How Often You Should Wash Your Face if You Have Acne

Acne isn't caused by neglecting to wash your face. Other factors, like bacteria or changing hormones, cause this skin condition. Yet regular cleansing is a key step in your acne treatment routine.

There is such a thing as getting your skin "too clean," though. If you wonder how many times a day you should wash your face, the magic number is generally agreed to be two.

This article explains why and offers a few ways to protect your skin while keeping it clean. It also covers other strategies you can try to keep your acne under control.

A teen rinsing her face in the sink
Westend61 / Getty Images

Twice-Daily Washing

If you wash your face in the morning and at night, it will be enough to clean away makeup, dirt, and the extra oil on your skin that can contribute to breakouts.

What you use to cleanse your face also matters. The skin on your face is delicate, so you don't want to use harsh soaps. Antibacterial hand soap and bar soaps are unsuitable for your skin if you have acne. It would help if you never used rubbing alcohol on your face either.

Stronger isn't always better. Instead, choose a cleanser that leaves your skin feeling clean but not overly dry or stripped.

Acne Isn't Caused by a Dirty Face

If you're prone to breaking out, it's important to know that it doesn't mean you aren't taking proper care of your skin. 

People with acne have skin cells that don't shed away correctly. They are more sensitive to irritation caused by Propionibacteria acnes, an acne-causing bacteria.

Hormones play a role in whether you develop acne, too.

Acne is caused by factors like bacteria and hormones—not a dirty face. Still, you should remove dirt and oil by washing your face morning and night with a gentle cleanser.

Washing Too Often Can Worsen Acne

Washing your face too much can be just as bad (or even worse) than not doing it at all. Scrubbing hard is to be avoided too. You can easily strip away all of the good oils your skin needs to stay healthy, leaving you with dry, red, flaky, and irritated skin.

You can also break down the acid mantle. This is a protective layer on the skin made up of sweat, oil, and good bacteria. Healthy skin needs a strong, healthy acid mantle.

One exception to this? A third cleansing in a day is recommended if you get particularly sweaty or dirty.

Cleansing Alone Isn't Enough for Acne

Good skin care means removing dirt, excess oil, and makeup. It can help to keep your pores from being plugged up. Still, water and a simple soap or face wash aren't enough to clear up acne.

Think of your twice-daily cleansing as a first step in treating your acne. Step two should be the routine use of an acne treatment product.

For mild breakouts, you might try over-the-counter acne products first. The most effective products contain salicylic acid and benzoyl peroxide.

Try to use them regularly for a few weeks to see if that helps clear things up. Facial scrubs also may help. Some of the available product brands, and their various formulas, include:

  • Proactiv
  • Benzaderm Gel
  • Neutrogena
  • PanOxyl 
  • Noxzema
  • Oxy
  • Stridex

Harsh scrubs won't clear your skin faster, but they can irritate it and make breakouts worse. Remember that all acne medications that go on your skin, whether over-the-counter or prescription, work best when applied to freshly washed and thoroughly dried skin.

More severe or inflamed bouts with acne usually don't get better with a store-bought acne product. Instead, you'll need a prescription acne medication from your healthcare provider. These treatments include Differin (adapalene), Retin-A (tretinoin), and Tazorac (tazarotene).

Cleansing your face more than twice daily can irritate and degrade your skin's natural protective layer. Wash your face as advised, then follow up with an OTC or prescription acne treatment.


The first thing to know about your acne is that how often you do (or don't) wash your face is not the cause. But you can make things worse by washing too often and using the wrong cleansers.

Twice a day is enough for most people unless you get sweaty or dirty. Be sure to choose a product that won't irritate your skin. When you wash, avoid scrubbing too hard. This can remove healthy oils, dry your skin, and make matters worse.

Cleansing should be part of an overall acne treatment program that also involves either an OTC or prescription medication.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • If I have acne, should I wash my face more often than someone with clear skin?

    Most people should wash in the morning before applying sunscreen, makeup, or moisturizer, and at night before bed to ensure freshly washed skin. You also should wash your face after you've been sweating heavily. That's true for people with and without acne alike.

  • Why should I wash my face in the morning if I have acne?

    Whether you have acne or not, bacteria builds up on your skin during the night, no matter how well you cleansed it the night before. Washing your face in the morning removes it.

8 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.
  1. Tips for Taking Care of Your Skin. TeensHealth from Nemours.

  2. Del rosso JQ. The role of skin care as an integral component in the management of acne vulgaris: part 1: the importance of cleanser and moisturizer ingredients, design, and product selection. J Clin Aesthet Dermatol. 2013;6(12):19-27.

  3. MedlinePlus. Acne.

  4. Ghosh S, Chaudhuri S, Jain VK, Aggarwal K. Profiling and hormonal therapy for acne in women. Indian J Dermatol. 2014;59(2):107-15.  doi:10.4103/0019-5154.127667

  5. Prakash C, Bhargava P, Tiwari S, Majumdar B, Bhargava RK. Skin surface pH in acne vulgaris: Insights from an observational study and review of the literature. J Clin Aesthet Dermatol. 2017;10(7):33-39.

  6. American Academy of Dermatology Association. How to treat different types of acne.

  7. American Academy of Dermatology Association. Acne: Diagnosis and treatment.

  8. American Academy of Dermatology. Face Washing 101.

Additional Reading
  • National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases. Overview of acne.

By Angela Palmer
Angela Palmer is a licensed esthetician specializing in acne treatment.