8 congestion-clearing face washes for fighting acne
Outta here, oil
By Delaney Loane
Digital Beauty Editor / June 16 2022
When it comes to the (frustrating) fight against acne, there’s no greater ally than a truly fantastic face wash. Clean skin is the first step toward clear skin, after all.
But that’s just the thing: not every face wash you spy on the shelves/sites you’ve been scouring is worthy of said ‘truly fantastic’ status; the label comes with a lengthy list of ‘musts’.
Of course, first and foremost, a formula has to be able to effectively cleanse, but one that strips the skin of too much moisture in the process will only lead to oil overproduction, hence exacerbating the cycle. And yet, on the other end of the spectrum, go too hydrating or rich and you’re also only adding to the problem.
You don’t want anything with a physically exfoliating texture that’ll disrupt the acne to the point of further irritation, and yet you also can’t let pimples simply pustulate in peace (sorry, we had to). Basically, while choosing your face wash fighter is an essential part of the acne-fighting process, it’s definitely not an easy one.
Well, that’s where we come in – we’ve rounded up options that aren’t too rich, too rough, too stripping or too gentle; they strike the perfect balance between all of the extremes to try and get that same balance back into your complexion.
The general vibe? Purifying formulas (mostly containing salicylic acid or the like) with enough soothing elements to help your skin steer clear of inflammation. Here are the best face wash buys that fit that exact brief...
Murad Blemish Control Clarifying Gel Cleanser
This cleansing gel contains two types of blemish-fighting salicylic acid, one that immediately hits the skin to dissolve oil and debris on the surface and one that sticks around to continue purifying pores once the water's all washed away. Another pro? It also features green tea to keep your freshly-cleansed skin calm.
$48 at Sephora
La Roche-Posay Effaclar Foaming Gel
Want to eliminate excess sebum without triggering dryness (and hence the vicious cycle of more sebum)? Add this wash to your shower shelf. It leaves the face fresh but not stripped, tightening the appearance of pores and soothing skin with a serving of thermal spring water.
$27.95 at Adore Beauty
Paula's Choice Clear Pore Normalising Cleanser
A gel formula specifically formulated to avoid the pesky flaking and dryness that many acne products cause, its silky-feel formula is able to dive deep into the dermis to rid pores of congestion, taking the iffy oils with it but not draining skin of the good kind of moisture.
$20 at Paula's Choice
Neutrogena Oil-Free Acne Wash Pink Grapefruit Facial Cleanser
A long-time balancing fave of the beauty community, this bargain buy pore-cleansing wash is devoted to clearing breakouts (blackheads included) while still hitting your complexion with a tone (and mood)-brightening dose of pink grapefruit.
$12.99 at Chemist Warehouse
Bioderma Sebium ACTIF Foaming Gel Cleanser
Salicylic and glycolic acids together in one wash? Blemishes barely stand a chance. Those two congestion-clearing heavy-hitters take care of the deep cleaning duties, refining texture and balancing bacteria, with caprylyl-capryl-glucoside working away in the background to ensure skin's pH level isn't upset.
$28 at Sephora
CeraVe SA Smoothing Cleanser
There's not a skin concern you can't trust CeraVe to take care of, and this smoothing cleanser is their range's blemish-fighting hero. It blends salicylic acid (to purify), niacinamide (to soothe) and ceramides (to strengthen), simultaneously keeping up the brand's commitment to not disrupting the skin's barrier.
$14.39 at Chemist Warehouse
Dermalogica Clearing Skin Wash
A non-irritating, naturally foaming cleanser designed to do just what its name suggests (clear), this formula houses salicylic acid (to slough off congestion-causing dead skin cells) as well as antiseptic extracts of balm mint, eucalyptus and tea tree to restore serenity and balance.
$62 at Adore Beauty
SkinB5™ Australian Botanicals Cleansing Mousse
Able to strike a dynamite balance between purifying, hydrating and soothing, this cleansing mousse is a great one to keep in your blemish-fighting, balancing repertoire. With salicylic acid, glycerin and Kakadu plum all in the mix (plus an array of other anti-acne botanicals), it'll get to work on delivering clear, clean, hydrated and glowy skin with every wash.
$43.90 at ChemPro