The 9 Best Soaps for Acne of 2020

Fight acne with these powerful washes

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First Look

Best Overall: CeraVe Hydrating Facial Cleanser at Ulta

"It’s great for those with acne and dry skin because it has hyaluronic acid to help hydrate the skin and prevent breakouts."

Best Budget: Cetaphil Gentle Cleansing Bar at Amazon

"Not only is the soap gentle for all skin types, but it is also incredibly budget friendly."

Best Bar Soap: Aspen Kay Naturals Dead Sea Mud & Charcoal Soap Bar at Amazon

"This handcrafted bar soap from Aspen Kay Naturals has amassed a cult following in the skincare realm."

Best Face Soap: Neutrogena Oil-Free Acne Wash at Amazon

"This ‘old school orangish facial cleanser’ is ‘great for getting rid of dirt and cleansing pores."

Best Body Soap: Humane Benzoyl Peroxide 10% Acne Treatment Body & Face Wash at Amazon

"This treatment is made with 10% benzoyl peroxide, the highest concentration recommended for acne treatment."

Best Back Soap: Mario Badescu A.H.A Botanical Body Soap at Amazon

"We love that this product, which has earned the Amazon Choice status, doesn’t have a chemical smell like other acne products."

Best Sulfur Soap: Kate Somerville EradiKate Daily Foaming Cleanser at Amazon

"Formulated with 3% sulfur to keep acne-prone skin clean, while preventing blemishes, unclogging pores, and balancing oily skin."

Best Gentle Soap: Differin Acne Face Wash, Sensitive Skin Formula at Amazon

"Made specifically to help treat acne for those with skin prone to irritation."

Best Antibacterial Soap: PanOxyl Acne Foaming Wash at Amazon

"The highest OTC 10% benzoyl peroxide wash available, with maximum strength antimicrobial powers to help kill acne-causing bacteria."

Acne, a skin condition that occurs when oil and dead skin cells plug up pores, can require a handful of treatments methods to keep breakouts under control—starting with your daily face wash. “When you have acne, it is important to think about the products you are using to wash your face but also your body, especially if you are prone to body acne,” explains Nazanin Saedi, MD, a board-certified dermatologist at Thomas Jefferson University.

However, there isn't a one-size-fits-all approach to battling acne. “Not all people who have acne have the same type of skin,” she points out. Identifying your skin type is the first step in choosing the acne skincare product that is right for you.

If you have dry skin, she suggests a hydrating face wash. For people who have sensitive skin, products with gentle ingredients are your best bet. “For oily skin, salicylic washes are a great option and they help unclog pores and blackheads!” she says. And, for people with white heads (pustules), a benzoyl peroxide wash will help with the bacteria on the skin surface. 

The good news is that you don’t have to spend a fortune to reap the benefits of an effective acne soap or wash. Dr. Saedi insists that the majority of the best products can be found online or at your local drug store. Here are a few of the best acne face washes on the market that are worth checking out today.

Our Top Picks

Best Overall: CeraVe Hydrating Facial Cleanser

CeraVe Hydrating Facial Cleanser

 Courtesy of Ulta Beauty

Out of every acne soap and wash on the market, CeraVe Hydrating Facial Cleanser is Dr. Saedi’s go-to product. “It is great for those who have acne and dry skin because it has hyaluronic acid to help hydrate the skin and won't make you break out,” she attests. The fragrance-free, non-comedogenic product is also formulated with three essential ceramides (1, 3, 6-II), helping keep your skin hydrated and restoring its protective barrier. While Dr. Saedi prefers the hydrating version, CeraVe also offers a Foaming Facial Cleanser for those who like a product that bubbles.

Best Budget: Cetaphil Gentle Cleansing Bar

Cetaphil’s Gentle Cleansing Bar is another one of Dr. Saedi’s go-to products. Not only is the soap “gentle for all skin types,” it is incredibly budget friendly. Another highly rated option, this liquid alternative is actually considered a “non-soap,” meaning it is free of any harsh surfactant ingredients that will irritate your skin.

Best Bar Soap: Aspen Kay Naturals Dead Sea Mud & Charcoal Soap Bar

This handcrafted bar soap from Aspen Kay Naturals has amassed a cult following in the skincare world. It's formulated for all skin types with Dead Sea mineral mud, activated charcoal, and a slew of organic oils—including unrefined shea butter, extra virgin olive oil, sunflower oil, sustainable palm oil, and castor oil. It can also be used to treat a variety of skin conditions, including acne, eczema, and psoriasis.

One thing it isn’t? Fragrance free. The bar is naturally scented with lemongrass, peppermint, and eucalyptus oils, a scent cocktail that many reviewers describe as intoxicating.

Best Face Soap: Neutrogena Oil-Free Acne Wash

Neutrogena’s Oil-Free Acne Fighting Face Wash might be the most famous acne soap in the history of skincare. According to the brand, it is the number one dermatologist recommended acne-fighting face cleanser, and Dr. Saedi is a fan. This “old school orangish facial cleanser” is “great for getting rid of dirt and cleansing pores,” she attests. Like CeraVe and Cetaphil, it gently cleanses the skin. However, it is also formulated with the active ingredient salicylic acid, which helps clear up your breakouts and also fights against future ones.

Best Body Soap: Humane Benzoyl Peroxide 10% Acne Treatment Body & Face Wash

Humane’s main objective is to provide clean, vegan, and cruelty-free (but effective) products using minimal ingredients.This treatment, which can be used for the face as well as body, is made with 10% benzoyl peroxide, the highest concentration recommended for the treatment of acne. If you do opt to try it, be forewarned that your skin might get worse before it gets better. Many fans attest that there is a “purging” stage involved with this “miracle product,” with their skin initially flaring up after using it.

Best Back Soap: Mario Badescu A.H.A Botanical Body Soap

Treating bacne—AKA back acne—is similar to facial acne. One of the things we love about this product, which has earned the sought-after Amazon Choice status, is that it doesn’t have the chemical smell of many other acne products. In fact, the aroma is just as appealing as Mario Badescu’s other body washes. This is because instead of any potentially harsh ingredients, it relies on botanicals to do the work—papaya and grapefruit extracts break down dead skin cells, ginseng rejuvenates, and oat protein soothes and calms irritation.

Best Sulfur Soap: Kate Somerville EradiKate Daily Foaming Cleanser

Sulfur is an effective ingredient in treating acne for those with oily skin. Why? The potent-smelling mineral works hard to unclog pores—so hard, in fact, that it can be too harsh for sensitive skin types. Kate Somerville, famous for maintaining the flawless faces of Hollywood’s biggest stars, has developed her EradiKate line specifically for those battling acne. Kate’s multi-tasking daily foaming cleanser is formulated with 3% sulfur to keep acne-prone skin clean, while preventing blemishes, unclogging as well as minimizing pores, and keeping oily skin balanced. While the product might seem more expensive than some of the others on our list, keep in mind that a little goes a long way and the bottle will last you several months.

Best Gentle Soap: Differin Acne Face Wash, Sensitive Skin Formula

Just because you have sensitive skin, doesn’t mean you can’t use an effective acne product. Differin Acne Face Wash, Sensitive Skin Formula is made specifically to help treat acne for those with skin prone to irritation. Like most other acne treatments it contains benzoyl peroxide—but just 5%. The potency is just as effective as 10% benzoyl peroxide, but works without drying, irritating, or stripping your skin. One thing to keep in mind? If you are using this or any product containing benzoyl peroxide, you should not double up on the ingredient when it comes to a second product. In other words, if you are using this face wash, avoid a topical cream with additional benzoyl peroxide.

Best Antibacterial Soap: PanOxyl Acne Foaming Wash

This foaming face wash is the highest over-the-counter 10% benzoyl peroxide wash available, with maximum strength antimicrobial powers to help kill acne-causing bacteria. Formulated to use on your chest, back, and face, reviewers attest that it is extremely powerful and blasts acne within weeks. Due to its potency, it also has the tendency to dry skin out. So, if you are using it, make sure to do so with a hydrating moisturizer. Another thing to consider is its potential to bleach anything it comes into contact with, such as towels or t-shirts. Users suggest thoroughly washing the product off after use—unless you want tie-dyed looking textiles, that is.

Final Verdict

Out of all the products on the market, even top dermatologists like Dr. Saedi suggest sticking with a hydrating, fragrance free product that is less likely to irritate acne prone or dry skin over a product with more potent acne-fighting ingredients. CeraVe Hydrating Facial Cleanser is not only affordable, but effective. It is also a great face wash to use if you are relying on a topical acne treatment—either prescription or over-the-counter—as you want to avoid doubling up on products with strong, chemical ingredients such as benzoyl peroxide. However, if you do have specific acne concerns or a skin type other than dry or normal, you might want to consider one of our other options.

What to Look For

Skin and Acne Type: As Dr. Saedi pointed out, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach to acne treatment. One of the first things to consider when purchasing a product is your skin type. Those with dry skin or sensitive skin should stick with a hydrating, non-irritating face wash, such as CeraVe or Cetaphil. Those with oily skin can handle products with more potent ingredients, like salicylic acid. If you suffer from white heads (pustules), a product with benzoyl peroxide can help kill pre-clogging bacteria. And, anyone battling cystic acne might want to try a product with sulfur, such as Kate Somerville’s EradiKate Foaming Face Wash. 

Ingredients: As mentioned above, ingredients are extremely important. You should never use a product without thoroughly reading through the active ingredients. Why? Doubling up on products with equally potent ingredients might overly irritate your skin, exasperating your acne instead of treating it. 

Budget: The good news about acne soap is that you don’t have to spend very much to get an effective product. Most range between $5 to $25, so regardless of your budget, you'll be able to find something that treats your breakouts.

Why Trust Verywell

As an internationally recognized health writer and product guru, Leah Groth understands that nobody wants to waste their time or money on products that fail to rear results. Over the years, she has interviewed the world's top health experts and reviewed hundreds of items, to help readers like you discover the most effective health gadgets, goops, and aids that will help you look and feel your very best.

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  1. National Psoriasis Foundation. Integrative Approaches to Care. Updated June 18, 2019.

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