10 Best Salicylic Acid Face Washes and Cleansers in 2021

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If you suffer from acne and pimples, you know how tough it is to manage this skin condition. Any irritant can cause an instant breakout. If you use a product that contains ingredients that irritate your skin type, you are prone to frequent breakouts. So, you must use cleansers that contain a highly potent ingredient: salicylic acid. These are 10 of the best salicylic acid face washes we recommend.

The type of cleanser or face wash you choose needs to take into consideration your skin type: dry, oily, or combination skin. Most people with acne have oily or combination skin.

Salicylic acid is the most common ingredient in face washes and cleansers designed for acne and psoriasis. It is known as one of acne’s biggest enemies and one of the top zit-fighting solutions. Skincare products that contain salicylic acid remove dead skin and clear clogged pores, thus keeping the skin clean and preventing oiliness and breakouts.

People who suffer from acne should always visit a dermatologist before using acne products.  Dermatologists recommend using products that contain either salicylic acid, benzoyl peroxide, or a combination of the two. These ingredients are found in both drugstore products and high-end skincare.

Check out our list of the top 10 salicylic acid face washes and cleansers on Amazon.

Top 10 Salicylic Acid Face Cleansers

Face washes and cleansers come in many different formulas. There are several types of formulas with different consistencies, including:

  • Gel cleansers
  • Creamy cleansers
  • Foaming cleansers
  • Oily cleansers
  • Exfoliating Cleaners

On this list, you’ll discover the top 10 salicylic acid face cleansers for every budget.

Paula’s Choice Skin Perfecting 2% BHA Liquid Salicylic Acid Exfoliant

Paula’s Choice Skin Perfecting 2 BHA Liquid Salicylic Acid Exfoliant

Paula’s Choice Skin Perfecting Exfoliator is a leave-on cleanser with non-abrasive face exfoliant particles.  This product is designed to eliminate dead skin cells, unclog pores and diminish their size. The cleanser contains 2% BHA (salicylic acid), which aids the exfoliation process and helps the skin shed extra layers of skin for a youthful appearance. It’s an exfoliating cleanser, so if you need to deep clean your skin, this is an excellent option for you. The product is safe to use even if you suffer from rosacea or a sensitive complexion.

The formula combats wrinkles, redness, and pimples while hydrating and brightening the skin’s surface. The micro-exfoliators penetrate deep into the pore and cleans it thoroughly as they reduce the appearance of large pores. As the cleanser penetrates the skin and removes dirt and impurities, it leaves you with glowing skin.  

We’ve included this product on our list because it’s a leave-on exfoliating cleanser, which means it will continue to combat acne and clean pores long after you’ve done your daily cleanse.


  • The product is fragrance-free so that it won’t irritate sensitive skin.
  • The formula is clean, with no harmful chemicals and parabens.


  • For those on a tight budget, this product is pricey at $30 for 4 Oz.

St. Ives Acne Control Face Scrub With Salicylic Acid, Non-Comedogenic, Paraben Free, and Oil-free

St. Ives Acne Control Face Scrub With Salicylic Acid

The St.Ives Face Scrub is an affordable oil-free medicinal face cleanser for blemish-prone skin. The formula contains 2% salicylic acid, which prevents blackheads and blemishes from forming. For those of you looking for natural ingredients in your skincare, you will be happy to know that the scrub is made with 100% natural exfoliants.

The main ingredients in this scrub are Californian apricot and walnut shells, which act as exfoliating particles. The product does not contain any parabens or comedogenic ingredients, which can cause pore blockage and more acne.

This budget-friendly cleanser leaves your skin feeling silky smooth and fresh. We’ve included this scrub on our list because it does what other more expensive cleansers do at a fraction of the price. No wonder it’s been a cult drugstore product for decades.


  • At only $3.50, it is the cheapest salicylic acid cleanser.
  • It leaves the skin feeling clean and glowy without overdrying your complexion.


  • The apricot scent may not be for everyone.

CeraVe Salicylic Acid Cleanser

CeraVe Salicylic Acid Cleanser

The CeraVe Cleanser is a cult product among beauty gurus. It is an affordable fragrance-free cleanser that removes all the dirt and impurities in your pores, leaving you with glowing, smooth skin. All CeraVe products contain ceramides – a type of fatty molecule which helps protect your skin’s barrier while offering a good dose of moisture. You won’t feel like your skin is dry and lifeless after using this creamy cleanser.

This cleanser is suitable for even the most sensitive skin because it does not remove the skin’s natural oils. The product combines the anti-inflammatory properties of salicylic acid with ceramide moisturizers. CeraVe is the cleanser brand to use if you want to re-balance your complexion and protect your skin’s natural protective barrier.

We included this CeraVe cleanser because it’s a must-have product for those struggling with frequent blemishes and breakouts. It’s affordable, hydrating, and has all the best ingredients to fight acne. The ceramide formula will repair even the most damaged skin.


  • The product is fragrance-free and suitable for sensitive skin.
  • It combats redness while maintaining the skin’s natural protective oils. 
  • A very affordable cleansing product.
  • The product is environmentally friendly; it does not contain harmful microbeads.


  • Too much ceramide combined with salicylic acid can dry out the skin, which may cause itchiness.
  • CeraVe is not paraben-free. It contains a paraben called methylparaben, which is considered to be potentially dangerous if used for a long time.

Neutrogena Oil-Free Acne and Redness Facial Cleanser

Neutrogena Oil-Free Acne and Redness Facial Cleanser

Neutrogena face washes have been used for decades by teens and adults. The oil-free acne cleanser is one of the most affordable yet effective salicylic acid treatments available. The medication is combined with aloe vera and chamomille – two ingredients that are proven to reduce redness and inflammation. The cleanser is your go-to budget-friendly product that cleans and heals so that you can say goodbye to acne for good.

The product uses MicroClear technology to help the salicylic acid penetrate deep into the pores to clean and heal. The formula is creamy and smooth, which allows the medication to absorb deep into the skin. Those with extremely oily skin will appreciate the formula of this product – it fights against oily outbreaks caused by excess sebum. External factors like pollutants or hormonal imbalances can cause your skin to produce excess oil – but if you use this cleanser twice a day, you can stop the production of sebum and get rid of the problem.

Most people are familiar with Neutrogena’s inexpensive medicinal face washes. You get all the good stuff for a low price, so we highly recommend this cleanser if you want to clear away spots and blemishes.


  • It’s a very affordable cleanser that costs less than $10.
  • Neutrogena is the #1 brand recommended by dermatologists in the USA.
  • It’s a double-duty product – treating redness (rosacea) and pimples (acne).


  • Since this cleanser is considered a medical treatment, it can be harsh for some more sensitive skin types, which can result in rashes or a burning feeling.

Aveeno Clear Complexion Foaming Facial Cleanser

Aveeno Clear Complexion Foaming Facial Cleanser

This Aveeno Foaming Cleanser is a soap-free, hypoallergenic foam cleanser made with soy extract and salicylic acid. For all of you struggling with sensitive skin, this cleanser can do it all: fight acne, clean gently, and leave you with a glowing complexion. Foaming products can often strip your skin of its natural oils, but Aveeno’s formula is mild. It is a non-comedogenic product so that it does not clog up your pores. This cleanser will help you achieve healthy-looking skin that is free of breakouts and acne.

The formula is oil-free, which makes it suitable for sensitive and acne-prone skin. It is free of irritants and works to remove impurities gently. It does not leave your face overly dry or flaky.

At such a reasonable price, we had to include this great cleanser with a gentle, soothing formula everyone can use.


  • The product has a pump which makes it easy to get the cleanser out.
  • Over time, the cleanser’s active ingredients will help improve the skin’s texture, making it soft.
  • Since the product contains a lower concentration of salicylic acid, it’s safe for even the most sensitive skin.


  • The formula only contains 0.5% salicylic acid, which is less than other similar products. If you’re looking to get rid of that acne fast, it might not work for you.

Mario Badescu Acne Facial Cleanser

Mario Badescu Acne Facial Cleanser

The Mario Badescu Facial Cleanser is extremely popular with celebrities and influencers because it is an excellent anti-acne product. This cleanser offers a deep clean that removes all impurities, dirt, and bacteria that cause blemishes and acne.

In addition to salicylic acid, which helps you achieve even-looking skin, this cleanser has the benefits of thyme, aloe vera, and chamomile. Those natural ingredients soothe and clarify troubled and irritated skin.

If you need a product that you can use every time you cleanse and remove makeup, then this is the one. It prevents breakouts before they occur and clears up spots before they become visible.

This celeb favorite is a must-try product. It’s has a non-foaming formula that gives you squeaky clean skin at a great price. 


  • It is a premium product from an established skincare brand with an affordable price tag of approximately $15.
  • This cleanser is gentle on the face and won’t strip the skin of its natural oils.


  • It could dry out sensitive skin and cause flakiness.

Peter Thomas Roth Acne Clearing Wash 2% Salicylic Acid

Peter Thomas Roth Acne Clearing Wash 2% Salicylic Acid

Peter Thomas Roth’s Acne Clearing Wash is a constant bestseller in beauty stores around the world, including Sephora. This cleanser is packed with maximum strength ingredients that fight acne. It removes all of the excess oil stuck inside pores and any residue left behind by makeup. If you struggle with pesky bumps and scars caused by pimples, use this cleanser daily to reduce their appearance quickly. Since it’s a clearing wash, it works instantly to calm the skin and heal scars or inflammation. Consider it a spot treatment and cleanser all in one.

In addition to the 2% BHA, this cleanser also contains allantoin, an ingredient that calms skin and vitamin B5, which has nourishing and soothing properties. People love this product because it is an efficient face cleanser but doesn’t dry out the skin. It is paraben-free and has a pleasant citrus scent.

We couldn’t leave out this cult favorite because it’s one of the most effective over-the-counter acne cleansers you can find.


  • You only need to use a dime-sized amount to get a full lather so that a bottle will last you for a long time.
  • The formula leaves skin looking soft and glowy.


  • It is an expensive cleanser that costs over $40.
  • It is a citrus-scented product, so it may not be suitable for those looking for fragrance-free treatments.

Murad Clarifying Cleanser

Murad Clarifying Cleanser

The Murad Clarifying Cleanser is a popular premium facial cleanser. This product works to prevent breakouts by eliminating bacteria deep inside the pores. It removes any dirt, oil, and impurities inside the pore, leaving you with fresh, healthy-looking skin. The cleanser’s effect is long-lasting, even after you’ve rinsed your face. When used daily, the Murad cleanser will help improve the appearance of the skin and give you a more even skin tone.

The product contains a concentration of 1.5% salicylic acid, which works inside the pores for several hours after you wash your face. It is also formulated with green tea extract, which helps soothe irritated skin. If you need a product that clarifies and balances your skin, this is the one – it completely removes all the microscopic grime and dirt particles that usually get stuck in your pores.

This tried and trusted cleanser is a must-try for those looking to get a clear, spot-free complexion. We included it because it not only removes all the gunk and dead skin; it also heals and soothes irritations.


  • Murad is a trusted brand with high-quality products sold at stores such as Sephora and Ulta.
  • The green tea extract in the product calms and soothes skin affected by acne.
  • The product treats acne scars and reduces the appearance of the scars so that you can regain your confidence and get healthy-looking skin.


  • There is a concentration of only 1.5% salicylic acid compared to other products that contain 2%.
  • It is a more expensive cleanser which costs over $30.
  • Clean & Clear Oil Absorbing Cream Facial Cleanser with Salicylic Acid Acne Medicine

Clean & Clear Oil Absorbing Cream Facial Cleanser with Salicylic Acid

Clean & Clear Oil Absorbing Cream Facial Cleanser with Salicylic Acid

The Clean & Clear cleanser is a creamy face wash that prevents breakouts and controls shine. If you struggle with excessive shine and a greasy layer on your skin’s surface, use this affordable cleanser. This cleansing product can wash away up to 85% of oil and gunk on the face, so you can be confident the excess sebum is eliminated. The formula contains enough salicylic acid to clear up any blemishes or acne and cleans pores effectively.

The formula is gentle and non-abrasive. It’s recommended for people with normal, combination, and oily skin. The product is suitable for everyone who struggles with blemishes and imperfections.

At such a low price, it’s no wonder this cleanser is one of the bestsellers at drugstores. We included it because it offers the best value as an over-the-counter acne medication.


  • It is an affordable drugstore priced product that costs approximately $8.
  • It has a gentle formula that works on all skin types.
  • The formula absorbs into the skin quickly, so cleansing is quick and easy.


  • Since the product takes away all of the excess sebum on your skin, it could make your skin look dry and dehydrated.
  1. Lavo Clarifying Facial Cleanser

Lavo Clarifying Facial Cleanser

Lavo Clarifying Facial Cleanser

The Lavo Facial Cleanser by Bealuz is a strong anti-acne face wash with three active ingredients: salicylic acid, lactic acid, and glycolic acid. This cleanser does more than the usual salicylic face wash – it soothes, removes inflammation, and clears up acne. Since it contains three acids, it works better.

It helps get rid of cystic acne while removing blackheads and whiteheads. It also works as a makeup remover by thoroughly dissolving makeup and pollutants.

The formula also contains lavender and vitamin B, which help reduce any excess oil on your face. It does not contain any toxic chemicals and is irritant-free, which means even people with sensitive skin can use the cleanser.

We had to include this Amazon bestseller because it has tons of great reviews and has a maximum strength formula, which combats all of the issues caused by acne.


  • Versatility: this product can be used by men, women, and teens.
  • It is a cruelty-free formula, which means it is not tested on animals.
  • The product comes with a money-back guarantee.


  • The cleanser has a menthol fragrance, which may be irritating to some.

Key information to consider before buying a salicylic acid cleanser or face wash

Before making a purchase, consider all the information about salicylic acid products and decide if they are right for your skin type. Even though products claim to be “dermatologist recommended” you should consult your own dermatologist to make sure the products are suited for your skin.

The list of ingredients

If you’re looking for an acne-fighting face wash, look for ‘salicylic acid’ as one of the top ingredients on the list of ingredients. Most products will list salicylic acid with that name. However, it is common for brands to list this ingredient as “BHA.” If your cleanser contains BHA, it contains salicylic acid. The acid should be at the top of the list if the product contains a potent quantity of it.

What is BHA?

If you read the labels on salicylic acid skin cleansers, you’ll see BHA listed. BHA stands for beta hydroxy acid, which is the name for salicylic acid on most ingredient lists. Salicylic acid is usually made from willow bark, a natural ingredient.

The safety of salicylic acid

Salicylic acid is completely safe to use in low concentrations. Most cleansers and face washes contain about 2% BHA or less, which is safe for the skin. A high concentration of acid is dangerous and may cause chemical burns on the skin. People with sensitive skin should patch test a product before using it all over the face.

If the face wash removes too much oil, irritation, dryness, and peeling may occur.

How to use a salicylic acid face wash

All face washes and cleansers should be used according to the packaging instructions. Use the products daily for a deep clean after all your makeup is removed. Start slowly and use the face wash once a day. Apply a small amount of product onto your fingers or electronic cleaning device and rub all over your face. Scrub the product into your skin for a few seconds and rinse off.

Never use too much product, or you can actually strip away the skin’s protective barrier. Remember that a small amount of cleanser goes a long way.

Who is salicylic acid recommended for

Salicylic acid is recommended for men and women of all ages struggling with acne and frequent breakouts. As well, it used to clear the skin of psoriasis and keratosis pilaris, two common skin conditions. This ingredient helps reduce inflammation, and it unclogs pores.

Where to buy the products

The best place to buy skincare products is on Amazon.com because this platform offers a wide variety of products at incredibly competitive prices, compared to brick and mortar stores.