The best salicylic acid face wash
Choosing the right skin care products can make a big difference in your complexion. While it can be challenging to keep breakouts at bay, it's possible if you invest in a salicylic acid face wash.
Salicylic acid is wonderful at cleaning, as it sloughs away dead skin, penetrates pores, then pulls out impurities. As a result, it leaves skin feeling refreshed and clean with the removal of pore-clogging particles. By incorporating salicylic acid face wash into your weekly skin care routine, you'll see -- and feel -- long-term results.
To help you find the right formula for your skin type, take a look at our buying guide on salicylic acid face wash. Our top choice is Perfect Image's Salicylic Deep Gel Exfoliating Cleanser. This green tea-infused formula leaves skin looking radiant after just a couple washes.
Considerations when choosing salicylic acid face washes
How salicylic acid works
As a beta hydroxy acid (BHA), salicylic acid works wonders at penetrating pores by dissolving debris that clogs them. In fact, it does double duty: Not only does salicylic acid target blackheads and whiteheads, but it's also effective at preventing them from popping up elsewhere. It also functions as an exfoliator, as it aids in the removal of dead skin cells to restore evenness to your skin's tone and texture.
Choosing a cleanser type
You'll find salicylic acid face washes as gel, foam, or cream. More than just the consistency varies with these, though, and they should be selected based on skin type.
Gel cleansers, sometimes texturized with exfoliators, are ideal for deep cleansing -- but they can be a bit harsh for sensitive skin. Foaming cleansers are gentle and lightweight and are the preferred consistency for removing makeup. Cream cleansers are luxurious and moisturizing, which is why they're often chosen by those with sensitive, dry, or aging skin.
Salicylic acid face washes come with different concentrations of salicylic acid, so if you have sensitive skin, opt for a lower concentration. Not everyone's skin can tolerate salicylic acid, even at a low level. For that reason, and especially for first-time users, it's recommended to spot test the face wash to track and minimize reactions.
Many salicylic acid face washes feature pleasant scents, some of which are even naturally derived. If you happen to have sensitive skin, though, it's best to stick to unscented varieties to minimize irritation.
If you wear heavy makeup, salicylic acid is effective at removing it. Given its pore-penetration qualities, it's also effective at preventing product buildup that could result in breakouts. Keep in mind that salicylic acid shouldn't be used to remove eye makeup, as it's much too harsh and will result in painful, stinging eyes.
It's common to see foaming cleansers in pump bottles and gel or cream cleansers in twist-cap and squeeze bottles. If you're looking for eco-friendly packaging, twist-cap and squeeze bottles are usually easier to recycle.
Drugstore brands of salicylic acid face wash cost less than $15. If you need a specialized formula, especially for certain skin conditions, expect to spend closer to $30. For formulas that contain premium ingredients, expect to spend as much as $75.
Q. Will salicylic acid face washes work on all types of acne?
A. If you have mild to moderate acne, chances are you'll find success with salicylic acid face washes. Cystic acne, on the other hand, has hormonal or genetic roots, so it won't always respond to salicylic acid.
Q. Is my salicylic acid face wash staining my towels and bedding?
A. Unfortunately, one of the downsides of salicylic acid is that it can stain fabrics. Many users have dedicated towels when using this face wash so as not to ruin decorative ones. Some even stick to using the face wash in the morning as opposed to the evening, so their face doesn't come into contact with sheets.
Salicylic acid face washes we recommend
Best of the best: Perfect Image's Salicylic Deep Gel Exfoliating Cleanser
Our take: Leaves skin feeling and looking radiant by sloughing away dead skin cells.
What we like: Appropriate for acne-prone and aging skin. A little goes a long way, and it's fast-acting.
What we dislike: Due to its strong formula, you should spot test before applying it to your whole face.
Best bang for your buck: Neutrogena's Oil-Free Pink Grapefruit Cream Facial Cleanser
Our take: Budget-friendly formula that is effective at keeping breakouts at bay.
What we like: Balanced formula removes makeup and pollutants without peeling effect. Mild, pleasant scent.
What we dislike: Exfoliator texture can be a bit rough on sensitive skin.
Our take: Dramatic results on par with professional-grade products.
What we like: Targets acne, and won't cause redness. Positive experiences for those with rosacea.
What we dislike: Concentration of salicylic acid might be too strong for some people.
Sian Babish is a writer for BestReviews. BestReviews is a product review company with a singular mission: to help simplify your purchasing decisions and save you time and money. BestReviews never accepts free products from manufacturers and purchases every product it reviews with its own funds.
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