Best Salicylic Acid Face Wash: Top Picks for Clear Skin in 2023

By Fani

Salicylic acid face washes are a valuable addition to any skincare routine, offering effective solutions to various skin concerns. They’re particularly beneficial for those suffering from acne and excess oil, providing gentle exfoliation that helps to unclog pores and reduce inflammation. Incorporating a salicylic acid cleanser into your daily skincare regime can improve your skin’s overall appearance and feel.

Derived from willow bark, salicylic acid is a long-time, trusted ingredient in topical skincare products. It is a beta-hydroxy acid (BHA) with anti-inflammatory properties that penetrate deep into the skin, dissolving dead skin cells and breaking up sebum. This makes it a must-have for people dealing with acne-prone or oily skin, as it helps prevent breakouts before they even begin.

When choosing the best salicylic acid face wash, it’s essential to consider factors such as concentration, additional active ingredients, and compatibility with your skin type. A well-formulated product will contain an appropriate salicylic acid concentration, typically between 0.5% and 2%, to deliver noticeable results without causing irritation. It’s also worth looking for complementary ingredients, like calming aloe vera or pore-refining witch hazel, to enhance the effectiveness and soothing qualities of your chosen cleanser.

We put our expertise to work and spent numerous hours researching and testing various salicylic acid face washes to identify the top-performing options that offer you clear and healthy skin. With the right choice, tackling that stubborn acne and excess oil will no longer be a chore, but an enjoyable part of your daily routine.

Best Salicylic Acid Face Washes

We have compiled a list of the best salicylic acid face washes to help you achieve clear and healthy skin. Enjoy our top picks and find the perfect one for your skincare routine.

CeraVe SA Cleanser

A must-try face wash for those seeking gentle exfoliation and hydration with salicylic acid.


  • Effectively exfoliates and promotes radiant skin
  • Hydrates and cleanses without causing tightness
  • Suitable for various skin types, including acne-prone and psoriasis


  • May not suit ultra-sensitive skin
  • Some may find the texture overly foamy
  • Smaller size than expected

We recently tried the CeraVe SA Cleanser, and we’re pretty impressed by its effectiveness. Unlike physical face scrubs, this gentle face wash uses salicylic acid as a chemical exfoliant which feels less harsh on the skin. It dispenses as a clear gel and transforms into a foaming cleanser that leaves our skin feeling soft and refreshed.

What sets this product apart is its blend of hyaluronic acid, niacinamide, and ceramides that provide additional hydrating and skin barrier maintenance benefits. This formula is excellent for those with acne-prone, oily skin, and even those battling with psoriasis. Our skin felt clean but not stripped or tight after using this cleanser.

However, it might not be the best option for those with ultra-sensitive skin due to its exfoliating properties. Some of us also felt that the foam texture can be a bit too much, but that’s an individual preference. One thing to note is that the product size is smaller than expected. Despite these minor drawbacks, the CeraVe SA Cleanser is an excellent choice for those seeking a gentle option for exfoliating and hydrating their skin.

Neutrogena Oil-Free Salicylic Acid Pink Grapefruit Pore Cleansing Acne Wash

Experience clearer skin in just one week with this refreshing, acne-fighting face wash.


  • Effectively fights breakouts and blackheads
  • Contains naturally derived grapefruit extract and vitamin C
  • Rinses clean without over-drying skin


  • Potential for irritation in sensitive skin
  • Strong grapefruit scent may not be appealing to everyone
  • Pump dispenser may not work well for some

We recently tried the Neutrogena Oil-Free Salicylic Acid Pink Grapefruit Pore Cleansing Acne Wash, and were impressed with how our skin felt and looked after just one week of use. The Micro-Clear technology and maximum strength salicylic acid worked together to break down acne-causing oil, leaving our skin feeling fresh and looking clearer.

One of the notable aspects of this facial cleanser is the addition of naturally derived grapefruit extract and vitamin C. The combination of these ingredients gives a refreshing sensory experience while using the product. The uplifting pink grapefruit scent is invigorating, but could be overpowering for those sensitive to fragrances.

While this face wash powerfully fights breakouts and blackheads, it is gentle enough for everyday use, as it doesn’t over-dry the skin. However, for individuals with particularly sensitive skin, this formula may cause irritation around the nose and other areas. We suggest testing a small patch on your skin before committing to daily use.

The Neutrogena Oil-Free Salicylic Acid Pink Grapefruit Pore Cleansing Acne Wash definitely offers promising results, but as with any skincare product, individual results may vary. If you’re looking to combat acne and blackheads without over-drying your skin, we recommend giving this face wash a try. But, keep in mind the potential for irritation if you have sensitive skin.

CeraVe Face Wash Acne Treatment

We believe this product is a great choice for those seeking an effective treatment for acne and oily skin.


  • 2% Salicylic acid to treat acne and exfoliate
  • Gentle, foaming gel-to-foam cleanser experience
  • Fragrance-free, paraben-free, and non-comedogenic


  • Pump dispenser may dispense soap awkwardly
  • On the more expensive side
  • Might not work for all skin types

We recently tried out the CeraVe Face Wash Acne Treatment and found it to be an effective solution for treating acne and reducing the appearance of pores. The 2% salicylic acid content ensures gentle exfoliation and helps prevent new breakouts, while the hectorite clay effectively absorbs excess oil and reduces shine. What’s more, the inclusion of ceramides and niacinamide helps maintain the skin’s natural barrier and calms the skin.

The gel-to-foam cleanser is easy to lather and leaves our skin feeling clean and smooth, without stripping away natural moisture. The fragrance-free formula is an added bonus, particularly for those of us with sensitive skin or who prefer to avoid artificial scents in our skincare products. CeraVe, developed with dermatologists, continues to create reliable and high-quality products that cater to various skin types.

Despite the effectiveness of this face wash, we did notice that the pump dispenser can be a bit tricky to use, as it sometimes squirts soap irregularly where it connects to the tube. Additionally, the product’s price may be a bit steep for some consumers. Lastly, it’s important to note that this product may not work for all skin types, so it’s best to consider your own skin’s needs and reactions to different ingredients.

Overall, we recommend the CeraVe Face Wash Acne Treatment for those struggling with acne and oily skin. It provides a gentle, yet effective treatment to help maintain clear and healthy skin.

Amazon Basics Renewing Salicylic Acid Cleanser

This cleanser is worth trying for its gentle, fragrance-free formula and effectiveness in cleaning oily skin.


  • Gentle foaming formula with Salicylic Acid
  • Softens and smooths skin
  • Fragrance-free and antioxidant-rich


  • Not suitable for very dry skin
  • Bottle and pump size could be bigger
  • Results may vary for Salicylic Acid effects

After using the Amazon Basics Renewing Salicylic Acid Cleanser, we noticed that our normal to oily skin felt softer and smoother. The product’s gentle foaming formula with Salicylic Acid effectively exfoliated the skin without causing irritation. We appreciated that it was fragrance-free, which made it suitable for sensitive skin types as well.

As we continued to use the cleanser, we observed that it helped remove dirt and oil. The inclusion of essential ceramides and Vitamin D provided additional antioxidant benefits, which contributed to maintaining our skin’s overall health. However, it is worth noting that some users with very dry skin might find this cleanser a bit too drying.

Despite performing well overall, we felt that the product’s bottle and pump could be bigger for improved convenience. Some users might not notice drastic effects from the Salicylic Acid component, but our experience showed that it works well for normal to oily skin types.

In conclusion, if you are looking for a gentle and fragrance-free cleanser that softens and smooths oily skin, the Amazon Basics Renewing Salicylic Acid Cleanser could be the right choice. Just keep in mind that it may not be suitable for every skin type, and you might want to consider a more hydrating option if you have very dry skin.

La Roche-Posay Effaclar Medicated Gel Facial Cleanser

We highly recommend this face wash for anyone struggling with acne-prone and oily skin, as it effectively clears breakouts while controlling oil production.


  • Effectively clears acne breakouts
  • Suitable for sensitive skin
  • Oil-free and fragrance-free


  • A bit expensive
  • Packaging may leak
  • Can be slightly drying for some users

We recently tried the La Roche-Posay Effaclar Medicated Gel Facial Cleanser and were truly impressed with its effectiveness in tackling acne and controlling oily skin. Its unique formula, containing salicylic acid, provided a gentle yet thorough cleansing experience suitable even for our sensitive skin. Our face felt refreshed and considerably less oily after each use.

One aspect we noticed and appreciated about this cleanser is its oil-free and fragrance-free composition. This makes it a perfect choice for people with delicate and sensitive skin or those who simply prefer to avoid unnecessary added fragrances.

However, while the product itself performs exceptionally well, there were a few drawbacks that we encountered. Firstly, the cleanser is slightly more expensive compared to other salicylic acid face washes on the market. Secondly, some users may find the packaging prone to leakage, which can be bothersome. Finally, a few of our team members with dryer skin types experienced mild tightness and dryness after use.

Overall, the La Roche-Posay Effaclar Medicated Gel Facial Cleanser is an excellent choice for those who have acne-prone and oily skin. Despite the few cons we mentioned, its benefits far outweigh any limitations, making it well worth your consideration.

Paula’s Choice CLEAR Pore Normalizing Cleanser

An effective acne-fighting face wash that works for all skin types without causing excessive dryness.


  • Gently cleanses and fights acne without over-drying
  • Refreshes and soothes all skin types, even sensitive skin
  • Improves skin tone and texture


  • Can be slightly drying for some individuals
  • May not provide instant results
  • Unscented formula might not appeal to everyone

We recently tried out Paula’s Choice CLEAR Pore Normalizing Cleanser and were quite pleased with the results. The face wash includes salicylic acid (BHA), which helps dissolve pore-clogging impurities and prevent acne breakouts, blackheads, redness, and uneven skin tone. We appreciate the soothing gel texture, as it refreshes and calms skin without causing irritation.

When using this cleanser twice daily in our morning and evening skincare routine, we notice that it effectively removes dirt, makeup, and excess oil without stripping the skin of its natural moisture. We recommend following up with your favorite Paula’s Choice toner, exfoliant, serums, spot treatment, and moisturizer for optimal results. And don’t forget to use sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher during the daytime!

The Paula’s Choice Skincare collection delivers science-backed, fragrance-free, and paraben-free formulas, making it a reliable choice for those with acne or blemish-prone skin. While some users might experience slight dryness from the salicylic acid, most will find the CLEAR Pore Normalizing Cleanser to be a safe, effective, and gentle solution for clearer, healthier skin.

Bioré Witch Hazel Pore Clarifying Acne Face Wash

We think Bioré Witch Hazel Pore Clarifying Acne Face Wash is a brilliant choice for those with acne-prone, oily skin looking for a deep cleanse.


  • Effectively removes 99% of blemish-causing dirt and oil
  • Contains 2% salicylic acid for acne treatment
  • Refreshing and cooling formula for a pleasant experience


  • Not suitable for sensitive skin types
  • Can be drying if overused
  • Requires daily use for clearer skin results

The Bioré Witch Hazel Pore Clarifying Acne Face Wash, with its 2% salicylic acid formulation, impressed us with its ability to reduce acne breakouts and blackheads. The cooling formula not only works as a great salicylic acid acne treatment, but it also serves to deep clean by removing 99% of blemish-causing dirt and oil. The exfoliating facial cleanser is perfect for those who struggle with oily skin and unwanted breakouts.

One important thing to keep in mind is that this product may not be ideal for sensitive skin types. It is a powerful cleanser, and using it excessively can cause dryness. We recommend using it in moderation and following up with a good moisturizer. For the best results, it’s essential to use the cleanser daily, which may be a downside for some who prefer not to commit to daily usage.

In conclusion, the Bioré Witch Hazel Pore Clarifying Acne Face Wash is an excellent choice for acne-prone, oily skin looking for a deep cleanse that reduces breakouts. If you’re looking for a powerful solution to tackle blemishes and have a refreshing, cooling experience, this product is worth considering. Just remember to use it in moderation and follow up with a moisturizer to counteract any potential dryness.

Buying Guide

When looking for the best salicylic acid face wash, it is essential to consider a few factors to ensure that you are choosing a product that will suit your skin type and address your skin concerns effectively. In this buying guide, we will walk you through these considerations, ensuring you make the best choice for your skin.

Concentration of Salicylic Acid

Salicylic acid concentration plays a crucial role in determining the effectiveness and suitability of a face wash. For those with sensitive skin, a lower concentration (0.5% to 1%) is recommended to avoid irritation. If you have oily or acne-prone skin, opt for a face wash with a higher concentration (1.5% to 2%) to help unclog pores and clear out excess sebum.


The ingredients in the face wash must be carefully examined. Look for products that contain natural, soothing elements such as aloe vera, chamomile, or green tea. These ingredients can help calm the skin and prevent irritation. Additionally, avoid face washes that contain harsh chemicals, fragrances, or alcohol as these can cause unnecessary irritation and dryness.

PH Balance

It is essential to choose a salicylic acid face wash with a balanced pH level (ideally between 4 and 6). A product with a balanced pH level will not disrupt your skin’s natural acidity, which is necessary to prevent possible irritation and maintain healthy skin.

Skin Type Compatibility

Select a face wash that is explicitly formulated for your skin type. This factor is critical because different skin types require different levels of hydration, exfoliation, and cleansing. If you have oily skin, choose a product designed for it, as it will typically contain oil-absorbing ingredients. Similarly, if you have dry or sensitive skin, opt for a face wash that provides additional hydration to prevent further dryness and irritation.

By keeping these factors in mind, you can confidently choose the best salicylic acid face wash for your skincare needs. Remember, the ideal face wash will not only help unclog pores and reduce acne breakouts but should also leave your skin feeling refreshed and revitalized.

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