10 best salicylic acid facial cleansers for acne-prone skin in 2023

Maintaining the health of acne-prone and oily skin is no child’s play. It’s a full-time job with your skin asking for constant care and attentive indulgence in beauty products to avoid worsening its condition. However, just like how there’s always a solution for everything in life, there’s also one for all your oily skin and acne concerns — salicylic acid cleansers.

A chemical exfoliant beta-hydroxy acid (BHA), salicylic acid is derived from the bark of willow trees. It is an oil-soluble natural ingredient that’s a great exfoliator and is considered to be a game changer for people with acne and related oily-skin issues. It is commonly used topically in the form of over-the-counter skincare products (approved up to two percent by the FDA) and can be incorporated into your skincare routine in the form of a face serum, peeling solutions, toners and face masks, among others.

However, one of the best and safest ways to harness the benefits of this BHA is by using a salicylic acid-based face wash, especially if you are a beginner. It not only ensures a shorter skin contact (when compared to toners and serums) but while cleansing your face, you’d be literally rinsing off the dead skin cells, which is an added advantage. But before finding out more about some of the best salicylic acid face washes, let’s understand why it is an important item among your skin care products.

Benefits of using salicylic acid cleansers

Salicylic acid face washes works by penetrating deep into your pores and cleaning them of impurities, excess oil and acne-causing bacteria. This not only regulates oil production but also reduces active acne and helps in preventing future breakouts.

It also exfoliates the skin by sloughing off the dead skin cells, which in turn lends you an even-toned complexion and texture. This also means reduced dark spots, blemishes and acne scars.

Furthermore, salicylic acid is also an anti-inflammatory that alleviates acne-induced redness and calms your itchy and irritated skin.

Who should use salicylic acid?

While people with normal or combination skin can also incorporate salicylic acid in their skincare routine sometimes, people with oily and acne-prone skin benefit the most from this ingredient. It is generally not recommended for dry and sensitive skin types as it can lead to irritation, excessive dryness, redness and even skin peeling in extreme cases.

(Hero and featured image credit: puhhha/Getty Images)

10 best salicylic acid cleansers for your skin today:

Formulated with salicylic acid, a calming botanical blend and thyme extract is the Mario Badescu Acne Facial Cleanser that deeply cleans and clarifies your skin. Ideal for oily, combination and acne-prone skin, this face wash has both exfoliating and balancing properties that promote a fresh and healthy-looking skin. It gently yet effectively cleanses pores to target skin concerns like acne and excess oil. It is vegan, cruelty-free and also made sans gluten.

Image: Courtesy Revolve

Formulated with 0.5 percent salicylic acid, the Pore Normalizing Cleanser by Paula’s Choice gently fights acne, unclogs pores and removes impurities and makeup effortlessly. It does not dry out the skin or cause redness and irritation. Additionally, its gel texture is refreshing and calming, which leaves you with soothing skin.

Image: Courtesy Paula’s Choice

Meant for combination to oily skin types, this salicylic acid face wash effectively rids the skin of all impurities, makeup, dirt and grime. It is a cream-textured rinse off cleanser that’s formulated with purifying Alpine herbs, organic Meadowsweet extract and blue salicylic acid granules. Together, these ingredients ensure clean pores and a rejuvenated, shine-free skin. The presence of naturally lathering organic Saponaria keeps the blend soap and SLS-free.

Image: Courtesy Clarins

The Murad Acne Control Clarifying Cleanser ensures clean pores and diminished acne even after it has been rinsed off. Ideal for oily, combination and sensitive skin, this cleanser is formulated with two types of salicylic acid — a free form that starts working immediately and an encapsulated form that works even post-rinse. The blend also consists of green tea extract that helps soothe and calm skin irritation.

Image: Courtesy Murad

A salicylic acid-based face wash, the Cosrx Daily Gentle Cleanser is a nourishing wash that treats and prevents breakouts. The formulation also includes a potent blend of willow bark water and tea tree oil. Apart from deeply cleansing the skin, this face wash also replenishes it and gives a soft, visibly clearer and glowing complexion.

Image: Courtesy Cosrx

This targeted exfoliating cleanser will do the heavy lifting without drying out your skin excessively. Featuring a 12-percent concentration of key ingredients like lipo-hydroxy acid, glycolic acid, salicylic acid, glycerin, and sorbitol, the facial cleanser works hard to remove excess oils and makeup, while decongesting pores. The deep cleansing gel also brightens the skin over time for radiance.

With three acids working in tandem, this cleanser works hard to eradicate texture and uneven skin tone without causing the irritation that one can get with acid-infused skincare. Infused with calming ingredients, it effectively removes impurities and excess oil to reveal smoother, and more refined complexion.

In for a refreshing cleanse? Then try out this cleanser, which is enhanced with peppermint and eucalyptus leaves. On top of that, this cleanser is powered by both AHAs and BHAs to gently exfoliate the skin, leaving the skin feeling super soft and smooth.

Known for its powerful “liquid gold” toner, this Alpha-H cleanser is a great but gentle way of introducing acids into your skincare routine. For those with an oily skin type, the gel formulation suds up nicely to remove excess oil while flushing out any congested pores to reveal cleaner and more refreshed skin.

While many cleansers that feature salicylic acid tend to be made of gel textures, this one is formulated for those with sensitive or dry skin. This ultra-gentle cleansing milk uses hydrating coconut milk as its base—which acts as an effective cleanser that works to remove makeup, oil, and other impurities. The acid acts as a bonus element that unclogs pores and increase cell turnover, resulting in clearer, softer skin.

This story first appeared on Lifestyle Asia Singapore.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Question: Is salicylic acid good for acne?

Answer: Yes, salicylic acid greatly helps in reducing acne and preventing further breakouts. As an exfoliator, it also unclogs pores and sloughs off dead skin cells, keeping your skin clean. Using a salicylic acid face wash makes for a crucial first step that you’d want to take to treat your acne.

Question: Is salicylic acid good for oily skin?

Answer: Salicylic acid makes for a key ingredient in skincare products meant for oily skin. Some of the most common concerns of oily skin are excess sebum, clogged pores and acne. And this BHA helps in managing such issues by exfoliating deeply and regulating the production of oil.

Question: Does salicylic acid brighten skin?

Answer: Salicylic acid is not a lightning agent but an exfoliating one. However, owing to its exfoliating properties, it enhances the radiance of the skin while removing dead skin cells and promoting cell turnover. This leads to reduced hyperpigmentation, which gives you a more even and brighter complexion.

Question: Does salicylic acid remove dark spots?

Answer: Yes, salicylic acid helps in reducing dark spots, acne marks and blemishes.

Question: Can I use salicylic acid daily?

Answer: While you should introduce salicylic acid gradually into your skincare routine (starting two to three times a week), you can use a salicylic acid face wash that has a low percentage of the ingredient twice daily.

Question: Are there any side effects of using salicylic acid?

Answer: Salicylic acid is considered safe overall. However, when not used in moderation it can cause skin stinging, irritation, itching and peeling skin, especially when starting its use. You should always consult your dermatologist before trying out any new skin care ingredient or do a patch test to check how your skin reacts to it. Also, when using salicylic acid, avoid using retinol-based skincare products along with it.

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