The 12 Best Face Washes for Acne in 2023

Bring on the benzoyl peroxide.

woman with acne washing her face
(Image credit: Getty)

Dealing with breakouts? The best spot treatments, retinol, and a non-comedogenic moisturizer are all important to have on hand, but your journey to clearer skin *really* starts when you use one of the best face washes for acne-prone skin. Board-certified dermatologist Dr. Adeline Kikam, aka @brownskinderm on TikTok, explains that a detoxifying cleanser lays a clean, de-gunked foundation for all of the acne-fighting products to follow. “It should help lift dirt like sweat, dead skin cells, and excess oil or sebum that often clogs pores and leads to acne breakouts,” she explains. “It also preps the skin to better absorb anti-acne ingredients in other skincare products that are a part of your regimen.” 

That all begs the question: How do you find the best face wash for acne? While you could spend countless hours scanning INCI lists for the right ingredients and testing products galore, we’ve done the hard work for you. Here, we’ve rounded up the best faces washes for acne that will target your breakouts—without stripping your skin. 

What to Look For

You’re going to want to keep an eye out for a few buzzy ingredients including, but not limited to, benzoyl peroxide, salicylic acid, and sulfur. While some cleansers will only highlight one of these ingredients, others will use a combination—each has a slightly different approach to targeting the root of acne. 

Dr. Kikam explains that benzoyl peroxide, for instance, is a mild anti-inflammatory ingredient that’s useful for whiteheads, blackheads, and irritation. “It penetrates deep into pores to unclog, control excess sebum, kill acne-causing bacteria, and treat and prevent acne lesions,” she says. Salicylic acid on the other hand is a type of beta-hydroxy acid (BHA) that focuses on exfoliation and getting rid of dead skin cells and excess oil that lead to blocked pores. Last, but certainly not least, is sulfur. “It has mild anti-bacterial and keratolytic properties, meaning it targets acne-causing bacteria and breaks down dead skin to unclog pores, treat, and prevent acne breakouts.”

The Best Face Wash for Acne

Meet the Experts

dr. kikam
Dr. Adeline Kikam, DO, Msc, FAAD

Dr. Adeline Kikam was inspired to become a dermatologist because of the struggles she faced with her own skin while growing up coupled with inaccessibility to dermatologic care. Combined, these experiences fueled her interest in decoding the vast and information-rich field that is dermatology as well as the desire to spread this wealth of knowledge. As part of this mission, Dr. Kikam launched Brown Skin Derm™ via social media at the beginning of her dermatology residency to fill the void of evidence-based information and candid, informative conversations. She’s leveraged social media to create a trusted space for expert-led skin care knowledge as well as highlight common dermatologic conditions and issues, providing greater access to care for melanin-rich skin and creating more equity in the skin care and beauty industries. She also lends her expertise and passion to advocating for improved representation of people of color in the larger discussion on skin care, ranging from information accuracy and accessibility to medical therapy and product formulation to consumer/patient engagement. In addition to discussing medical conditions, Dr. Kikam is experienced in the rapidly evolving world of aesthetic procedures, and she provides reviews on skin care products and features fellow dermatologists and organizations who offer resources for skin of color. Today, her followers are a diverse group of individuals hailing from all corners of the world, including Asians, Latinos, Africans, African-Americans, Middle Eastern, etc. Slowly but surely, the landscape of dermatology is changing and people of color everywhere are demanding to see themselves reflected in the way skin care is discussed. She recently contributed to a newly released comprehensive dermatology atlas that features common skin conditions presented across all Fitzpatrick skin types, a resource she never had during her medical training that is now available to all health care professionals. In 2022, she is launching SkinClusive Dermatology, an in-person and teledermatology clinic with a focus on medical, cosmetic, and hair restoration treatments as well as specialization in skin of color.

Dr. Elizabeth Houshmand

Dr. Elizabeth Bahar Houshmand is a double board certified dermatologist specializing in cutaneous laser surgery and the dermatologic care of patients with a special interest in Cosmetic Dermatology, Laser Medicine , Acne, Hair Loss, and Melasma. Dr. Houshmand’s completed her undergraduate degree as a Presidential Honors scholar from New York University and graduated medical school with prestigious clinical distinction honors. She completed an Internal Medicine Residency at Georgetown University Hospital and is Board Certified in both Internal Medicine and Dermatology. She completed her Dermatology Residency at Wright State University and served as chief resident. Dr. Houshmand received several prestigious scholarships through the WDS and ASDS has trained with pioneers in the field of cosmetic skin treatments and dermatologic surgery. She was selected by the AAD as one of three dermatology resident recipients of the prestigious AAD International Grant. She is an international speaker, trainer, author, and medical news correspondent and an internationally recognized leader in cosmetic dermatology. This varied educational background and training brings Dr. Houshmand’s wealth of knowledge on the newest and latest treatments in medical, surgical, and cosmetic dermatology to her patients.

Samantha Holender
Beauty Editor

Samantha Holender is the Beauty Editor at Marie Claire, where she reports on the best new launches, dives into the science behind skincare, and shares the breakdown on the latest and greatest trends in the beauty space. She's studied up on every ingredient you'll find on INCI list and is constantly in search of the world's glowiest makeup products. Prior to joining the team, she worked as Us Weekly’s Beauty and Style Editor, where she stayed on the pulse of pop culture and broke down celebrity beauty routines, hair transformations, and red carpet looks. Her words have also appeared on Popsugar,,,, and Philadelphia Wedding. Samantha also serves as a board member for the American Society of Magazine Editors (ASME). She first joined the organization in 2018, when she worked as an editorial intern at Food Network Magazine and Pioneer Woman Magazine. Samantha has a degree in Journalism and Mass Communications from The George Washington University’s School of Media and Public Affairs. While at GWU, she was a founding member of the school’s HerCampus chapter and served as its President for four years. When she’s not deep in the beauty closet or swatching eyeshadows, you can find her obsessing over Real Housewives and all things Bravo. Keep up with her on Instagram @samholender.