The 8 Best Salicylic Acid Face Washes of 2019

Treat skin issues with this acne-fighting ingredient

Our editors independently research, test, and recommend the best products; you can learn more about our review process here. We may receive commissions on purchases made from our chosen links.

First Look

Best Overall: Vichy Normaderm Gel Cleanser at Amazon

"Treats everything from breakouts to uneven skin texture."

Best Budget: Clean & Clear Cream Face Wash at Amazon

"Has the salicylic acid punch you need without putting a sizable dent in your wallet."

Best Drugstore Option: Neutrogena Oil-Free Acne Wash at Amazon

"Rinses clean for a fresh, residue-free result every time."

Best for Sensitive Skin: CeraVe Salicylic Acid Cleanser at Amazon

"The combination of exfoliating components and soothing ceramides makes this an effective cleanser."

Best for Acne: BEALUZ Clarifying Facial Cleanser at Amazon

"Uses the power of salicylic acid, glycolic acid, and lactic acid to soothe whiteheads, blackheads, and cystic acne."

Best for Combination Skin: LuxJoie AHA/BHA Exfoliating Cleanser at Amazon

"An exfoliating face wash that balances out your skin."

Best Scrub: Neutrogena Oil-Free Acne Wash at Amazon

"Solid pick for scrubbing away older skin cells without irritating your face."

Best Cleansing Pads: Neutralyze Exfoliating Pads at Amazon

"These handy pre-soaked pads tackle acne, redness, and uneven skin tone with just a few swipes."

Our Top Picks

Best Overall: Vichy Normaderm Daily Deep Cleansing Gel Cleanser

Vichy Normaderm Daily Deep Cleansing Gel Cleanser

Courtesy of Amazon

Anyone searching for a soothing yet powerful salicylic acid cleanser that treats everything from breakouts to uneven skin texture should check out Vichy’s Normaderm Gel Cleanser. The oil-free treatment contains .5 percent salicylic acid for a mild exfoliating effect that also clears up breakouts and reduces redness. The translucent gel is soap and alcohol-free, and it’s been allergy tested, so it’s safe for sensitive skin.

Reviewers loved everything about this cleanser, from its refreshing feeling to its impressive results. One customer said it was the best face wash they’d ever used, and others noticed vast improvements in their cystic acne.

Best Budget: Clean & Clear Oil Absorbing Cream Face Wash

You don’t have to settle for second best when you’re fighting blemishes or an uneven skin tone. Clean & Clear’s Oil Absorbing Cream Face Wash has the salicylic acid punch you need without putting a sizable dent in your wallet.

This wash is designed to cleanse away up to 85 percent of buildup from oil, makeup, and whatever else your skin encounters throughout your day. The oil-free formula won’t add shine or a greasy feeling to acne-prone skin. You’ll also dry out existing blemishes and discourage new ones from forming thank to this wash’s .5 percent salicylic acid blend.

Best Drugstore Option: Neutrogena Oil-Free Acne Wash Cream Cleanser

If you’re looking for a skin-clearing wash that’s widely available, you’ll want to go with a drugstore pick. Neutrogena’s Oil-Free Acne Wash Cream Cleanser has 2 percent salicylic acid for an effective scrub that won’t irritate your skin.

In addition to fighting acne and flaky skin with salicylic acid, this cream cleanser helps soothe and condition your skin. Neutrogena’s Micro-Clear Technology dives deep to deliver the cleanser’s salicylic acid into your pores more effectively. Although this cleanser has a thicker formula, it still rinses clean for a fresh, residue-free result every time.

Best for Sensitive Skin: CeraVe Salicylic Acid Cleanser

If you have sensitive skin, you’ll want a cleanser that strikes a perfect balance between maintaining your skin’s natural oils without clogging your pores or creating redness and irritation. CeraVe’s Salicylic Acid Cleanser does just that by combining the exfoliating power of salicylic acid with effective ceramide moisturizers.

Ceramides are molecules that are found naturally in your skin. They help to create a protective barrier that protects your skin and locks in moisture. This cleanser contains three essential types of ceramides, as well as salicylic acid and other exfoliating ingredients to slough off dead skin cells.

Best for Acne: BEALUZ Clarifying Facial Cleanser

Salicylic acid is a go-to ingredient when it comes to treating acne, but if you’ve struggled with spots and breakouts for a long time you might need a cleanser that packs a stronger punch. BEALUZ’s Clarifying Cleanser uses the power of salicylic acid, glycolic acid, and lactic acid to soothe whiteheads, blackheads, and cystic acne.

This face wash’s exfoliants break up dead skin cells that may be clogging your pores, removing acne-causing bacteria and reducing inflammation. Additional extracts like vitamin B and and lavender might help reduce excessive oil on your face, and the menthol scent will leave your skin squeaky-clean and refreshed.

Best for Combination Skin: LuxJoie AHA/BHA Exfoliating Cleanser

Treating acne is tough when you have combination skin. You need a cleanser that reduces oil in your T-zone without drying out the skin on your cheeks. Luckily, LuxJoie’s AHA/BHA Exfoliating Cleanser is designed with you in mind.

This foaming cleanser pairs the power of salicylic acid with lactic and glycolic acid for an exfoliating face wash that balances out your skin. Jojoba beads help scrub impurities from your pores while adding moisture to the drier parts of your face. It’s gentle enough to use twice a day, so you can start and end your day with refreshed skin.

Best Scrub: Neutrogena Oil-Free Acne Wash & Pink Grapefruit Foaming Scrub

Skincare buffs who want a deeper clean should look into salicylic acid face scrubs. Neutrogena’s Oil-Free Acne Wash & Pink Grapefruit Foaming Scrub is a solid pick for scrubbing away older skin cells without irritating your face.

Neutrogena’s scrub contains 2 percent salicylic acid for a powerful clean that will help reduce excess oil and break up dead skin cells lurking in your pores. It doesn’t contain any irritating microbeads—instead it relies on Neutrogena’s proprietary MICROCLEAR technology to help deliver more salicylic acid to your pores. This scrub is also ultra-refreshing thanks to naturally derived grapefruit extract.

Reviewers loved this scrub’s exfoliating power and fresh scent. Several people stated that they’d used this scrub for years and that it was their go-to cleanser for treating oily skin.

Best Cleansing Pads: Neutralyze Exfoliating Pads

Keeping your face clean and your pores clear is a lot tougher when you’re traveling. Airport regulations make it difficult to bring your favorite full-size cleanser along in your carry-on bag, and stopping to wash your face on a long car ride might not be possible. Neutralyze’s exfoliating pads have 2 percent salicylic acid for keeping your skin fresh when you’re away from home.

These handy pre-soaked pads tackle acne, redness, and uneven skin tone with just a few swipes. Both sides of each pad are textured for even more exfoliating power, and the scrub's malic acid works together with the salicylic acid to help reduce acne scars and hyperpigmentation.

Our Process

Our writers spent 4 hours researching the most popular salicylic acid face washes on the market. Before making their final recommendations, they considered 15 different face washes overall, screened options from 12 different brands and manufacturers, read over 25 user reviews (both positive and negative), and tested 2 of the face washes themselves. All of this research adds up to recommendations you can trust.

Was this page helpful?

Article Sources

  • Arif T. "Salicylic acid as a peeling agent: a comprehensive review." Clinical Cosmetic and Investigational Dermatology. 2015 Aug; 8:455-61. 

  • Castillo DE, Keri JE. "Chemical Peels in the Treatment of Acne: Patient Selection and Perspectives." Clinical Cosmetic and Investigational Dermatology. 2018; 11: 365–372.

  • Greive K, Tran D, Townley J, Barnes T. An antiaging skin care system containing alpha hydroxy acids and vitamins improves the biomechanical parameters of facial skin. Clinical, Cosmetic and Investigational Dermatology. December 2014:9. DOI:10.2147/ccid.s75439

  • Kang D, Shi B, Erfe MC, Craft N, Li H. Vitamin B 12 modulates the transcriptome of the skin microbiota in acne pathogenesis. Science Translational Medicine. 2015;7(293):293ra103-293ra103. DOI:10.1126/scitranslmed.aab2009

  • Spada F, Barnes TM, Greive KA. Skin hydration is significantly increased by a cream formulated to mimic the skin’s own natural moisturizing systems. Clinical, Cosmetic and Investigational Dermatology. 2018;Volume 11:491-497. DOI:10.2147/ccid.s177697