If you’re suffering from oily skin or acne breakouts, salicylic acid cleansers may be your best bet at alleviating these. Salicylic acid is a type of BHA that strips away dead skin cells, unclogs pores, and reduces excess sebum that causes acne. However, salicylic acid may be extremely drying, so you might need to be more careful when choosing a cleanser that contains this ingredient.
With the variety of salicylic acid cleansers on the market, it may be difficult to choose the one that will work best for you. Put your worries to rest because we will be helping you! In this article, we will be giving you a list of 10 of the best salicylic acid cleansers, as well as a buying guide, reviewed by dermatologist Dr. Katrina Habaluyas Luz, that will help you in choosing the best one for you.
Dr. Katrina Habaluyas Luz is the face behind Ask Your Derma. She is a board-certified dermatologist in Metro Manila. She is also an educator and digital creator on all things skin, hair, and nails. She is a Diplomate of the Philippine Dermatological Society and offers online video consultations. You can also catch her on her Instagram, Facebook, and YouTube channel.
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Buying guides reviewed by featured experts.
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Here are some key points to consider:
For more detailed information, read through our buying guide below.
One of the first things to consider in choosing a salicylic cleanser is the concentration of the salicylic acid in it. The ideal percentage for skincare products would be from 0.5% to 2%. This is also the recommended percentage for home use and over-the-counter products.
Remember that the more potent salicylic acid is, the more chances it will irritate your skin. Should you want to use a product that exceeds the said percentage, we recommend you consult a dermatologist first.
Salicylic acid is an effective beta-hydroxy acid that is oil-loving. Hence, its amazing ability to penetrate pores and clear out excess oil and debris. But if used incorrectly, it can be excessively drying and/or irritating.
For those with sensitive skin, a good option is a cleanser (versus leave-on products), given its short contact time with the skin. Don't forget to patch test!
Salicylic acid may be known for treating acne and clogged pores, but you might want to pick a cleanser that will address other problems that comes with your skin type. Here are tips on what you should choose depending on your skin type.
Excess oil or sebum on your skin may cause several skin problems, including acne breakouts. To solve this dilemma, you might want to choose oil-free cleansers or those that contain ingredients with oil control properties. Examples of these are zinc pyrrolidone carboxylic acid (PCA), tea tree oil, grapefruit extracts, and niacinamide, among others.
Salicylic acid in itself helps regulate oil production. However, if added with other ingredients like niacinamide, they can work synergistically to keep excess oil at bay.
Combination skin is characterized by skin that is part-oily and part-dry. If you have this skin type, consider cleansers that have skin pH-friendly formulas to balance your skin’s oil-to-water ratio. Plus, pH-balanced formulas ensure little to no irritation for your skin.
Our skin naturally has an acidic pH that ranges between 4.5-5.5. The reason for this is it helps keep moisture in and bacteria out. Best to look for a cleanser with a pH that matches the natural pH of the skin to prevent irritation.
One of the downsides of using salicylic acid is that it dries out the skin. Thus, you should look for products that contain hydrating ingredients if you’re opting for salicylic acid cleansers. Some examples are hyaluronic acid, ceramides, niacinamide, and Centella Asiatica, among others.
Hyaluronic acid is a humectant that attracts water to the skin, while ceramides and niacinamide help maintain the skin barrier while retaining moisture in the skin. Centella Asiatica also helps hydrate the skin and has anti-inflammatory properties.
#AskYourDerma Tips:- If you have dry skin, limit the contact time of the cleanser with your skin.
If you have sensitive skin, look for salicylic acid cleansers that do not have potentially harmful additives like artificial fragrances, parabens, sulfates, and alcohol. These ingredients may aggravate skin redness, irritation, or rashes.
Salicylic acid may also be irritating, but there are cleansers out there that also have soothing ingredients to it to alleviate the irritation risks. Some examples of skin-soothing components are allantoin, tea tree oil, and Centella Asiatica.
If you have sensitive skin, your best bet is to patch test that salicylic acid cleanser to make sure you don't develop a reaction and/or irritation.
In choosing skincare products, it is recommended to pick ones that will help you address multiple skin concerns. You can also lessen the products you use in your skincare routine when you use products with multiple benefits. Ingredients like niacinamide and hyaluronic acid are known to be skincare rockstars for their hydrating, pore minimizing, and skin brightening benefits.
Salicylic acid cleansers are great for those with oily and/or acne-prone skin. Here's another use for it - you can use it as a body wash to help prevent body acne as well!
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Renewing SA Cleanser
An All-Around Cleanser That’s Developed With Dermatologists
Deep Clean Acne Foaming Cleanser
Dermatologist-Tested Formula That Fights Acne-Causing Bacteria
Salicylic Acid Daily Gentle Cleanser
A Gentle Formula for Salicylic Acid Beginners
Removes Acne and Blemishes With Two Types of Salicylic Acid
Calming Acne Salicylic Cleanser
A Vegan Cleanser That Calms Sensitive Skin
2% Salicylic Acid Gentle Cleanser
An Unscented Cleanser With Multiple Benefits
Pimple Eraser Facial Gel Cleanser
A Non-Drying Facial Gel Cleanser Made for Oily Skin
The Inkey List
Salicylic Acid Cleanser
Gives More Even-Looking Complexion
Bright Complete Anti-Acne 3-in-1 Cleanser
Brightens Skin With the Combination of Salicylic Acid and Vitamin C
Oil-Free Acne Cleansing Gel
An Oil-Free Solution for Oily and Acne-Prone Skin
Awarded “Best of Skincare” by BeautyMNL Awards 2021, this cleanser effectively removes dirt and impurities while also smoothening rough and bumpy skin. Aside from salicylic acid, it is packed with skin-loving ingredients like niacinamide, hyaluronic acid, and ceramides. These ingredients will help hydrate your skin and remove blemishes.
It also contains vitamin D, an antioxidant that protects the skin from damage. Plus, it has a non-irritating, non-comedogenic, and fragrance-free formula, which suits people with sensitive skin. It is also dermatologists-developed, so you don’t have to worry about safety.
Having acne-prone skin will not be a problem anymore with this dermatologist-tested cleanser! With the combination of 0.5% salicylic acid and Isopropyl Methylphenol (IPMP), this cleanser promises to remove 99% of dirt and impurities from your skin, including acne-causing bacteria.
What’s more exciting is that it has a skin pH-friendly formula, which will not damage your skin’s natural barrier. Plus, it has Neutrogena’s Amino Micellar Technology that does not only remove impurities but also helps retain your skin’s moisture. It is also non-comedogenic, meaning it won’t clog your skin’s pores.
If you want to introduce salicylic acid into your skincare routine, this cleanser might be perfect for you! This cleanser by COSRX contains 0.5% salicylic acid and willow bark water to gently exfoliate your skin, leaving it feeling softer and smoother.
Furthermore, this cleanser has 0.2% tea tree leaf oil, known for its antiseptic and anti-inflammatory properties. These qualities help improve oily skin and soothe sensitive skin. Overall, this is a good product for removing excess sebum, combatting acne, and removing blemishes for new salicylic acid users.
Can't get rid of stubborn blemishes? This one might be the solution! Murad's cleanser is infused with two types of salicylic acidーa free form that immediately treats acne and blemishes, plus an encapsulated one that continuously treats the skin even after you rinse it out! This also promises to prevent future acne breakouts from happening.
Furthermore, this cleanser contains green tea extracts that calm and soothe irritated skin. It is also clinically tested to be safe and effective for people with sensitive skin. It might be on the pricier side, but it definitely is worth the splurge.
If your skin is easily irritated, this mild cleanser is a great option! Made with 5,000 parts per million (ppm) of salicylic acid and Centella Asiatica extracts, this cleanser promises to improve oily and acne-prone skin while calming and soothing your skin.
Another thing to love about this cleanser is that it has a vegan, low pH, hypoallergenic, paraben-free, sulfate-free, and silicone-free formula. This means that it is also suitable even for those with sensitive skin. Users also love how it leaves their skin soft and hydrated.
With 2% salicylic acid, this cleanser helps clear acne, blemishes, and dead skin cells while unclogging your skin’s pores. Another thing that sets this cleanser apart from others is that it has minimal ingredients and is free from fragrances, parabens, and sulfates, making it suitable for sensitive skin.
It also has three other key ingredients that give multiple benefits to the skinーceramides for the skin’s moisture barrier renewal, allantoin for soothing and calming, and zinc PCA for removing excess oil. Moreover, it has a skin-friendly pH level of 5.5, which will not strip your skin from its much-needed moisture.
Designed for oily and acne-prone skin, this cleanser has 1% salicylic acid to remove dirt, oil, and bacteria that can cause breakouts. Not only that, it is packed with skin-loving ingredients that will bring lots of benefits to your skin. It has 1% niacinamide and glycolic acid that minimizes your skin's pores and brightens dark spots.
Moreover, it contains tea tree oil and aloe vera extracts to calm skin redness and swelling. Another advantage of this cleanser is that it is non-drying. Thus it is also perfect for those with dry skin. Since it has a gel-like consistency, it feels light on the skin, tooーnone of that sticky and thick feeling!
Infused with 2% salicylic acid and zinc, this cleanser will get rid of dead skin cells, blackheads, blemishes, and acne while preventing excess sebum production. This will leave your skin looking smoother and more even.
It also contains 0.5% allantoin, which helps soothe irritated skin. Not only that, it produces a light foam that will not dry out your skin. This one is a great option if you have sensitive, oily, or combination skin.
Do you worry whether it is okay to mix salicylic acid with vitamin C? Garnier says you can! This cleanser has salicylic acid to combat acne-causing bacteria, and it also has vitamin C that helps brighten dark spots.
According to buyer reviews, this cleanser helped them address acne breakouts and made their skin less dull. Moreover, this product is perfect for those with oily skin, as it reduces excess sebum and deeply cleanses the skin's pores.
Excess sebum is one of the greatest contributors to acne breakouts. You can worry less about this problem with Neutrogena's oil-free cleanser! Aside from salicylic acid, this product is infused with naturally-derived grapefruit extracts, known for their antibacterial and oil control properties.
Moreover, it uses Neutrogena's MicroClear Technology to clear not only acne but also blackheads. The only downside is that it contains Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLES) and methylparaben, which may not be suitable for people with dry or sensitive skin.
Remember, salicylic acid is great at regulating oil production. So you have to watch out that your skin isn't left dry and/or irritated. Avoid mixing with leave-on products with salicylic acid, products with other acids, and retinoids. When in doubt, don't hesitate to #AskYourDerma.
Below are some of the most asked questions on the web answered by dermatologist Dr. Katrina Habaluyas Luz.
Salicylic acid cleansers can be used depending on what other ingredients and/or actives you have in your routine. #AskYourDerma to make sure you don't use it at the same time as potentially irritating products to prevent you from developing any problems.
Use a small amount, dilute in water, lather, and gently apply onto your skin. Salicylic acid cleansers are typically best left for around 1-3 minutes on your skin before rinsing off to allow them to bring about their beneficial effects.
Yes, the great thing about niacinamide is it generally gets along well with a lot of other different actives - salicylic acid included!
Acne breakouts happen when your skin has excess sebum, dead skin cells, or dirt that blocks your pores. Just washing your face may not be enough to combat acne. With that, below are some products you can incorporate in your skincare routine to say goodbye to acne.
Author: Kate Basa
Editor: R. Victoriano
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