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The Best Face Wash for Acne According to Your Skin Type

Acne affects about 85% of American teenagers and young adults. The solution for acne-prone skin usually starts with a good facial cleanser, but how do you find the best product among all the acne face washes on the market?

For those with dry, acne-prone skin, you want to look for a face wash that clears away excess oil without exacerbating dryness. Keep an eye out for ingredients like niacinamide and hyaluronic acid which moisturize. If your skin is oily, you may want a face wash that can alleviate that extra oil without drying you out. Seek out gentle exfoliants like BHA and stay away from anything that could clog pores.

To find the best face cleanser for you, first consider your skin type. From there, look for ingredients that can alleviate the problem spots without causing irritation.

A woman washed her face in a sink

What is Face Cleanser?

A face wash or cleanser is not just soap. Face cleansers are formulated with special ingredients that address clogged pores without overly drying the skin or stripping it of its natural oils.

Check your cleanser's ingredient list for things like:

  • Glycolic Acid (AHA)

  • Salicylic Acid (BHA)

  • Benzoyl Peroxide

These, and other acne-fighting ingredients, target the three main causes of acne: bacteria, clogged pores, and inflammation. Glycolic and Salicylic acids are used to gently exfoliate away dead skin cells that can clog pores, while benzoyl peroxide helps to reduce acne causing bacteria.

The best cleanser for acne will bring together effective ingredients like these to treat all causes of acne without irritating skin. However, some skin types may become irritated by certain ingredients and respond better to others. How do you know which ingredients to look out for?

How to Identify Your Skin Type

First take a look at the characteristics of each skin type to determine how ingredients may affect your skin.

Dry Skin

  • Scaly, rough, or flakey skin

  • Redness and/or itchiness

  • Tightness after washing

Oily Skin

  • Larger pores

  • Visible sheen, especially on nose and forehead

  • Greasy feeling after washing

Combination Skin

  • Nose and forehead are oily while other areas feel dry or flakey

  • Skin may change seasonally; it is dry in the winter and oily in the summer

Sensitive Skin

  • Skin is often red, itchy, and/or blotchy

  • Products applied to skin may lead to burning sensation

  • May occur along with dry, oily, or combination skin

Ingredients to Look For and Avoid

Dry Skin

For dry skin, gel cleansers may work better than other forms in preventing your skin from drying out further. Also look for cleansers that have a low percent benzoyl peroxide so that it fights acne-causing bacteria without irritating dry and sensitive skin.

Ingredients to Look For

For dry skin, the best cleanser for acne will remove pore-clogging excess oil and sebum without further drying out your skin. These ingredients counteract drying ingredients to soothe skin:

  • Niacinamide can help to reduce inflammation, a primary cause of acne and especially on dry skin, while also protecting the skin's moisture barrier, leading to reduced dryness.

  • Hyaluronic Acid is a component already present in skin. Reintroducing it can help your skin retain water.

Ingredients to Avoid

These ingredients can especially dry out skin, exacerbating flakes and redness:

Oily Skin

Ingredients to Look For

Oily skin is especially prone to closed comedones, cystic acne, and other blemishes due to the way excess sebum can block pores and offer more nutrients to P. acnesbacteria, causing it to overgrow.

  • Benzoyl Peroxide reduces P. acnesby eliminating excess oil.

  • Salicylic Acid gently exfoliates to reduce clogged pores.

We especially recommend oil free foaming cleansers if you have oily or acne-prone skin. These cleansers are effective at removing excess oil and dirt from the skin, without stripping away the natural oils that are essential for healthy skin. When choosing a foaming cleanser, be sure to pay attention to the active ingredients. Some ingredients, such as salicylic acid, can be drying and irritating to the skin when used in foaming cleansers without other healthy ingredients to balance it out.

Ingredients to Avoid

Comedogenic ingredients can clog pores and lead to increased oil production. These ingredients include:

Combination Skin

Ingredients to Look For

Those with combination skin types have both oily and dry skin at times, so the above beneficial ingredients can also work for this skin type. However, be sure to balance moisturizing ingredients like Niacinamide along with oil-reducing ingredients like Benzoyl Peroxide.

Ingredients to Avoid

Once again, balance is key for combination skin. It is important to avoid all of the above potential irritants such as drying Sodium Lauryl Sulfate and comedogenic coconut oil as your skin can be prone to both over-drying and excess sebum.

Sensitive Skin

Ingredients to Look For

  • Tea tree oil

  • Ceramides (Ceramides are lipids naturally produced by our skin. Reintroducing them can help skin restore its protective barrier and reduce sensitivity)

Ingredients to Avoid

  • Fragrance

  • Physical exfoliants like sugar or microbeads which can exfoliate the skin more unevenly than chemical exfoliants like AHA and BHA

Exposed Skin Care Facial Cleanser

The Exposed Skin Care Facial Cleanser works for any skin type as it contains extremely gentle yet effective ingredients.

The Exposed Skincare facial cleanser

Exposed contains a manageable 0.5% concentration of salicylic acid that can help clear pores and act as an anti-inflammatory agent without irritating dry skin. We’ve also added sage extract, pro-vitamin B5, and other natural ingredients that are known for their soothing properties and ability to reduce redness. On top of this, it is free from irritating ingredients and completely hypoallergenic.

Just One Part of a Larger Regimen

While a cleanser is one of the most important parts of an effective skincare regimen, it should not be used alone.

It is your best bet to combine a face wash with moisturizers and other acne-fighting products to reintroduce moisture and continue to combat the causes of acne.

The Exposed Skincare System consists of:

  1. Facial Cleanser - Gentle cleanser to purify the skin both morning and night

  2. Clearing Tonic - Continue to reduce acne-causing bacteria and skin cell overgrowth

  3. Acne Treatment Serum - Apply in the morning to begin to reduce inflammation and reduce acne

  4. Clear Pore Serum - Apply at night to clear pores and restore any damage


A before and after photo of Exposed Skincare's results

Unconditional Money-Back Guarantee

Exposed Skin Care stands by its kits and offers an unparalleled 1-year guarantee—no questions asked. Our money-back promise allows you to return your first kit for a full refund (less the cost of shipping) if, within 12 months of purchase, your acne hasn’t been reduced.