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22 Best Salicylic Acid Cleansers & Face Washes: Reviews & Buying Guide

by  Doris Harris -  Last Updated On 30th December 2020
The Best Salicylic Acid Face Washes & Cleansers

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Did you know that one skincare product helps both acne and psoriasis?

The best salicylic acid face washes and cleansers treat both conditions.

That’s because salicylic acid keeps pores clear and removes dead skin.

It improves your complexion without the need for scrubbing.

Salicylic acid also takes care of dandruff and keratosis pilaris.

Today, we’ll look at the best face washes and cleansers with salicylic acid.

We’ll see what they can do to help you look and feel your best.

What face wash do dermatologists recommend for acne?

Dermatologists recommend either salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide face washes for acne.

Benzoyl peroxide kills the bacteria that cause acne, but it can be a little harsh (1).

Meanwhile, salicylic acid is a beta hydroxy acid that unclogs pores and reduces inflammation.

Both treatments help eliminate acne.

Try one for a month. If you don’t see the improvement you desire, add the other product to your regime.

How often should I use a salicylic acid face wash?

If you’ve never used salicylic acid before, start slow.

Wash your face once a day with a salicylic acid cleanser.

If you don’t experience dryness or irritation, begin washing both morning and night with it.

It can also help to wash after you’ve perspired, like after exercise.

Be sure to use a good moisturizer to keep your skin healthy.

For which kind of acne is salicylic acid the best treatment?

Salicylic acid is best for removing and preventing blackheads and whiteheads (2).

It keeps pores from clogging and lessens inflammation.

If you have red pimples with pus, use benzoyl peroxide as a spot treatment.

How does salicylic acid help dandruff and psoriasis?

While you won’t want to use more than a 2% concentration on your face, you can get prescription treatments with a higher amount of salicylic acid (3).

Because it peels away dead skin, it’s excellent for loosening psoriasis scales and dandruff. It also battles warts (4).

The unpleasant side effects of salicylic acid

Over-the-counter face washes with salicylic acid generally won’t cause more than redness or dryness.

But shampoos with this ingredient could cause temporary hair loss by weakening the hair.

When you use salicylic acid, you need to remember to wear sunscreen to make you more sensitive to the sun.

And people that are allergic to aspirin or NSAIDs might be allergic to salicylic acid (5).

On the other hand, if you wish your complexion were less oily and prone to acne, you need to use a salicylic acid face wash.

22 Best Salicylic Acid Cleansers & Face Washes (2021 Update)

Now, let’s review the top salicylic acid face cleansers.

1. Neutrogena Oil-Free Acne and Redness Facial Cleanser

Neutrogena makes a variety of face washes with salicylic acid.

This one doesn’t just fight breakouts, but it also visibly decreases redness and calms irritation.

It has a proprietary technology called MicroClear that cuts through excess oil. Then it clears away impurities.

The formula also contains aloe and chamomile, which soothe and comfort the skin.

2. Neutrogena Pink Grapefruit Cream Facial Cleanser

If you like lather, this salicylic acid foaming face wash is a popular choice.

The perky grapefruit smell helps put a smile on your face while you wash away makeup and dirt.

It’s packed with Vitamin C to even skin tone and prevent premature aging.

3. Paula’s Choice CLEAR Pore Normalizing Cleanser

If you have sensitive skin, this cleanser has just 0.5% salicylic acid. It’s much more gentle than many other face washes we reviewed.

Happily, there are no artificial fragrances or parabens.

Remember that while you use salicylic acid, you need moisturizer and sunscreen. You can meet both requirements with Paulas Choice Ultra-Light Daily Fluid SPF.

4. Vichy Normaderm Daily Deep Cleansing Gel Cleanser

Rejuvenate your skin with this face wash with salicylic acid and glycolic acid.

Salicylic acid is a beta hydroxy acid that comes from willow bark (or a laboratory).

And glycolic acid is an alpha hydroxy acid that comes from sugarcane (or a laboratory).

Both ingredients are exfoliators. But while salicylic acid might dry out your skin, glycolic acid adds moisture.

The Normaderm cleanser is perfect for acne-prone skin as it purifies without causing irritation.

Ninety percent of the women who participated in a 4-week study said their skin was visibly healthier after using it every day.

The formula is free of alcohol, soap, and parabens.

5. Philosophy Clear Days Ahead Oil-Free Cleanser

Philosophy’s acne treatment cleanser has a 1% concentration. It’s mild yet effective.

One of the bonuses is the pleasant orange fragrance.

6. Bioré Charcoal Acne Clearing Cleanser

Blast away blemishes with Bioré’s charcoal cleanser. It has natural charcoal plus salicylic acid.

The recipe comes from Japanese skin purifying technology.

Even though it looks black when it comes out of the bottle, the cleanser foams white as it purifies your pores.

It leaves your skin tingly and soft.

They say that you’ll notice a positive difference in only two days.

7. Neutrogena Oil-Free Acne Stress Control Power-Cream Face Wash

Here’s another Neutrogena face wash for acne. It’s made to be used every day, even if you have sensitive skin.

It has cucumber and green tea to keep from irritating or drying out your skin. These ingredients soothe your complexion to prevent redness and that tight feeling.

On the downside, this cleanser has parabens and an artificial fragrance.

8. LAVO Glycolic Acid Face Wash for Acne-Prone Skin

LAVO’s face wash combines salicylic acid, lactic acid, and glycolic acid. The latter two are alpha hydroxy acids that exfoliate without stripping natural moisture.

Together, these three rejuvenate your complexion. They unclog pores and uncover fresh new skin underneath.

Instead of harsh ingredients, the cleanser has pineapple and papaya enzymes, watercress, lavender, and vitamins. And in the place of soap, it has soapwort extract. This ingredient breaks up oil naturally.

Try the product, and if you don’t love it, the company offers a full refund.

9. Glytone Acne Self-Foaming Cleanser

Glytone makes more than one kind of face cleanser. We selected this one as it has a 0.5% concentration of salicylic acid.

That amount makes for a mild cleanser that protects delicate skin. You can leave it on for 30 seconds for a deeper cleanse.

Another high point is that it foams up nicely and leaves the skin soft and smooth.

10. InstaNatural Acne Face Wash

InstaNatural’s acne cleanser isn’t just for your face – you can use it anywhere on your body to remove blemishes. That’s good news for clearing up that irritating bacne.

Instead of harsh sulfates and parabens, it contains gentle, naturally-derived ingredients. The label lists glycerin, aloe, orange peel oil, and oat kernel extract, among others.

If you have rosacea, be aware that it contains witch hazel, eucalyptus, and tea tree oil.

11. La Roche-Posay Effaclar Medicated Gel Acne Face Wash

The Effaclar Medicated Gel Wash is clinically proven to lower excess oil by up to 47%.

In other words, if you’re tired of blotting your face by midmorning, you need this product.

It contains 2% salicylic acid and a micro-exfoliating lipo-hydroxy acid. These clear up breakouts and prevent blemishes.

At the same time, cooling menthol refreshes your complexion.

Like other products from La Roche-Posay, it’s tested by dermatologists against common allergens. It’s also free of oils, parabens, and artificial fragrances.

12. Peter Thomas Roth Acne Clearing Wash 2% Salicylic Acid

Here is an acne-clearing cleanser that doesn’t leave any residue behind. Many users comment that their skin feels soft, not dry after washing with it.

The secret behind these positive results is 2% salicylic acid along with Pro-vitamin B5 and allatoin.

Be careful to keep it away from your eyes as it will burn.

13. Dermalogica Breakout Clearing Foaming Wash

Dermalogica’s Foaming Wash has a pleasant fragrance due to the orange peel extract and other botanicals.

Besides salicylic acid, it has lavender, tea tree, and tea leaf extract.

14. Neutrogena Naturals Purifying Daily Facial Cleanser

If you’re searching for a natural salicylic acid face wash, try this one from Neutrogena. It’s part of their Naturals line up that’s free of sulfates, parabens, phthalates, dyes, and petrolatum.

That’s right, 90% of what’s in the bottle comes from natural sources.

For example, the salicylic acid in it comes from willow bark, not synthesized in a laboratory.

15. Mario Badescu Acne Facial Cleanser

Mario Badescu designed the Acne Facial Cleanser to do a deep-cleanse on your face.

Besides salicylic acid, it has aloe, chamomile, and thyme.

While you probably know that aloe and chamomile balance and soothe the skin, you might not be aware of what thyme does.

It’s a natural clarifier that promotes clear skin and even color.

16. Murad Clarifying Cleanser

If you struggle with sensitive skin, consider Murad’s Clarifying Cleanser. It’s made for both oily and combination skin.

To prevent problems, it doesn’t have gluten, sulfates, parabens, or phthalates.

After just one use, your skin should look healthier.

The salicylic acid and green tea extract continue to protect your complexion for hours after you use it.

17. SkinMedica AHA/BHA Exfoliating Cleanser

SkinMedica’s cleanser acts as a scrub without the need for actual scrubbing.

Try this one if you have mature skin and you’d like to minimize fine lines and wrinkles.

It has salicylic acid and alpha hydroxy acids to clear away dead skin and open congested pores.

There are also tiny jojoba spheres that help with the exfoliating. They are biodegradable and melt away without harming the environment.

18. Neutrogena Deep Clean Daily Facial Cream Cleanser

Do you want to try salicylic acid, but you’re afraid it will dry out your face?

Then you need Neutrogena’s cream cleanser.

It’s not specifically an anti-acne face wash. Instead, it’s made to clear away blackheads and makeup.

It also resurfaces the skin to keep it fresh and healthy.

19. Clean & Clear Oil Absorbing Cream Facial Cleanser

One of the best drugstore salicylic acid face washes is the Clean and Clear Oil-Absorbing Cleanser.

It reduces shine throughout the day with Powder Particles that soak up excess oil.

You can enjoy it whether you have normal, combination, oily skin.

20. Solimo Oil-Free Acne Wash

This face wash is a knockoff of Neutrogena’s Pink Grapefruit cleanser. It’s a lot less expensive but doesn’t smell as nice.

It contains a 2% concentration of salicylic acid to fight breakouts.

The biggest complaint is simply an odd fragrance.

21. CeraVe Renewing SA Cleanser for Normal Skin

Would you like to clear away psoriasis or keratosis pilaris? Then try the Renewing Salicylic Acid Cleanser from CeraVe.

Instead of reducing oil and fighting acne, it concentrates on softening and smoothing the skin.

It features hyaluronic acid to add plenty of moisture. There’s also niacinamide to reduce redness.

Finally, it contains three essential ceramides to enhance the skin’s natural barrier against dryness and infection.

Fortunately, there is no artificial fragrance.

22. CeraVe Cleanser for Psoriasis Treatment

To heal psoriasis-prone skin or keratosis pilaris, you can also use this cleanser from CeraVe.

Again, it contains 2% salicylic acid plus ceramides and niacinamide.

It also has lactic acid to help loosen scales and restore moisture.

Also Read: 20 Best Face Masks for Oily Skin: Reviews & Guide


Salicylic acid is one of your best defenses against acne and blackheads.

Use a salicylic acid face wash to decrease oiliness and keep your skin clear.

It can also help you control psoriasis.

If you discovered your new favorite cleanser today, let us know about it in the comments below.


1. https://www.aad.org/when-acne-wont-clear

2. https://www.healthline.com/health/beauty-skin-care/salicylic-acid-vs-benzoyl-peroxide#benefits

3. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Salicylic_acid accessed

4. https://www.psoriasis.org/about-psoriasis/treatments/topicals/over-the-counter

5. https://www.webmd.com/drugs/2/drug-18-193/salicylic-acid-topical/salicylic-acid-for-acne-topical

One response to “22 Best Salicylic Acid Cleansers & Face Washes: Reviews & Buying Guide”

  1. Stephen says:

    Geologie’s Everyday Face Wash has 2% Salicylic Acid and a great light scent. Definitely the best product on the market for men looking for oil control.

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