then leads to spots appearing. Plus, it has an antibacterial effect which is essential when aiming to control breakouts while they are still small before they become infected or inflamed themselves.

Benzoyl Peroxide

It works as an antiseptic to reduce the number of bacteria residing on your skin. When someone uses it on their skin, the benzoyl peroxide wipes out bacteria that cause pimples and blackheads; namely Propionibacterium acnes.

The next step is identifying your skin type. Beyond being susceptible to breakouts, your skin might be too oily, dry or sensitive for specific products. Once you know what you're up against and how to go about fighting it - then you can worry less.

Beyond being susceptible to breakouts, your skin might be too oily, dry or sensitive for specific products.

Oily Skin

  • Produces an excessive amount of sebum that leaves the skin feeling greasy and looking shiny–especially in areas like the forehead, nose and chin
  • Leads to bigger pores, acne blemishes and even more frequent breakouts
  • Makeup and skin care products refuse to stay where they're needed most–on our face

Dry Skin

  • Causes itchiness and irritation
  • Often dull and may become rougher, flakier or even more scaly
  • May feel tighter and less elastic than usual and has a tendency to show visible lines easily

Combination Skin

  • Includes both oily and dry parts of the face
  • The T-zone area will typically be oily while other parts of the face can either be dry or normal

Sensitive Skin

  • Turns red and burns whenever it comes in contact with something that irritates it–for example, dyes, fragrance or the lack of moisture

How to Choose a Cleanser

It's important to know which type you're looking for because picking the wrong kind could actually irritate your skin instead of clearing up acne or blackheads. 

With all the options that are out there nowadays, it can seem overwhelming–but don't worry! There are five types of cleansers: foaming/lathering, oil-based, clay, cream/milk based and water-based. Ever wonder what the differences are between these cleaning options? Here are the answers. 

Foaming Facial Cleansers 

These are a prime choice for getting rid of excessive oil buildup, deep cleansing pores and exfoliating the top layer of dead skin cells without over-drying.

Oil-based Facial Cleansers

If you aren't affected by acne and your skin is sensitive and constantly dry, this is one of the best options for you. Oil-based facial cleansers are light-weight and melt away waterproof makeup without leaving behind any residue or clogging pores. You can use it on either dry or wet skin after wiping off excess dirt. 

Clay Facial Cleansers 

Cleanse your skin with natural ingredients like clay–it gently removes away dirt, old skin cells, and impurities deep in your pores while also leaving behind vital vitamins. If you suffer from sensitive or oily skin; using clay cleansers on a daily basis will help to balance the amount of oil your face produces without irritating it. 

Cream-based Facial Cleansers

If you're looking for something gentle and moisturizing, then go for a cream cleanser. Creams are much kinder on your skin and won't leave it feeling tight after washing, unlike other types of facial washes.  

Water-based Facial Cleansers

These take away water-based impurities like dirt and sweat from your skin. Sensitive skin? Switching to water-based cleansers might make all the difference for you. 

The Best Face Washes for Acne

Cetaphil PRO Acne Prone Oil Control Foam Wash ($10 at the time of publication) @

DR.JART+ Dermaclear Micro pH Foam Facial Cleanser ($18 at the time of publication) @

Palmer’s Skin Therapy Cleansing Oil Face ($8 at the time of publication) @

PanOxyl Antimicrobial Acne Creamy Wash, 4% Benzoyl Peroxide ($9 at the time of publication) @

Paula’s Choice CLEAR Pore Normalizing Cleanser ($14 at the time of publication) @

Kiehl’s Ultra Facial Cleanser ($19 at the time of publication) @

Bioderma Sébium Gel Moussant ($17 at the time of publication) @

Neutrogena Oil-Free Acne Wash ($7.50 at the time of publication) @ is the digital authority on everything skin. The public and insiders alike follow daily as SkinScoop covers the latest trends and developments in skin health and beauty.