If you've ever dealt with acne, whiteheads, or blackheads, then you've likely heard of salicylic acid. It's an all-in-one acne-fighter that can zap zits quickly. Salicylic acid appears in all sorts of skin care products, and it works really well in face wash — especially if you have active whiteheads or deep-rooted blackheads. Salicylic acid helps dissolve all the gunk that causes clogged pores, so if congestion and pimples are a skin care concern of yours, it's worth trying out one of the best salicylic acid face washes.
Now it's important not to confuse salicylic acid with glycolic acid, because the two usually are spoken about in tandem. Glycolic acid exfoliates the top layer of the skin, which is helpful in reducing acne scars and sunspots. Salicylic acid, on the other hand, exfoliates as well. It's great at penetrating deeply into your skin, so in that sense, it's perfect for healing acne, as it gets at the root of the inflammation. These two products actually work great together, especially if you have oily or acne-prone skin. But if you're just looking to clear up a spot or two, or have super sensitive skin, then it's best to pick one and stick with it.
And for our purposes today, that one is salicylic acid. Ahead, you'll find five of the best salicylic acid cleansers on the market. Clear, healthy skin is just a click away.
1. Best Overall: La Roche-Posay Effaclar Medicated Gel Cleanser
Whether you have oily, acne-prone, or combination skin, La Roche-Posay Effaclar Medicated Gel Cleanser is a great choice. Gel cleansers are great for combination skin because they capture oil without stripping dry areas of hydration, and since this product comes from La Roche-Posay's Effaclar line — which is specifically formulated for people with acne and/or oily skin — it'll also work wonders for those types of complexions. It contains two percent salicylic acid to target oil and treat acne flare-ups instantly. And since it isn't too harsh, you can actually use this as your daily cleanser without risking dryness or sensitivity. That means you're not only clearing pimples, but you're preventing new ones from appearing, too. It'll also help regulate the over-production of sebum and make skin look less oily overall. Plus, it leaves your face feeling squeaky clean.
2. The Best For Serious Acne: Replenix Gly/Sal 2-2 Cleanser
Remember how we said that salicylic acid and glycolic acid work amazingly well together? That proof is apparent in Replenix Acne Solutions Gly/Sal Cleanser. It's a mix of two percent glycolic acid and two percent salicylic acid, creating a one-two punch of acne-fighting power. The glycolic acid buffs away dead skin cells, allowing the salicylic acid to penetrate your pores with ease. It helps regulate oil production while also helping to clear away any acne scars you may already have. Also, if you're dealing with all-too-common keratosis pilaris — those pesky red bumps that often appear on the back of arms and legs — the combination of these two acids makes the perfect treatment. This cleanser is best for oily to normal types.
3. The Best For Reducing Inflammation: Perfect Image Salicylic Deep Gel Cleanser
Salicylic acid is amazing for acne, but it can also cause redness in people who have more reactive skin. That's what makes Perfect Image Salicylic Acid Deep Cleanser such a win. Not only does it contain salicylic acid to eliminate bacteria, but it also contains tea tree oil, which is another amazing acne-fighter when applied topically. But the reason we really dig this cleanser is the green tea extract in its formula. It helps to soothe inflammation and keep red, irritated skin in check. So not only are you fighting pimples, but you're also helping to deflate them with the help of the antioxidant-rich green tea. Another cool thing about this product is how it expertly prepares the skin for a more even peel, so if you often get chemical treatments, you'll definitely want to keep a bottle of this around to use beforehand. It's also worth nothing that the brand does make its own peel, which helps treat everything from acne to hyper-pigmentation, and you can find that here.
4. For Folks With Sensitive Skin: Neutrogena Naturals Purifying Facial Cleanser
If you have sensitive skin and you're on a budget, you'll absolutely love Neutrogena Naturals Purifying Facial Cleanser. This daily cleanser contains natural salicylic acid derived from willow bark to remove dirt, oil, and makeup, creating clearer complexion in just one wash. But the beauty of this bottle is what it doesn't contain. Even though it's a drugstore product, the formula rivals what you'd find in a natural brand sold at Whole Foods. It's non-comedogenic, which means it doesn't clog pores, and it's free of sulfates, parabens, petrolatum, dye, and phthalates.
5. For A Thorough Double Cleanse: Stridex Maximum
Double cleansing is the technique by which you cleanse your skin twice. (Who would have thought?) You start with a gentle cleanser to remove your makeup, and then come in with something slightly more heavy-duty — like these salicylic acid pads . In just a few swipes, they exfoliate away dead skin and unclog pores to prevent and treat breakouts. These pads don't mess around, and they're perfect for folks who truly need help in the acne department. But don't expect too much drying, since they're alcohol-free. Because they come in pad (read: non-liquid) form, they're also a great option for travel, of course.
Though these maximum strength pads with 2 percent salicylic acid might be a bit too harsh for some, Stridex also makes a version for sensitive skin that contains only .5 percent salicylic acid, was well as skin-soothing aloe. These are also great for swiping on your chest and back to help prevent breakouts there.
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