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Almost everyone has to deal with a pimple at one time or another. But if you experience consistent breakouts, you may have acne — a condition that affects millions of Americans.
With such a common skin condition, also comes plenty of people offering their own — sometimes even conflicting — skin care advice. Sorting through the myriad of products, tips, acne cleansers, and marketing jargon out there can feel pretty daunting.
So we’ve helped do some of the work for you and put together this list of the best soaps for acne, including exfoliating formulas, dry skin options, and vegan-friendly products.
- Best vegan soap for acne: The Body Shop Tea Tree Skin Clearing Facial Wash
- Best noncomedogenic soap for acne: Cetaphil Daily Facial Cleanser
- Best cleanser and makeup remover for acne: ROHTO Hadalabo Gokujun Cleansing Oil
- Best soap for oily skin with acne: Kate Somerville EradiKate Daily Cleanser Acne Treatment
- Best soap for dry skin and acne: CeraVe Hydrating Facial Cleanser
- Best exfoliating soap for acne: Murad AHA/BHA Exfoliating Cleanser
- Best pH-balancing soap for acne: COSRX Gentle Morning Cleanser
- Best pore-clearing soap for acne: Marie Veronique Treatment Cleanser
- Best body and face soap for acne: Alaffia Authentic African Black Soap
- Best soap for acne and redness: Eucerin Redness Relief Soothing Cleanser
- Best cleansing balm for acne: Banila Co Clean It Zero Cleansing Balm
- Best soap for sensitive skin with acne: Vanicream Gentle Facial Cleanser
- Best soap for bacterial acne: Caudalie Instant Foaming Cleanser
We looked for highly rated soaps with ingredients that are effective for acne, like:
- alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs) and beta hydroxy acids (BHAs), including salicylic acid
- benzoyl peroxide
- sodium sulfacetamide
- tea tree oil
We also included a few cleansers without these active ingredients, in case you’re looking for a simpler, gentler option.
Each product on our list has been vetted for medical and business standards by our internal team. Learn more about our process.
- $ = under $20
- $$ = $20–$40
- $$$ = over $40
|Product name||Price||Skin types||Skin concerns|
|The Body Shop Tea Tree Skin Clearing Facial Wash||$||oily||clears up acne|
|Cetaphil Daily Facial Cleanser||$||combination, oily, sensitive||reduces oil without drying out skin|
|ROHTO Hadalabo Gokujun Cleansing Oil||$||oily, combination||removes makeup and impurities|
|Kate Somerville EradiKate Daily Cleanser Acne Treatment||$$$||oily, combination, normal||reduces look of pores, clears breakouts|
|CeraVe Hydrating Facial Cleanser||$||sensitive, dry||cleanses and moisturizes|
|Murad AHA/BHA Exfoliating Cleanser||$$$||dry||exfoliates, smoothes skin|
|COSRX Gentle Morning Cleanser||$||sensitive||clears breakouts|
|Marie Veronique Treatment Cleanser||$$||normal, dry, combination||clears pores, breakouts|
|Alaffia Authentic African Black Soap||$||all skin types||all-in-one cleanser|
|Eucerin Redness Relief Soothing Cleanser||$||sensitive, irritated skin||relieves redness|
|Banila Co Clean It Zero Cleansing Balm||$$||normal, combination, dry||removes makeup, brightens skin|
|Vanicream Gentle Facial Cleanser||$||sensitive, dry||cleanses without irritating|
|Caudalie Instant Foaming Cleanser||$$||normal, dry||hydrates and reduces redness|
Best vegan soap for acne
- 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
- 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
- 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.
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
- Price: $$$
- Size: 4 oz.
- Skin type: normal, oily, and combination
- Key ingredients: sulfur, honey, rice bran extract, and oat extract
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
- 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
- Price: $$$
- Size: 6.75 oz.
- Skin type: dry
- Key ingredients: glycolic acid, lactic acid, and salicylic acid
The Murad AHA/BHA Exfoliating Cleanser is free of phthalates and contains a variety of acid-based exfoliators to help kill bacteria, clear out pores, and remove dead skin — all without drying out your skin. However, due to its high acid content, this cleanser isn’t for everyday use. We recommend alternating with a gentle, low pH cleanser.
The cleanser gets rave reviews from most of its customers, who say that it’s their favorite face wash. A few reviewers complain that while it is effective, the price is too high for it to be a regular part of their skin care routine.
Best pH-balancing soap for acne
- Price: $
- Size: 5 oz.
- Skin types: dry and sensitive
- Key ingredients: tea tree oil and betaine salicylate
By balancing your skin’s pH, this cleanser works to minimize bad skin reactions. With gentle BHA and tea tree oil for exfoliating pores and removing dirt, this morning cleanser is good for bacterial acne and irritated skin.
This is also a great second-step purchase for folks who like to double-cleanse.
What do customers like about this low cost soap? People say that it’s gentle, non-irritating, and does a good job at balancing combination skin. A few people complain that it’s not great for ultra-dry skin though.
Best pore-clearing soap for acne
- Price: $$
- 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.
Best body and face soap for acne
- 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
- 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
- Price: $$
- Size: 3.38 oz.
- Sky types: all
- Key ingredients: centella asiatica extract and licorice root
Grab this cleansing balm to melt away impurities and remove any leftover remnants from your workday — like dirt, grime, and makeup. The balm is formulated to give you a through clean without stripping your skin of its natural oils. It’s also hypoallergenic and free of parabens and drying alcohol.
Reviewers say it’s great for removing makeup and doesn’t dry out your skin in the process. One reviewer notes that it irritated their eyes, and some say it caused them to develop pimples.
Best soap for sensitive skin with acne
- Price: $
- Size: 8 oz.
- Skin types: all, especially sensitive
- Key ingredients: glycerin, coco glucoside, and sodium chloride
This soap-free and oil-free cleanser was made for sensitive skin, as it leaves out a lot of the common chemical irritants, like fragrances and dyes, found in other cleansers. It gently cleans your skin with ingredients like glycerin and is available at an affordable price.
The noncomedogenic cleanser is also dermatologist tested and was awarded the Seal of Acceptance from the National Eczema Association. If other affordable cleansers from Cetaphil or CeraVe don’t work for you, Vanicream might be worth a try.
Reviewers like that it’s nonirritating and actually lathers up — something many gentle cleansers fail to do. Others have noted that while it’s fragrance-free, it does have a slight smell, which some describe as medicinal.
Best soap for bacterial acne
- Price: $$
- 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
The idea that pimples are the inevitable result of poor hygiene is a myth. While strong soap may seem like the logical remedy, treating acne isn’t always so simple as using heavy-duty soaps and foaming scrubs.
“Many teenagers and adults think that acne is caused because the skin is dirty or improperly cleaned — this is not true,” says Dr. Kathleen Welsh, a San Francisco–based dermatologist and the founder of Bay Area Cosmetic Dermatology. “It’s a combination of genetics, hormones, stress, diet, and bacteria.”
Whether or not soap will help your acne depends on your acne type, skin type, and the other aspects of your overall routine.
“Soap isn’t necessarily bad for acne, but the wrong type of soap or cleanser can irritate the skin, making acne worse or making it difficult to use appropriate acne medications,” Welsh says. “A good acne cleanser will remove surface oils and makeup thoroughly without irritation.”
Here are some tips to keep in mind when choosing a product:
- If you want a simple three-step routine, look for cleanser with active ingredients. AHA/BHAs, salicylic acid, benzoyl peroxide, sodium sulfacetamide, zinc, or tea tree oil ingredients may help.
- If you like a 5- or 10-step routine, focus on simple and gentle cleansers that help clean your skin. Let other acne products, such as serums and spot treatments, do the work.
- Cleansers with anti-inflammatories are good for sensitive skin and cystic acne.
- Salicylic acid, benzoyl peroxide, and sodium sulfacetamide are good for oily skin.
- Dry skin may benefit from the use of a hydrating cleanser.
Additionally, there are a few things you’ll want to avoid:
- antibacterial soaps intended for use on the body or dishes
- harsh ingredients for sensitive skin — even essential oils can cause irritation
- drying cleansers — if your skin feels squeaky and tight after, consider a low PH cleanser or one with fewer active ingredients.
There’s always a risk that your skin will rebel when trying out new skin care products. This is especially true if you have sensitive acne-prone skin.
Cleansers that contain ingredients for treating acne may cause the following side effects:
- flaking of the skin
Some products may even cause redness, itching, or other types of irritation. If you’re trying out a new cleanser but it continually irritates or bothers your skin, consider trying out a new cleanser with less aggressive ingredients.
“If your skin is getting dry, red, or irritated with your acne treatments, try switching to a gentler cleanser or seek an opinion from a dermatologist,” Welsh says.
If you’ve tried multiple acne cleansers but still don’t see a deduction in acne outbreaks or redness, you might find it helpful to ask a dermatologist for guidance. They can also even give you advice about what to add to your routine to help with dryness or flaking.
Seeing a dermatologist can be helpful regardless of the severity of your acne. There are many reasons why you might want to make an appointment and you don’t need to have pain or an infection to seek help. If your breakouts are bothering you or affecting your self-esteem, that’s a good reason to get professional advice.
The goal of any soap or wash is to clean your skin and remove impurities and dirt from the day. Remember to thoroughly (but gently!) cleanse your skin for 1 minute — a simple splash-and-go isn’t enough time to clean your pores.
It’s also best to avoid using an entire line of products or multiple acne treatments all at once — such as a cleanser, toner, spot treatment, and moisturizer — because it can dry out your skin. Consider incorporating products that work for you at various points in your routine.
Some people find toners and serums to be especially helpful in clearing acne, while others find spot treatments to be their best bet.
Is bar soap good for acne?
Sure! If it has the right ingredients and is noncomedogenic, there’s no reason to avoid soap in bar form if you have acne-prone skin.
Does soap dry up acne?
Some acne soaps can dry out the skin. Talk with a dermatologist if you’re experiencing excess dryness. They can recommend alternative cleansers or a moisturizer that’s suitable for acne-prone skin.
Can body soap be used to cleanse your face?
Body washes are usually harsher than face washes. They also often contain fragrances that can be irritating to the skin.
Dealing with acne can be tough. Whether you’re a teen or an adult, breakouts can affect your self-esteem and confidence.
Using the right products can make a huge difference in the appearance of your skin.
When in doubt, talk with a dermatologist to get their advice on how to treat your acne and keep your skin clean. After all, everyone’s skin is different.
If one product doesn’t work, don’t be discouraged. It can take some trial and error before you find the right one for you.
Steph Coelho is a freelance writer with chronic migraine who has a particular interest in health and wellness. When she’s not click-clacking away on her keyboard, she’s probably nose-deep in a good book.
Michelle Konstantinovsky is a San Francisco–based journalist, marketing specialist, ghostwriter, and UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism alumna. She’s written extensively on health, body image, entertainment, lifestyle, design, and tech for outlets like Cosmopolitan, Marie Claire, Harper’s Bazaar, Teen Vogue, O: The Oprah Magazine, and more.