Battling with bad skin and breakouts? Does greasy skin leave you pimple-prone? If so, salicylic acid might just be your new best friend. And your spot’s worst enemy.
Many people struggle with spots, pocks, and persistent skin trouble. These can occur when hair follicles and pores get clogged up with dead skin cells, natural grease from the skin and bacteria. Bad skin can happen anywhere but the most common places are the face, forehead, upper arms, shoulders, chest and back. It can also happen to any skin type, but those with grease-prone or mixed skin types are more likely to get breakouts.
If you are one of the many people that suffer from spots- black, white or red- don’t worry. There are simple treatment methods to tackle bad skin head-on. And possibly the most effective and affordable is salicylic acid. Salicylic acid is an Alpha Hydroxy Acid (AHA). It’s a potent ingredient that pops up in many top skin care products because of its spot-diminishing properties. It is oil-soluble so can penetrate deep down into your skin and unclog pores and even dissolve some of the keratin plugs that block follicles and cause spots. Salicylic acid also acts as an anti-inflammatory, reducing the size and redness of pimples, and an exfoliant to break down dead skin cells to help keep your skin looking and feeling healthy.
So if you want to give salicylic acid a go, we recommend getting started with a face wash. They are effective, easy to use, and won’t break the bank. There are loads of salicylic acid face washes on the market, so to make things easier for you we have reviewed the top products out there. Check them out now! Table could not be displayed.
Best Salicylic Acid Face Washes & Cleansers in 2023
1. Neutrogena Oil-Free Acne and Redness Facial Cleanser
Cut spots off at the source with the Neutrogena Facial Cleanser. It is one of the facial cleansers best designed to fight against skin breakouts and effectively reduce the appearance of redness from spots. The specialized formula contains salicylic acid which targets problem areas, and the special MicroClear formula helps deliver the treatment effectively to the skin, heightening its spot-fighting power. It can cut straight through the grease and penetrate deep down into the skin. This will really tackle spots at their source like pulling a weed out from the root, not just chopping it off at the surface.
The active acid is paired with a mild, natural formula of aloe and chamomile. This helps to keep skin calm and lower the appearance of redness or irritation. It should leave you with a clearer skin tone. The consistency of the cleanser is smooth, creamy and the bottle pump makes it super easy to apply. For best results use it twice daily by applying it to wet skin, massaging it into the face so it lathers up and is able to work its way deep down.
This is great for anyone with, particularly greasy skin. There are many things that can cause your skin to produce more sebum and appear greasy. Hormones can cause this in teenagers, while other people have skin types that are naturally more prone to this. Outside factors like stress can cause your body to produce a hormone called cortisol that also contributes to bad skin. Luckily Neutrogena has specifically worked to fight against greasy skin with its oil-free formula and is recommended by dermatologists. A great brand to try out first.
- Salicylic Acid (2%)
- Aloe Vera
- Penetrates deep down into pores to stop breakouts
- Soothing formulation to reduce redness
- Oil-free formula reduces greasy skin without over-drying
- This product may irritate extremely delicate skin
2. CeraVe Salicylic Acid Cleanser
Do you hate your rough, bumpy skin? The CeraVe Salicylic Acid Cleanser is here to help you smooth and exfoliate your skin. It has been developed with dermatologists and is specially formulated to cut through dirt, grease and dead skin to leave your face feeling clean and rejuvenated. And best of all, smooth and spot free. The exfoliating properties of the salicylic acid soften the skin, while the other selection of ingredients work to hydrate and give it antioxidant protection. The product also contains ceramides 1, 3 and 6-II. What are these? Ceramides are lipids that help keep the moisture in your skin’s natural barrier. That means this wash is perfect to help restore and repair this barrier.
The formula of this face wash is mild and doesn’t irritate the skin. It has no added fragrance and is non-comedogenic so should be fine for those with skin that flares up easily and ok for frequent use. It also has no harsh micro-beads like many other cleansers which can irritate the skin, and some are even formulated from plastic which can be bad for the environment. This product cleans and cleanses deep down without over drying. It is easy to use and apply with a functional pump bottle. As this is a top dermatologist-recommended product, it is packed with the right ingredients to target problem skin. CeraVe also have various other skin care products, such as the moisturizer, that will work well in conjunction with this product.
- Salicylic Acid
- Vitamin D
- Hyaluronic acid
- Salicylic acid softens and smooths
- Restores the skin’s natural barrier
- No harsh beads and non-irritating formula
- Some people have complained of problems with the pump
3. Clean & Clear Oil Absorbing Cream Facial Cleanser with Salicylic Acid
This product is great for skin that gets greasy easily. If you break out a lot and need something to target bothersome blemishes and reduce shine, the Clean & Clear cream facial cleanser with salicylic acid might just do the trick! Massage a small amount of this product into your skin once or twice daily. It quickly cleans and cuts through grease, in fact it can remove 85% of grease in one wash. Salicylic acid helps to penetrate pores to unclog them and clear them out. It also works to exfoliate away dead skin cells which will help get rid of your spots and leave your skin feeling clear and healthy.
The salicylic acid content is fairly low in this product, so great if you are looking for something quite mild but effective. With the powder particle technology this is ideal for reducing shine, however the product is also good for normal and mixed skin types.
- Salicylic Acid (0.5%)
- Probably the best salicylic acid face wash to target greasy skin and reduce shine
- See clearer skin after just one day
- Quick dissolve formula starts working instantly
- As it is quite concentrated some people found it to sting a little on application
- It comes in quite a small tube
4. Amazon Brand – Solimo Oil Free Acne Wash, 2% Salicylic Acid Acne Medication, Dermatologist Tested, 9.1 Fluid Ounce
The Amazon brand salicylic acid face wash is up there in the running for the best facial cleanser for your money when it comes to tackling problem skin and blemishes. With the active ingredient of salicylic acid, this is a face wash best suited to exfoliate and peel back the dead skin and bacteria that cause blemishes. The ingredients work well to quickly and effectively stop breakouts in their tracks. The product is specifically designed not to exacerbate greasy skin and aims to clear and even out your skin tone. The bottle is conveniently sized to place in your bathroom and the pump mechanism is really easy to use and pumps out the right amount of face wash each time. It has a light floral scent to match so it is pleasant to use.
This product is made in the US, not tested on animals, paraben and phthalate free, dermatologist and pediatrician tested and has one of the lowest price tags out there for this type of product on the market. What’s not to love about this face wash? In fact, the brand is so sure you will love it they offer a one-year money-back guarantee if you are not satisfied for any reason!
- Salicylic Acid (2%)
- Very budget-friendly!
- Two active ingredients to fight breakouts
- Vegan, paraben, phthalate free, and not animal tested
- Some people complain about the smell of the product is too strong
5 C&C by Clean & Clear Black Out Blackhead Clearing Coffee Facial Scrub with Salicylic Acid
The C&C Black Out Coffee Scrub could be the best salicylic acid face wash to consider for targeting those bothersome black-tipped blemishes that clog up your pores and seem impossible to remove. This double whammy of a face wash includes beads to gently exfoliate away dead skin and dirt and salicylic acid which delves deep down and unclogs pores. It offers a great deep clean that helps target spot prone skin and allow your skin to feel clearer in just days.
This scrub can be used daily, just apply a small blob to the face and neck, gently massage into the skin, and then rinse with warm water. The formula is designed to target greasy skin but not over-dry. If you love coffee, you will love the smell. The scent is straight out of your favourite coffee shop, a great fragrance to wake up to in the morning and get you going for the day. This product isn’t tested on animals and is gluten-free, soy-free, has no parabens, sulfates or synthetic colours and is made without any animal products.
So if you are after a salicylic acid face wash but prefer a scrub that is a little more hard core and really works down into those pores, why not check out the black out facial scrub?
- Salicylic Acid (2%)
- Exfoliating beads to unclog pores
- Amazing coffee smell
- The exfoliating beads are quite gentle, some people prefer a grittier texture
6. Amazon Brand – Solimo Oil-free Pink Grapefruit Facial Scrub
Amazon brand brings you another affordable salicylic acid face wash, this time in the form of a scrub for an extra deep clean. If you are looking for an exfoliator to target spots this one might be the best face wash for the job. The micro-beads remove dead skin cells, dirt, and grease, which then allow the salicylic acid to penetrate the pores and clear out sebum and bacteria to improve and prevent spots.
This product is great for greasy skin. However, the formula doesn’t leave skin feeling too dry which is a problem with many oil-free products. The fresh grapefruit scent from the grapefruit extract is a welcome addition to this product, although not if you prefer fragrance-free products.
This simple, straightforward product and packaging reflect the cheap and cheerful (and effective!) style of Amazon Brand. It comes at a great price for those on a budget. It also has a money-back guarantee if you are not satisfied with it so it’s worth a try. The face wash contains 2% salicylic acid, the potent active ingredient with the power to target breakouts. It is dermatologically tested but not recommended for people with very delicate or easily irritated skin.
- Salicylic acid (2%)
- Grapefruit extract
- Microbeads to exfoliate
- Salicylic acid to deep clean and target spots
- It can irritate very delicate skin
7. Neutrogena Oil-Free Acne Fighting Facial Cleanser with Salicylic Acid
Neutrogena is the number one recommended brand for breakout-prone skin, so if you are looking for blackhead products or cleansers to target pimples this might be the perfect face wash for you.
This cleanser by Neutrogena washes the skin, leaving it clean and clear. The salicylic acid works well to minimize existing spots and prevent new ones from forming. The face wash also contains conditioners that moisturize and hydrate at the same time, so your skin won’t be left feeling dry or irritated. It also doesn’t leave a residue on the skin which is perfect to stop it clogging pores and therefore preventing breakouts.
If you suffer with greasy skin this Neutrogena face wash removes 93% of it in the first use. You can use this product in the morning and the evening by applying a pump to your hands and massaging it into wet skin so that it lathers up. Then simply wash it off and pat dry with a clean towel. The pump bottle is convenient and easy to use and you get 9.1 fluid ounces in each bottle. Although the salicylic acid in this product gives it a lot of power, it is gentle enough to use every day and add into your normal cleansing routine. Check it out on Amazon where you can get a deal on multiple bottles.
- Salicylic acid (2%)
- Targets breakouts as well as preventing future pimples
- Great for daily use
- Neutrogena is one of the preferred brands for spot-prone skin
- Some people with delicate skin found a mild stinging using the product
8. Tracie Martyn Amla Purifying Cleanser,Gentle, Exfoliating, & Brightening Organic Facial Wash
If you are looking to invest in more of a luxury product, the Tracie Martyn Amla Purifying Cleanser might be the best choice for you. It cleans the skin, removes makeup, exfoliates and nourishes all in one.
Tracie Martyn is a celebrity facialist based in Manhattan and her beauty products are made from high quality natural ingredients to nourish and enrich your skin tone. This cleanser is a high end product that works well to tackle pimples, unclog and minimize pores, as well as reduce the appearance of lines and wrinkles.
Ayurvedic Amla extract provides the skin with vitamin C while Hawaiian green papaya enzymes act as a natural exfoliant. These complement and work together with the salicylic acid that washes out pores deep down to fight breakouts. The product is sulfate and petro-chemical free, and without detergent or added artificial fragrances or dyes. It also isn’t tested on animals. It means the mostly natural, filler-free product is suitable for all skin types. It keeps your skin clean and hydrated without drying it out and is gentle enough for use twice a day. It has a light, fresh natural scent.
Although its small, just 1.29 ounces, the rich formula means you only need a little at a time for the best thorough cleanse. So if you want a high end, natural face cleanser to tackle problem skin, check it out!
- Salicylic acid
- Hawaiian green papaya enzymes
- Amla extract
- All-in-one cleanser, make-up remover and deep clean to tackle spots
- Highest quality natural ingredients
- Nourishing and gentle
- High price tag
- Small bottle
9. Planet Eden 30% Salicylic Acid Skin Chemical Peel with Tea Tree Oil & Green Tea Extract
Struggle with constant breakouts and looking for a more extreme treatment to target chronic bad skin issues? The Planet Eden Salicylic Acid Skin Chemical Peel is to be used with care for those who find the milder washes and treatments just don’t cut it. If you are beginner make sure you do your research about whether a chemical peel is right for you and consider consulting your dermatologist before trying this product. It is a strong treatment ultimately to be tried at your own risk.
With a hefty 30% salicylic acid content, compared to the typical 2% washes, this apply-at-home skin peel mask dissolves the top layer of the skin allowing new smoother, healthy skin to resurface. This helps for severe spotty skin, greasy skin, as well as other problems such as sun damaged skin, lines, dark spots or hyperpigmentation. It also shrinks down and tightens the appearance of pores and helps the texture and smoothness of your complexion. The peel also contains lactic acid which is an Alpha Hydroxy Acid (AHA) which washes out and deep cleans pores and improves the look of scars from bad breakouts.
The pot contains enough product for around 15 to 20 peels. The purchase comes with a fan brush so you can apply a thin layer of the product. But you will receive the full directions for use along with the product. You will need a neutralizer to stop the peel. It comes with a moisturizing antioxidant recovery cream which is an important part of the treatment to hydrate the new, delicate skin after the peel.
- Salicylic-acid (30%)
- Green tea extract
- An extreme treatment that deals with severe skin issues
- Resurfaces skin tone and complexion, unclogs pores and tackles problem skin
- See results straight away
- Very strong, may not be good for many skin types, to be used with caution
10. Babyface Anti-Aging and Acne Control 6% Salicylic Wash Cleanser with Activated Charcoal
This final product uses activated charcoal along with a high 6% salicylic acid to not only tackle pimples but also encourage younger, more healthy skin.
This product is gentle, so a perfect beauty product to cleanse, reduce greasy skin and penetrate pores without being too harsh or over drying. It is great for daily use and in just a few days see the difference the power of 6% salicylic acid can make.
The formula is creme based which is the best for moisturizing the skin. Vitamins and extracts also help nourish the skin and Hyaluronic acid plumps it.
- Salicylic acid
- Activated charcoal
- Hyaluronic Acid
- Vitamin C
- White tea
- Stronger than many salicylic acid washes
- Smooths skin and tightens pores
- Has multiple active ingredients of salicylic and hyaluronic acid
- Some people found the consistency of this too runny.
What to Consider When Buying Salicylic Acid Face Washes
When buying salicylic acid face washes, look at the concentration of salicylic acid in the product. 2% is usually effective without being too strong, but it can vary depending on how strong you want the product to be. Look out for products with natural ingredients and products that are paraben and sulfate free to avoid drying out or irritating your skin. Soothing ingredients like tea-tree, aloe vera and different tea extracts are great complimentary ingredients.
When buying skin care products its best to look for the most effective product within your budget as it is something you may need to use consistently for the nest results. You don’t need to break the bank for a good product, just check the ingredients before buying as sometimes cheaper products are likely to have more artificial ingredients and can be harsher or more drying than natural (and sometimes more expensive) ones.
Can Salicylic acid cause side effects?
There are some possible side effects that can be caused by using salicylic acid products, however in a face wash these are usually mild, the most common being redness, stinging or dryness. Some people, however, may experience more severe side effects such as problems breathing, nausea, dizziness, vomiting, headaches, burning skin, although these are uncommon. Some people believe it can cause hair loss but this is a myth. In fact it actually helps stimulate hair growth.
Can I use salicylic acid every day?
Yes you can use products containing salicylic acid daily although I would avoid using it more than twice a day to avoid the side effects above. As potencies can vary, always check the label. Try not to use multiple salicylic acid products per day.
There you have it, a range of the best products to say goodbye to your breakouts and bad skin for good! Salicylic acid is one of the best and most effective ingredients to target pimples and is recommended by many dermatologists. Give your favourite a try to start your skin transformation today!
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