The 5 Best Salicylic Acid Face Washes

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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. When shopping for the best salicylic acid face washes, choose a formula that addresses your skin care concerns, whether you're looking to clear acne, redness, or psoriasis. A face wash with naturally derived ingredients can be a good fit for sensitive skin, while salicylic acid pads offer a convenient way to double cleanse.

Salicylic acid helps dissolve all the gunk that causes clogged pores, so salicylic acid face washes can be great for addressing congestion and pimples. 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.


The Best For Serious Acne: Replenix Gly/Sal 2-2 Cleanser

Remember how I 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 2% glycolic acid and 2% 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.

Positive Amazon review: "I’ve struggled with acne my entire life. I’ve been on meds, creams, accurate, etc. I love this cleanser. Makes my skin feel clean and soft, without being [too] drying!"


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.

Positive Amazon review: "I bought this to try for my troubled skin and love how it cleans my skin and how soft my skin feels after when I'm done washing it. Love it."


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.

Positive Amazon review: "Great product and love it ! I’ve been using this product for years and refuse to try anything else. I have sensitive skin and hormonal acne so this product works wonderful with this those issues."


The Best For Psoriasis: CeraVe Cleanser For Psoriasis

Specifically formulated for people with psoriasis, this CeraVe Cleanser contains 2% salicylic acid to reduce itchiness and irritation, as well as niacinamide to help soothe inflammation and balance your skin. Plus, the formula offers ceramides help to boost hydration and lactic acid to exfoliate away dryness. While plenty of reviewers have used this as a face wash, it's also safe to use as a body wash — and on non-psoriasis-related dry, flaky skin, too.

Positive Amazon review: "I have suffered from plaque psoriasis on my face, neck, ears and scalp for years. I’ve tried EVERYTHING from natural remedies and including pills and prescription strength ointments. [...] my plaques are GONE!! I still have a little redness where the plaques used to be, but 98% less itching and no scales or flakes!! I’m honestly shocked."


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% salicylic acid might be a bit too harsh for some, Stridex also makes a version for sensitive skin that contains only 0.5% salicylic acid, was well as skin-soothing aloe. These are also great for swiping on your chest and back to help prevent breakouts there.

Positive Amazon review: "Use one every night after I wash my face it takes off all the makeup that I missed with my cleanser. And helps with break outs. Do not find it [too] drying. Absorbs quickly."

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