The 9 Best Soaps for Acne of 2023

What soap to use for hormonal acne

What to Look for in a Soap for Acne


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.

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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.”

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— Update: 15-03-2023 — found an additional article 13 Acne Soaps to Calmly and Gently Fade Breakouts from the website for the keyword what soap to use for hormonal acne.

Best vegan soap for acne

The Body Shop Tea Tree Skin Clearing Facial Wash

  • Price: $
  • Size: 2 ounces (oz.)
  • Skin type: oil and acne-prone
  • Key ingredients: tea tree oil

Tea tree oil is often used to spot-treat pimples, but when it comes to general cleansers, experts advise against using it undiluted. That’s why this Tea Tree Skin Clearing Facial Wash includes tea tree oil as a diluted ingredient. It’s an effective antiseptic and has an anti-inflammatory effect on bacterial and inflamed acne.

This cleanser is formulated specifically for oily, acne-prone skin and is budget friendly. It also comes from The Body Shop too, a brand known for vegan skin care products.

Many reviewers say the facial wash has become a regular part of their skin care routine. A lot of people like that it helped manage oil production without drying out their skin.

Best noncomedogenic soap for acne

Cetaphil Daily Facial Cleanser

  • Price: $
  • Size: 20 oz.
  • Skin type: normal to oily
  • Key ingredients: glycerin

This dermatologist-recommended face wash from Cetaphil is great for people with normal to oily skin and is gentle enough for people with sensitive skin too. It cleanses your face without stripping your skin of its moisture.

The noncomedogenic cleanser is also fairly inexpensive compared with other sensitive skin-friendly formulas.

Reviewers like that it leaves their skin soft, but some people don’t like the cleanser’s gel-like consistency.

Best cleanser and makeup remover for acne

ROHTO Hadalabo Gokujun Cleansing Oil

  • Price: $
  • Size: 6.7 oz.
  • Skin type: oily and combination
  • Key ingredients: olive oil, hyaluronic acid, and jojoba seed oil

This cleansing oil from ROHTO is formulated to remove makeup and skin impurities. And yes, you can use oil to cleanse your skin! It’s also unscented, so it won’t bother you if you have issues with (or an allergic reaction to) strong fragrances.

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Be aware that it does have an oily consistency, so you might not like how it feels on your skin compared with other oil-free skin care products.

Reviewers like that it’s gentle enough for sensitive skin and say that it does an excellent job at wiping away tough-to-remove makeup products like waterproof mascara.

Best soap for oily skin with acne

Kate Somerville EradiKate Daily Cleanser Acne Treatment

  • Price: $$$
  • Size: 4 oz.
  • Skin type: normal, oily, and combination
  • Key ingredients: sulfur, honey, rice bran extract, and oat extract

Sulfur draws out impurities and clears your pores, while honey and rice bran extracts calm redness. The addition of natural oat extract also helps removes excess oil.

This formula is good for people with acne-prone skin who might be worried about drying out their skin with a cleanser.

People say it works well for clearing up acne, but some complain the smell might be too strong or unpleasant for some people.

Bonus: The formula is free of parabens, sulfates, and phthalates.

Best soap for dry skin and acne

CeraVe Hydrating Facial Cleanser

  • Price: $
  • Size: 16 oz.
  • Skin type: normal to dry
  • Key ingredients: ceramides and hyaluronic acid

The ceramides (natural lipids found in the skin) in this cleanser help lock in hydration, while hyaluronic acid attracts moisture. This cleanser is gentle on dry skin, nonirritating, and fragrance-free.

It’s also a good choice if you’re dealing with both acne and ultra-dry skin.

Some reviewers note that while the creamy consistency takes some getting used to, it works well to cleanse acne-prone skin. It’s even gentle enough to use on severe cystic acne, according to one reviewer.

Best exfoliating soap for acne

Murad AHA/BHA Exfoliating Cleanser

  • Price: $$$
  • Size: 6.75 oz.
  • Skin type: dry
  • Key ingredients: glycolic acid, lactic acid, and salicylic acid

The Murad AHA/BHA Exfoliating Cleanser is free of phthalates and contains a variety of acid-based exfoliators to help kill bacteria, clear out pores, and remove dead skin — all without drying out your skin. However, due to its high acid content, this cleanser isn’t for everyday use. We recommend alternating with a gentle, low pH cleanser.

The cleanser gets rave reviews from most of its customers, who say that it’s their favorite face wash. A few reviewers complain that while it is effective, the price is too high for it to be a regular part of their skin care routine.

Best pH-balancing soap for acne

COSRX Gentle Morning Cleanser

  • Price: $
  • Size: 5 oz.
  • Skin types: dry and sensitive
  • Key ingredients: tea tree oil and betaine salicylate

By balancing your skin’s pH, this cleanser works to minimize bad skin reactions. With gentle BHA and tea tree oil for exfoliating pores and removing dirt, this morning cleanser is good for bacterial acne and irritated skin.

This is also a great second-step purchase for folks who like to double-cleanse.

What do customers like about this low cost soap? People say that it’s gentle, non-irritating, and does a good job at balancing combination skin. A few people complain that it’s not great for ultra-dry skin though.

Best pore-clearing soap for acne

Marie Veronique Treatment Cleanser

  • Price: $$
  • Size: 4 oz.
  • Skin types: all, except sensitive
  • Key ingredients: willow bark, lactic acid, and apple cider vinegar

This treatment cleanser is designed to treat adult acne and minimize breakouts. Using apple cider vinegar to help fight bacteria, it works as a skin-safe antiseptic and pore cleanser. It also uses phloretin, an organic compound primarily found in apples, that can reduce inflammation.

The Marie Veronique Treatment Cleanser is available in a 4-oz. bottle or if you need to take your treatment on-the-go, it’s also available in a 1-oz. travel size.

One reviewer praises how soft this cleanser made their skin feel and how fresh it felt to apply.

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Best body and face soap for acne

Alaffia Authentic African Black Soap

  • Price: $
  • Size: 32 oz.
  • Skin types: all
  • Key ingredients: shea butter, eucalyptus oil, and tea tree oil

This soap is overflowing with hydrating, skin-friendly ingredients that are safe for the face and body. This multi-use soap can also be used as shampoo and shaving cream, so if you like how it works, it might be the only soap you need in your home!

This whole-body soap is formulated to soothe your skin, thanks to the inclusion of essential oils like tea tree and eucalyptus. But, make sure to do a patch test first — just in case you’re allergic to plant oils — before using this all over your body.

People love the versatile formula and that it’s a fair trade product. One person notes that it does have a watery consistency, making it hard to use just a little at a time.

Bonus: It’s vegan, paraben-free, and free of dyes and sulfates.

Best soap for acne and redness

Eucerin Redness Relief Soothing Cleanser

  • Price: $
  • Size: 6.8 oz.
  • Skin type: sensitive
  • Key ingredients: licochalcone

This might surprise you, but some so-called acne-relieving products can actually make your redness-prone skin worse. However, this product from Eucerin is made to calm your skin and keep redness at bay by using licochalcone, a licorice root extract that can help calm acne-prone skin.

It’s a good option if you have acne-related redness or a condition like rosacea. In fact, reviewers with rosacea say it helps soothe skin and dampen a ruddy complexion. However, if you have very severe redness, you may not see the same desired results.

Best cleansing balm for acne

Banila Co Clean It Zero Cleansing Balm

  • Price: $$
  • Size: 3.38 oz.
  • Sky types: all
  • Key ingredients: centella asiatica extract and licorice root

Grab this cleansing balm to melt away impurities and remove any leftover remnants from your workday — like dirt, grime, and makeup. The balm is formulated to give you a through clean without stripping your skin of its natural oils. It’s also hypoallergenic and free of parabens and drying alcohol.

Reviewers say it’s great for removing makeup and doesn’t dry out your skin in the process. One reviewer notes that it irritated their eyes, and some say it caused them to develop pimples.

Best soap for sensitive skin with acne

Vanicream Gentle Facial Cleanser

  • Price: $
  • Size: 8 oz.
  • Skin types: all, especially sensitive
  • Key ingredients: glycerin, coco glucoside, and sodium chloride

This soap-free and oil-free cleanser was made for sensitive skin, as it leaves out a lot of the common chemical irritants, like fragrances and dyes, found in other cleansers. It gently cleans your skin with ingredients like glycerin and is available at an affordable price.

The noncomedogenic cleanser is also dermatologist tested and was awarded the Seal of Acceptance from the National Eczema Association. If other affordable cleansers from Cetaphil or CeraVe don’t work for you, Vanicream might be worth a try.

Reviewers like that it’s nonirritating and actually lathers up — something many gentle cleansers fail to do. Others have noted that while it’s fragrance-free, it does have a slight smell, which some describe as medicinal.

Best soap for bacterial acne

Caudalie Instant Foaming Cleanser

  • Price: $$
  • Size: 5 oz.
  • Skin types: normal and dry
  • Key ingredients: grape seed polyphenols, sage extract, and chamomile extract

This foaming formula contains grape seed polyphenols for antioxidant protection, as well as antibacterial sage extract to prevent bacterial acne. It also contains anti-inflammatory chamomile extract to counter redness and soothe skin.

One reviewer with rosacea says that it’s even better than Cetaphil for calming redness. A few people note that while it’s ultra-gentle, they’re unsure of how cleansing it is.

Bonus: It’s vegan, nontoxic, and cruelty-free and has no synthetic chemicals