The 9 Best Soaps for Acne of 2022

CeraVe's Hydrating Facial Cleanser combats mild to moderate acne

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Acne can require a handful of treatment methods to keep breakouts under control—starting with your daily soap. Soaps can combat active breakouts and balance out the skin to prevent future breakouts from forming.

Reviewed & Approved

CeraVe's Hydrating Facial Cleanser combats mild and moderate acne. We also recommend Cetaphil's Gentle Cleansing Bar to clean your skin without stripping moisture.

When looking for a soap for acne, Nazanin Saedi, MD, a board-certified dermatologist at Thomas Jefferson University, recommends products with bacteria-busting benzoyl peroxide. You might also want to look for natural acne-clearing ingredients like tea tree oil, too, to treat your skin more gently. We researched dozens of soaps for acne and evaluated them for key ingredients, usage, scent, form, targeted skin type, and price.

Here are the best soaps for acne on the market.

Best Overall: CeraVe Hydrating Facial Cleanser

4.8
CeraVe Hydrating Facial Cleanser

Courtesy of Amazon 

Pros
  • Smooth, lotion-like consistency that doesn’t dry skin

  • Moisture-balancing and non-irritating

  • Can be used in the morning and at night

Cons
  • Doesn’t foam, which some users dislike

  • Not an exfoliating formula

Who else recommends it? Healthline, GQ, and CNET all picked CeraVe Hydrating Facial Cleanser.

What do buyers say? 92% of 94,300+ Amazon reviewers rated this product 4 stars or above.

We chose CeraVe's Hydrating Facial Cleanser as our best overall pick because it's formulated with hyaluronic acid and ceramides to balance out your skin. This soap cleanses while it moisturizes, and helps your skin maintain its natural barrier. It’s also fragrance-free, non-comedogenic, and good for cleaning off everything from makeup to dirt to day-to-day environmental junk. Because it doesn’t contain harsh acne ingredients like salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide, it shouldn’t irritate sensitive skin, either.

Key Ingredients: Ceramides 1, 3, 6-II, hyaluronic acid, niacinamide | Usage: Massage cleanser into wet skin gently and rinse | Scent: None | Form: Liquid

What Our Editors Say

"This cleanser is gentle enough to use multiple times a day and keeps my face feeling clean and oil-free throughout the day. It doesn't foam like some other cleansers, but it feels just as refreshing as other foaming cleansers I've used." — Christina Oehler, Verywell Health editor and product tester

Best Budget: Cetaphil Gentle Cleansing Bar

4.3
Cetaphil Gentle Cleansing Bar
Pros
  • Deep cleaning without drying or stripping

  • Can be used in the morning and at night

  • Sold in budget-friendly multipack

Cons
  • Many users complain of heavy “masking fragrance”

  • Non-hypoallergenic

  • Some may not prefer soap bar form

When you need an inexpensive and convenient product that can clear breakouts anywhere on your body, reach for the Cetaphil Gentle Cleansing Bar. The soap is gentle enough to be used by basically everyone, thanks to the fact that it’s considered  a “non-soap.” That means it’s free of harsh surfactant ingredients that can irritate and inflame delicate skin. 

We love that the bar form of this soap prolongs its use, keeping it budget-friendly, and that it can be used all over the body, especially areas like the back and chest. Be mindful of the fact that many users do report this bar having a strong smell—so if you’re fragrance-adverse or sensitive to fragrances in soaps, you might want to look for something else.

Key Ingredients: Not specified | Usage: Wet hands and face, work bar into a lather, apply soap to face and rinse | Scent: Yes, but not specified | Form: Bar

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

Aspen Kay Naturals Dead Sea Mud & Charcoal Soap Bar

Courtesy of Amazon

Pros
  • Made with organic oils and botanical ingredients

  • Cruelty-free and vegan

  • Environmentally-friendly packaging

Cons
  • “Detoxifying” effects could cause increase in breakouts

Wondering whether you opt for a liquid or bar soap to cleanse your facial acne? It’s a question many people have—but very few people seem to have the answer to.

“The liquid versus bar soap debate is a fascinating one, as some people have very strong opinions on the topic,” says Erum N. Ilyas, MD, dermatologist at Schweiger Dermatology. “From an effectiveness point of view, there is very little difference: both kill microorganisms and do so effectively, [and] both contain the basic ingredients required to clean.”

If you’ve decided to join Team Bar Soap, Aspen Kay Naturals is formulated for all skin types and chock full of chemical-free ingredients like Dead Sea mineral mud, activated charcoal, unrefined shea butter, extra virgin olive oil, sunflower oil, and castor oil. Not only is it safe for people with sensitive and delicate skin, it might even help people with acne, psoriasis, or eczema and other skin conditions see healthier skin over time.

Key Ingredients: Shea butter, activated charcoal, dead sea mud, lemongrass | Usage: Wet hands and face, work bar into a lather, apply soap to face and rinse | Scent: Citrus and mint | Form: Bar

Best Face Soap: Neutrogena Oil-Free Acne Wash

4.6
Neutrogena Oil-Free Acne Fighting Face Wash

Courtesy of Walmart

Pros
  • Oil-free and non-comedogenic

  • Fights pimples and blackheads

Cons
  • Salicylic acid may be irritating

  • May need to increase use slowly over time to avoid rashes/breakouts

If you need an acne face soap that packs a bit more of a punch than your average cleansing bar or liquid, we recommend Neutrogena’s Oil-Free Acne Fighting Cleanser. Neutrogena is known for products that work well, are affordable and work to fight pimples and blackheads on a variety of skin types.

Sensitive skin folks should take note, however, that this product does contain salicylic acid, which can be irritating if your skin isn’t acclimated. Start off slow and steady with this one to avoid rashes or redness.

Key Ingredients: Salicylic acid 2% | Usage: Massage cleanser into wet skin gently and rinse | Scent: None | Form: Liquid

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

humane Benzoyl Peroxide 10% Acne Treatment Body & Face Wash

Courtesy of humane

Pros
  • Can be used on face and body

  • Fights pimples, blackheads, whiteheads, and cystic acne

  • Vegan

Cons
  • May take weeks to see improvement

  • Benzoyl peroxide may stain towels and fabrics

Your skin can handle stronger formulations of acne ingredients than the skin on your face, so if you’re struggling with breakouts on your back, chest, or other extremities, you can opt for a soap with a higher percentage of acne-fighting ingredients. This Body & Face Wash by Humane is made with 10 percent benzoyl peroxide, which is a higher percentage of benzoyl peroxide than the average 2.5% in most acne-fighting products.

“Body acne can be caused by lifestyle, hormonal or genetic reasons,” says Melanie Palm, MD, dermatologist at Art of Skin MD in San Diego, California. “When looking for a body wash to treat body acne, I recommend looking for [products] with exfoliating properties like sulfur, benzoyl peroxide, and salicylic acid.” 

Dr. Palm also suggests reducing the amount of bacteria and heavy products on the skin, by showering after sweaty workouts and using lightweight hair conditioners (which can contribute to body acne by sticking to your skin during and after your shower). If you decide to try Humane’s body wash, be forewarned that your skin might get worse before it gets better. If the product irritates your skin for more than a few days, stop using the product and contact your dermatologist.

Key Ingredients: Benzoyl peroxide 10% | Usage: Massage cleanser into wet skin gently, let sit for 1 minute, then rinse | Scent: None | Form: Liquid

Best for Dry Skin: CeraVe Renewing SA Cleanser

4.8
CeraVe Renewing SA Cleanser

Ulta

Pros
  • Exfoliates and cleanses

  • Minimal amount of salicylic acid fights breakouts without drying

  • Ceramides restore the skin barrier, preventing dryness

Cons
  • Salicylic acid may irritate very sensitive skin

  • May need to increase use slowly over time to avoid rashes/breakouts

Dry skin and acne often go hand-in-hand, but having both skin conditions also makes it especially difficult to treat acne: most products designed to fight breakouts are naturally drying, which makes dry skin worse, which in turn causes more breakouts.

What we like about the CeraVe Renewing SA Cleanser, though, is that it relies on only a small percentage of salicylic acid to fight breakouts, which means it’s generally less drying and irritating to already-parched skin.

“Salicylic acid is a beta hydroxy acid that is folliculotropic, meaning it can successfully penetrate the hair follicle where acne starts,” says Dr. Palm. “It is perhaps the most commonly used ‘spot’ treatment for acne lesions next to benzoyl peroxide [but] it tends to be less irritating than benzoyl peroxide on the skin.”

On top of its acne-fighting power, this cleanser also moistures and repairs your skin with hyaluronic acid, niacinamide, and ceramides, making it look healthier than ever.

Key Ingredients: Salicylic acid, hyaluronic acid, niacinamide | Usage: Massage cleanser into wet skin gently and rinse up to twice per day | Scent: None | Form: Gel

Best Sulfur Soap: Kate Somerville EradiKate Daily Foaming Cleanser

Kate Somerville EradiKate Daily Cleanser Acne Treatment
Pros
  • Works well for many users with hormonal acne

  • Reduces oil on skin without drying

Cons
  • Expensive

  • Some may not like sulfur smell

Sulfur is an effective ingredient in treating acne for people with oily skin because the potent-smelling mineral works hard to unclog pores. With a formulation of three percent sulfur, the foaming cleanser by Kate Somerville can clear up breakouts and unclog even the most stubborn pores. It’s also made with some other cruelty-free ingredients we love, like honey, rice bran extract, and natural oat extract, all of which combat the cleansing power of the sulfur to keep skin calm and smooth.

That said, EradiKate is recommended for people with normal, dry, combination, and oily skin—not sensitive skin. Not to say people with sensitive skin can’t use it, but it’s more likely to cause irritation (i.e. use cautiously).

Key Ingredients: Sulfur, natural extracts | Usage: Massage cleanser into wet skin gently and rinse up to twice per day | Scent: Sulfur | Form: Cream

Best Gentle Soap: Differin Sensitive Skin Formula Acne Face Wash

Differin Sensitive Skin Formula Acne Face Wash

Courtesy of Amazon

Pros
  • Lower benzoyl peroxide percentage for a gentle wash

  • Deep, refreshing clean

  • Unclogs pores and eliminates excess oil

Cons
  • May need to increase use slowly over time to avoid irritation

  • May cause a temporary increase in breakouts

Benzoyl peroxide is an effective acne treatment because it hits acne-causing bacteria at the source, keeping your skin cleaner and healthier. But typical concentrations of benzoyl peroxide in many acne products are too high for people with sensitive skin.

We love that this gentler formulation by Differin cuts the usual benzoyl peroxide percentage in half from 10 percent to just five, meaning you still get the acne-fighting benefits with less chance of irritation. The soap is also designed to moisturize as it cleanses, so it won’t leave your skin with that dried-out, stripped feeling after usage.

Key Ingredients: Benzoyl peroxide 5% | Usage: Massage over wet face for 20 to 30 seconds then rinse, beginning once per day and gradually increasing to twice per day | Scent: None |  Form: Liquid

Best Antibacterial Soap: PanOxyl Acne Foaming Wash

PanOxyl Acne Foaming Wash

Courtesy of Amazon

Pros
  • Maximum strength treatment against acne-causing bacteria

  • Treats and prevents breakouts

Cons
  • Recent formula change may not be preferred by some

  • Benzoyl peroxide may stain towels and fabrics

This foaming face wash is the highest over-the-counter 10 percent benzoyl peroxide wash available, with maximum strength antimicrobial powers to help kill acne-causing bacteria. This is helpful if your acne is especially stubborn and problematic.

“Those with cystic acne may want to look for acne cleansers with antibacterial ingredients that kill acne-causing bacteria and unclog pores,” says Annie Gonzalez, MD, dermatologist at Riverchase Dermatology in Miami, Florida. “Cystic acne is usually pus-filled, deep, painful pimples [and] antibacterial soaps also tend to have anti-inflammatory properties that reduce redness as well.”

Due to its potency, this cleanser also has the tendency to dry skin out. 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.

Key Ingredients: Benzoyl peroxide 10% | Usage: Massage cleanser into wet skin gently for 1 to 2 minutes, then rinse; start with 1 application per day and increase if desired | Scent: None | Form: Liquid

Final Verdict

Out of all the products on the market, it's best to stick with a 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 (view at Amazon) 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. 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, like Neutrogena Oil-Free Acne Wash (view at Amazon), which works on a variety of skin types.

What to Look for in a Soap for Acne

Ingredients

Salicylic acid and benzoyl peroxide are the top two ingredients to look out for when purchasing a cleanser that will directly target acne. Benzoyl peroxide reduces acne caused by bacteria and addresses any inflammation in the skin, while salicylic acid cleanses and exfoliates.

“If you suffer from blackheads and whiteheads, I typically recommend salicylic acid in your cleanser,” says Joshua Zeichner, MD, the Director of Cosmetic and Clinical Research in Dermatology at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City. “This beta hydroxy acid helps remove excess oil and dead cells from the skin to keep the pores clear.”

There are some other ingredients you may want to look for as well, says Dr. Palm:

  • sulfur, an anti-inflammatory medication that helps calm redness and is often successful in oily or sensitive skin types;
  • azelaic acid, a pregnancy-safe mild ingredient that can help improve pigmentary problems;
  • and glycolic acid, an alpha hydroxy acid, that is also safe in pregnancy and has mild anti-acne and skin brightening properties.

Skin Type

Think you can just grab any old acne soap for normal skin off the shelf? Think again, especially if your skin doesn’t fall under the “normal” skin category.

“There are variations to every product: some are made specifically for oily skin, dry skin, and even combination skin,” says Dr. Gonzalez. “Depending on your skin type, different ingredients or concentrations can be used to ensure you’re getting the best results.”

If you're not sure what your skin type is or which products will work for you, talk to your dermatologist to get started.

Acne Type

Inflammatory acne forms from bacteria and consists of swelling, redness, and clogged pores. This type has many forms, such as cysts and nodules, and can be more difficult to treat because the inflammation is rooted deeper into the skin barrier. “If you have inflammatory acne, such as pimples, nodules, or acne pustules, I recommend a cleanser with benzoyl peroxide since it can help decrease inflammation,” says Skylar Souyoul, MD, a dermatologist with South Shore Skin Center in Norwell, Massachusetts. 

Comedonal acne, on the other hand, is non-inflammatory and involves flesh-colored blemishes on the surface of the skin. This acne is closer to the skin and not created through bacteria but through excess oils and dead skin cells, thus clogging the pores. Salicylic acid works to remove any debris or oil in the pores and keep them clear. 

Acne can also surface on the chest or back. To address those blemishes, Dr. Souyoul recommends a cleanser that contains 5 to 10 percent of benzoyl peroxide. “Beware though, benzoyl peroxide will bleach your towels so make sure you are using white towels to dry your body and face,” she says.

Type of Soap

There are a handful of types of acne cleansers, and it can be hard to figure out which one to choose when faced with an aisle full of options. 

“There’s a common tendency for people to look for foaming cleansers [because there’s a] sense that if it doesn’t foam it’s not cleaning,” says Dr. Ilyas, “but foaming soaps can actually strip your skin of more natural oils.”

Soaps that have a thicker, oilier feel are sometimes less irritating, she adds, even if it “feels” like they just aren’t cleansing as well. And if you prefer bar soap, Dr. Ilyas says that’s fine—but you should check to see that the packaging indicates it can be used as a facial bar soap to ensure that it’s formulated for facial skin.

Adverse Reactions

Keep in mind that what works wonderfully for one person’s sensitive skin could still wreak havoc on yours, simply because everyone’s skin composition is different. Don’t stick with a product that’s causing clear irritation to your skin just because your dermatologist recommended it, and be sure to introduce new products slowly and carefully.

“Skin reactions such as peeling, dry, red, or even burning skin can occur when using cleansing products, [so] you should always patch test a new product on the back of your hand before using it on your entire face,” says Dr. Gonzales. “Everyone reacts differently to certain ingredients and products, so be mindful of what you put on your face.”

Frequently Asked Questions

  • How often should you use a soap for acne?

    There’s no one answer here: the “right” frequency completely depends on your unique skin.

    “Soaps essentially work to degrease the skin, potentially leave some hydration behind, and can also have added ingredients to treat specific skin concerns,” says Dr. Ilyas. “Understanding that, the frequency [with which you] use soap is dictated by your skin’s needs.”

    For example, if your skin runs on the oily side or tends to be exposed to dust, dirt, or potential buildup from products, Dr. Ilyas says using a soap twice daily may be helpful. But for people with dry, sensitive, or easily inflamed skin, twice a day may be too much. 

    “Often people forget that they are likely washing their faces in the shower [and] if you throw in another wash in the sink twice a day, then you are likely getting three washes in,” explains Dr. Ilyas. “If your skin is on the dry side, reassess how many times you are truly washing your face and minimize it to what’s needed.”

  • What kinds of ingredients in soap can make acne worse?

    Dr. Palm recommends avoiding anything with comedogenic or rich emollient formulations, which can cause breakouts to worsen, and Dr. Ilyas advises her patients with acne-prone skin to avoid sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS). Because SLS works like a detergent to remove excess oil or sebum from the skin, she explains, it can be a bit too effective and leave the skin dry and irritated.  

    You may also want to avoid soaps with exfoliating materials, i.e. facial scrubs. While Dr. Ilyas says these are generally always a better choice for deep cleaning compared to scrubbing brushes and mechanical devices, scrubbing or exfoliating the skin aggressively with any type of product can worsen acne. 

    “Our skin is a barrier that has an active bioflora of yeast and bacteria,” she explains. “If the skin is excessively scrubbed or irritated, the skin’s barrier can break down and make it more susceptible to yeast and bacteria inflaming the skin.”

  • What kinds of skin conditions are irritated by acne soaps?

    If you have acne, you might assume that’s the number one thing you should focus on treating, but if you also have seborrhea or rosacea, you need to be very careful with your acne approach; according to Dr. Ilyas, these two conditions can be easily aggravated by acne cleansers, so while get rid of pimples, you’re more likely to bring on additional problems.

    “Acne cleansers and soaps tend to focus on drying or exfoliating the skin—the goal is to unclog pores, and reduce oil and sebum build-up in pores,” she says. 

    But all that drying and exfoliation is highly irritating and inflammatory to skin plagued with seborrhea (a common yeast-based skin inflammation) and rosacea, a condition that causes intense facial flushing and redness. If you happen to have one of these conditions and acne-prone skin, it’s best to consult with a dermatologist about the best skin care regime for both of your skin concerns.

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Sarah Bradley has been writing health content since 2017—everything from product roundups and illness FAQs to nutrition explainers and the dish on diet trends. She knows how important it is to receive trustworthy and expert-approved advice about over-the-counter products that manage everyday health conditions, from GI issues and allergies to chronic headaches and joint pain.

3 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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  2. The Absolute Best Face Wash for Men. GQ. https://www.gq.com/story/best-face-wash-for-men

  3. Best Facial Cleanser for 2022. CNET. https://www.cnet.com/health/personal-care/best-facial-cleanser/

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