The Best Face Washes For Acne-Prone Skin That Really Do Work

The key ingredients, skincare products and top tips to help tackle acne

Spot Skin Mirror

by Ellie Wiseman |
Updated on

Almost all of us have had our fair share of acne. In fact, according to the American Academy of Dermatology, 85% of people aged between 12 and 24 have experienced acne at least once in their lives. After this, adult acne is unfortunately just as common, making it pretty much a never-ending annoyance in our lives.

As there's no cure-all treatment for acne, the battle to keep it at bay is ongoing and can cause physical and psychological scarring. However, there are a lot of good practices you can employ to ease acne flare-ups: from introducing skincare ingredients into your regime to lifestyle and diet adjustments.

Finding a good, reliable cleanser that suits your skin type can be extremely beneficial when dealing with acne. Suffering from acne can also leave your skin feeling dry or oily and looking for a cleanser that keeps the skin feeling comfortable yet clean is important when tackling those pesky blemishes.

Discover a new favourite cleanser to add to your skincare routine. We have compiled our edit of cleansers designed to for those with acne-prone skin to keep skin cleansed and help improve the condition.

Read More: Breakout Breakdown: What Is Actually Causing Your Spots?


Face Washes For Acne-Prone Skin

The Inkey List Salicylic Acid Cleanser, £10.991 of 6

The Inkey List Salicylic Acid Cleanser, £10.99

Summary: Full of BHAs, The Inky List Salicylic Acid helps to not only unclog pores but minimise their appearance over time. If excess oil is the main cause of your acne, this cleanser will help regulate oil production and balance out your skin. Product Specification: This 150ml cleanser should be used morning and evening for full benefits. Using a small amount, apply to dampened face and neck. Once massaged in, rinse off with water and follow with a serum and moisturiser. Pros/Cons: It doubles up as a makeup remover - so not only does it help with reducing oil and removing excess sebum, but it also ensures your skin is clear of makeup products.

Paula's Choice Clear Cleanser2 of 6

Paula's Choice Clear Cleanser, £18

Summary: The gentle Clear Cleanser from Paula's Choice doesn't strip skin of natural moisture, but is able to lift impurities and dirt from pores. Featuring blemish-busting star, salicylic acid, this cleanser is perfect for calming redness and irritation. Product Specification: Available in 30ml and 177ml, for use in the morning and evenings. Splash your face with water, apply a small amount of the product to your skin in circular motions and rinse well. The process can be repeated to remove makeup. Pros/Cons: A lot of acne products can be drying for the skin, however this one replenishing and hydrating properties.

Kate Somerville Eradikate Clarifying Blemish Gel Cleanser3 of 6

Kate Somerville Eradikate Clarifying Blemish Gel Cleanser, £38

Summary: Control and minimise any active blemishes with this lightweight gel cleanser from Kate Somerville. This cleanser works wonders on those struggling with an oilier skin type as this cleanser gently regulates oil production by lightly exfoliating. With a blend of skin-loving ingredients like Salicylic Acid and Niacinamide, this cleanser promises to keep blemishes at bay and gently remove any clogged pores. Product Specification: This 120ml cleanser comes in a travel-friendly tub and can be used as a morning cleanse or after make-up has been removed. Pros/Cons: Keeps the skin feeling clear and refreshed without the worry of feeling dry.

Sand & Sky Oil Control Clearing Cleanser4 of 6

Sand & Sky Oil Control Clearing Cleanser, £26

Summary: Perfect for those with an oily skin type. This cleanser regulates excess oil production and targets any clogged pores. One of the main ingredients featured in this cleanser is Salicylic Acid designed to diminish and treat blemishes and keep the skin feeling calm. Product Specification: The 120ml cleanser also features probiotics to improve the skin's natural barrier and improve the condition of the skin. Pros/Cons: A refreshing cleanser designed to be used by those with oily skin rather than a drier skin type.

Oskia Renaissance Cleansing Gel5 of 6

Oskia Renaissance Cleansing Gel

Summary: A cleanser to melt away make-up and impurities whilst keeping the skin comfortable and soothed. With a blend of vitamins and omegas, this light cleansing gel moisturises the skin as it cleans. Dealing with acne-prone skin that also feels dry can be challenging but this cleanser is definitely one to try. Product Specification: The Renaissance Cleansing Gel is available in three different sizes and also contains pumpkin enzymes to gently exfoliate the skin, removing any build up of make-up and dead skin cells. Pros/Cons: Can be used in many ways, either apply directly onto dry skin to remove make-up and remove with a warm cloth or emulsify with water.

Herbivore Bamboo Charcoal Cleansing Bar Soap6 of 6

Herbivore Bamboo Charcoal Cleansing Bar Soap, £9.75

Summary: Yes, the £10 acne clearing cleanser that broke the beauty internet had to make an appearance in this list. A fuss-free, eco-friendly, detoxifying face wash, formulated with activated bamboo charcoal that draws out dirt and impurities. It does exactly what it says on the tin. Product Specification: The 113g detoxifying soap bar also contains tea tree oil and white clay. Lather the bar in water between your hands, and apply generously to your face. Repeat daily. Pros/Cons: It not only targets acne on the face, it can also be used to target any acne on the rest of your body.

Finding a good cleanser that tackles acne-prone skin is a crucial step in any skincare routine, but following up with products designed to improve the condition of blemishes and keep any acne at bay is equally as important. We've saved you the stress of hunting around for different products to use after cleansing and put together a selection of treatments to help calm any acne.


Best Treatments For Acne-Prone Skin

Avène ComedoMed1 of 8

Avène ComedoMed, £18.95

Summary: Avène's new cream regulates sebum production whilst reducing the appearance of active blemishes. In clinical trials, 90% of users reported clearer skin in just 7 days. Impressive. Product Specification: This 30ml moisturiser has plant-based ingredients to remove excess sebum and reduce blemishes, and is infused with soothing properties. Apply morning and/or in the evening after cleansing the skin. Pros/Cons: Reduces oiliness on the face, keeping the shine at bay throughout the day.

Odacité Gr+G Oily/Acne Prone Serum Concentrate (Grapeseed + Grapefruit), £322 of 8

Odacité Gr+G Oily/Acne Prone Serum Concentrate (Grapeseed + Grapefruit), £32

Summary: If French skincare and California green living had a baby, Odacité would be it. Fragrance, alcohol and paraben free, this all-natural (and vegan) brand should be on your radar anyway but for acne-prone skin, this serum should definitely be on your beauty shelf. Rich in linoleic acid, grapeseed oil and grapefruit oil, the serum gives you healthier, smoother-looking skin. Product Specification: This oil formula serum can be applied with a crème or alone if you are wanting a more intense treatment. Simply apply two to three drops to the palm of your hand, and massage into the skin. Pros/Cons: It calms down the redness of the skin, and helps to prevent future breakouts.

Kate Somerville EradiKate 3 of 8

Kate Somerville EradiKate, £24

Summary: Being one of Kate Somerville's bestselling products, EradiKate is formulated with the highest possible level of sulphur (10%) making it a strong and effective treatment to combat spots. Combined with our good friend salicylic acid, you can expect clearer, even skin. Product Specification: Ensure skin is thoroughly cleaned before using this product and apply one to three times a day. Application of the blemish treatment should only be on the affected areas. Pros/Cons: The product is adaptable to suit your skin - start by applying once a day, and increase application if necessary. The skin can become dry from the product so reduce the use back to once a day or even once every other day.

Sarah Chapman Liquid Facial Resurfacer, £454 of 8

Sarah Chapman Liquid Facial Resurfacer, £45

Summary: If harsh scrubs and exfoliation scares you, then a product with 'Facial Resurfacer' in its name probably makes you run for the hills. However, it gently dissolves dead cells, revealing smoother more radiant-looking skin, without leaving skin feeling tight. Whilst resurfacing, it also infuses the skin with vitamin C, E, allantoin and sodium hyaluronate, all ingredients known for moisturising and plumping skin. Product Specification: This product is a liquid formula that can be applied in the morning or evening by sweeping over the skin with a cotton pad. Using it corrects your complexion by reducing the redness and blemishes. Pros/Cons: As well as helping with acne, the liquid facial resurfacer can also help with different levels of ageing so it is ideal for those with adult acne.

Zitsticka Killa Kit, £275 of 8

Zitsticka Killa Kit, £27

Summary: A new entry into the acne eradicating market, Zitsticka Killa is a patch made for those angry under the skin spots that you feel brewing before they make a visible appearance. Stick one of these on and let the innovative self-dissolving microdarts do their job. Product Specification: It is a 16-piece kit, with eight swabs and eight patches. Simply use the sweep the swab across the spot, once that dries, place the patch on the spot and leave for two or more hours. For full benefits, leave it overnight to dissolve. Pros/Cons: The treatment for early stages of spots, to control it before it becomes problematic, and putting the patches on the skin will prevent you from picking.

Foreo Espada Blue Light Acne Treatment,6 of 8

Foreo Espada Blue Light Acne Treatment, £104.25

Summary: Thought blue light facials were reserved for over-the-top spas and dermatologists? Think again. Foreo is bringing this treatment to the comfort of your own home. The Espada uses the dual power of laser-focused blue LED light and T-Sonic pulsations to treat and heal acne-prone skin. Product Specification: The laser treatment is available in pink, magenta, and blue. To use - clean and dry your skin, press the button to activate and aim the red light onto the target area, blue light and pulsations will activate. Hold the light on the blemish for 30 seconds until the timer stops. Repeat up to four times per blemish. Pros/Cons: It takes longer to target blemishes but it is simple to use with long-lasting benefits.

Pixi Zero Zit, £167 of 8

Pixi Zero Zit, £16

Summary: A spot treatment that helps to minimise redness and inflammation and over time, reduces the potential of blemishes. It's affordable, it's got raving reviews and a little goes a long way. What's not to love? Product Specification: It is a lightweight and quick-absorbing formula. Simply apply to the affected areas before bed, and wake up to clearer skin. Pros/Cons: It only comes in a 10ml tube, but only a small amount needs to be applied to the skin.

Aesop Chamomile Concentrate Anti Blemish Masque8 of 8

Aesop Chamomile Concentrate Anti Blemish Masque, £33

Summary: Chamomile calms irritation and redness while the clay draws impurities to the skin's surface without leaving skin feeling tight and worse than before. Product Specification: Use this smooth clay mask twice a week to feel the advantages of it. Apply a generous layer of the product to cleansed skin, leave for 15 minutes and remove thoroughly. Pros/Cons: Despite not claiming to be a cure for acne, this masque is perfect for those who want to have a little pamper evening but have never been able to use a face mask for fear of breaking out.

What causes acne?

It's hard to explicitly categorise what causes acne, as different people will get flare-ups for a variety of different reasons. However, the main causes are believed to be associated with hormonal imbalances and menstruation. This is why teenagers will often experience a bout of acne as those are the years when oestrogen and progesterone levels are constantly shifting. These hormonal shifts can still occur throughout adulthood, so if you're getting pimples on your chin or your jaw, especially during menstruation, you can be sure to link the two.

Emotional stress is another big factor that can be held responsible for causing unwelcome acne flare-ups. A stressful period in your life can be the direct catalyst to getting more spots. According to, this is because stress causes an inflammatory response in the body, which leads to broken pores becoming red and filled with puss. (If you've ever experienced those painful spots or cysts, they're the nasty pimples that can be caused by stress.) It is very difficult to 'de-stress'. However, taking a positive approach to life and perhaps beginning to integrate meditation and yoga into your everyday routine are generally believed to help.

Diet can also negatively affect the skin's complexion. Many studies have linked acne breakouts to a Western diet, which is typically full of dairy, white carbs and refined sugars. Eating a diet that is completely opposite to this, i.e. colourful, fresh, raw fruits and vegetables, could ease acne flare-ups.

How To Get Rid Of Acne

When it comes to tackling acne, skincare is the first place to start; if you want to achieve clear skin it is imperative you have a good skincare routine. If you remember one rule it’s this: keep your skin clean. When you’re out and about all day, picking up germs from public transport, toilets and even your work desk, expect to create a breeding ground for germs if you then touch your face which could mean an abundance of pimples. So, don’t. Ever. Touch. Your. Face.

In terms of washing your face and cleaning away all of the day’s make-up and pollution build-up, acne-prone skin will benefit most from a skincare regime that is regular, won’t cause too much irritation, and most importantly will give the skin a thorough cleansing.

How do I choose a face wash for my acne?

Acne Ingredients To Look Out For And What They Do

There are certain ingredients that can help to clear acne and prevent future breakouts, which can be found in some skincare products. Scary-sounding, yes, but these are the agents you should look out for when shopping for a new face wash. (Note: everyone reacts differently to more potent chemical ingredients. These in particular are likely to irritate the skin in the first use or two before it becomes accustomed to them.)


Alpha hydroxy acids such as salicylic acid, lactic acid, and glycolic acid are used in products to treat acne. They work by drying up pimples, blackheads and whiteheads and causing the top layer of skin to peel off. Products containing AHAs may cause a mild tingling or discomfort to the skin. They can also cause skin to become super sensitive to UV rays, so it is advisable mostly overnight or worn with SPF.

Salicylic Acid

Salicylic acid is a beta hydroxy acid (BHAs). It is widely acknowledged as being an ingredient that is great for tackling acne. It is considered a keratolytic medication, which means it exfoliates inside the hair follicle to unclog the pores. As it's related to aspirin, which has anti-inflammatory properties, it also calms redness and can decrease inflammation.

Salicylic acid is extremely accessible and can be found in numerous face washes. However, it's not the best ingredient to use if you have really dry skin as it will dry out your skin further.

Benzoyl Peroxide

Benzoyl peroxide is a powerful, non-toxic, oxidizing agent which is used to tackle whiteheads, blackheads and larger lesions. It kills bacteria quickly and people can start to see results within days, but it can cause dryness and redness.

Different products may contain different amounts of Benzoyl Peroxide in them. 2.5 per cent, 5 per cent and 10 per cent are the strengths most common in topical skincare. Though the more concentrated they are, the harder they are to buy, especially over-the-counter. It should be noted that it can also bleach fabrics, so users should be careful when applying it.

Vitamin B3/Niacinamide

Vitamin B3 works to reduce inflammation and redness. Also known as niacinamide, it will also help to rejuvenate and even out skin tone.

Less harsh than AHAs, Vitamin B3 does not tend to irritate or dry out the skin. However, used with salicylic acid, for example, it is great at lightening pigmentation, strengthening the elasticity of the skin and improving its overall appearance.

Vitamin A/Retinol

Similar to Vitamin B, Vitamin A (also known as retinol) has been proven to have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Retinol works to remove excess oil and decrease the amount of oil the skin is producing so that pores become unclogged and pimples don't arise.


Used on its own or with other agents such as salicylic acid, sulfur is considered to be successful in treating dermatological conditions such as eczema and psoriasis, and especially acne. Taken topically, sulfur helps to remove dead skin cells and excess oil as well as kill acne bacteria, so that pores become more clear and breakouts are less common.

Can face wash cause acne?

Using a face wash does not necessarily cause acne, but it can cause a slight breakout after first use. This is because your skin needs to adapt and get used to the products you are using. Your skin will need to rebalance if there is a change in pH, this is completely normal and your skin will adjust accordingly to help reduce your acne.

Does washing your face help acne?

Washing your face daily will help to improve your acne as it removes any dirt, oil, makeup or sweat from your skin and pores. It is key to keep your skin clean regularly because any excess sebum can cause breakouts. Using a face wash in the evening can be beneficial to get rid of any makeup on the skin before you go to bed - your skin rejuvenates and repairs overnight so it is prime time to have clean skin.

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