11 Best Drugstore Salicylic Acid Cleansers For Skin That Doesn’t Break Out

Cleanse away your stubborn acne and pesky pimples with these mild formulas.

By Kirtana DivakarKirtana Divakar  • 
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Acne is a common skin issue usually triggered during puberty and sometimes even lasts when you become an adult. Acne-prone skin and oily skin need special products to manage their oil levels and provide clear skin. The best drugstore salicylic acid cleansers help you deal with issues like acne scars, blackheads, clogged pores, penetrated dirt, and excess sebum. These cleansers also prevent further acne breakouts. Cleansers formulated with salicylic acid can exfoliate your skin and prevent pesky pimples. These cleansers can also unclog pores and remove hidden impurities and dirt. In addition, the anti-inflammatory properties of the cleansers can minimize mild acne. They can also keep the fine lines and aging lines at bay. Hillary Clark, a medical esthetician and celebrity makeup artist, says, “You can use a salicylic acid cleanser on the areas that breakout and use your daily cleanser everywhere else. Divide the face into ‘zones’ and cleanse accordingly.”

Some people overdo cleansing without knowing the reason for acne breakouts. To make the skin acne-free, they use cleansers or face washes that dehydrate the skin. Unfortunately, dehydration can trigger even more acne breakouts. “Salicylic acid breaks down the “glue” that sticks dead skin and cellular debris together which can clog pores,” explains Hillary Clark. These salicylic acid cleansers are suitable for all skin types and renew your skin. However, choosing the right salicylic acid cleanser can be challenging. In this article, we have rounded up some of the best drugstore salicylic acid cleansers that keep your pores clean and tackle other issues. Keep scrolling to check them all out!

Top Picks
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Best For Exfoliation:CeraVe Renewing SA Cleanser
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Best For Sensitive Skin:La Roche-Posay Effaclar Medicated Gel Cleanser
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Best Oil-Free Formula:Neutrogena Oil-Free Acne Wash
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Best Cruelty-Free:Yes To Tomatoes Detoxifying Charcoal Facial Cleanser
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Best Creamy Formula:Murad Acne Control Clarifying Cleanser
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Best For Pore Cleansing:Proactiv Deep Cleansing Acne Body Wash
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Best Anti-Inflammation:Touch KP Exfoliating Wash
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Best For Fungal Acne:The INKEY List Salicylic Acid Cleanser
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Best For Skin Cell Turnover:Cosrx Salicylic Acid Daily Gentle Cleanser
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Best Anti-Aging Benefits:Eva Naturals Anti-Aging Glycolic Acid Facial Cleanser
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11 Best Drugstore Salicylic Acid Cleansers In 2023 For Acne-Free Skin

1. Best For Exfoliation:CeraVe Renewing SA Cleanser

4.6
CeraVe Renewing SA Cleanser Image: Cerave

CeraVe is known for its iconic salicylic acid formula! It has become a cult favorite among people with oily or combination skin because the cleanser gently breaks down dirt and oil that is settled deep in your pores and leaves you feeling fresh all through the day. It also contains hyaluronic acid that keeps your skin feeling hydrated and soft; this also means that the skin won’t feel stretchy or dry once you rinse your face. Additionally, the cleanser is known to have ceramides that strengthen the skin’s natural barrier. This is important to heal any acne scars or blemishes that are left behind due to cystic acne. Also, you must remember that oily/acne-prone skin requires as much hydration as dry skin; this cleanser has niacinamide and PHA, which gently exfoliates and plumps your skin, thereby retaining the moisture levels as well. If you are still unsure, check out this honest review.

Pros

  •  Clears clogged pores
  •  Hydrating
  •  Exfoliating
  •  Strengthens the skin’s natural barrier
  •  Prevents breakouts
  •  Heals active acne
  •  No microbeads

Cons

  •  It may be strong for sensitive skin
Price at the time of publication: $9.82

2. Best For Sensitive Skin:La Roche-Posay Effaclar Medicated Gel Cleanser

Suppose you are prone to cystic, hormonal acne. In that case, you will need a formula that works overtime on cleansing your skin and keeping breakouts away. This cleanser contains potent ingredients, including 2% salicylic acid and lipo-hydroxy acid, gently exfoliating the skin and encouraging cell turnover. The formula is paraben and fragrance-free, making it safe to use on sensitive skin and preventing any irritation that can trigger breakouts. The cleanser does a great job at clearing out your pores, keeping the sebum production in check, and reducing the appearance of large pores. We recommend that you use the cleanser twice a day consistently to see visible results. Check out this review for a detailed understanding about the product.

Pros

  •  Gentle exfoliating formula
  •  Paraben-free
  •  Fragrance-free
  •  Suitable for sensitive skin
  •  It won’t trigger any irritation
  •  Reduces the appearance of large pores
  •  Maintains sebum production

Cons

  •  May leave your skin feeling dry after use
Quick Tip
After using this cleanser to exfoliate the skin, use a soothing and nourishing moisturizer. It aids in restoring any moisture that was lost during exfoliation.
Price at the time of publication: $14.99

3. Best Oil-Free Formula:Neutrogena Oil-Free Acne Wash

4.6
Neutrogena Oil-Free Acne Fighting Face Wash, Daily Cleanser with Salicylic Acid Acne Treatment, 9.1 Fl Oz (Pack of 3) Image: Neutrogena

In the battle against acne and blackheads, you will never fail when you have the Neutrogena Oil-free Acne Wash in your arsenal. This is one of the best drugstore cleansers for oily skin in the market, and with good reason. The cleansing formula contains salicylic acid, which fights active breakouts and prevents them too. It also has clear micro technology that helps strengthen the skin’s barrier so that acne scars can heal naturally, without leaving any dark spots behind. In addition, the formula is oil-free, non-comedogenic, and doesn’t leave any residue when you wash it off. All you are left with is clean, fresh, and happy skin. To find out more about this kit, watch this video.

Pros

  •  Non-comedogenic
  •  Microclear technology strengthens the skin barrier
  •  Oil-free formula
  •  Fights and prevents breakouts
  •  Doesn’t leave residue

Cons

  •  May cause an allergic reaction
Quick Tip
Salicylic acid exfoliates the skin and makes it photosensitive. Therefore, make sure to use sunscreen daily after using this face wash.
Price at the time of publication: $14.76

4. Best Cruelty-Free:Yes To Tomatoes Detoxifying Charcoal Facial Cleanser

4.4
Yes To Tomatoes Detoxifying Charcoal Facial Cleanser Image: Yes To

This is a great salicylic acid drugstore product that you can add to your skincare routine as it gently cleans your face without making it feel dry or itchy. The effective formula contains charcoal, tomato extract, and salicylic acid, removing any impurities, infusing the skin with antioxidants, and preventing future breakouts. It also contains jojoba spheres, which gently exfoliate your skin without any need for aggressive rubbing or harming delicate skin. You can use the facewash after a long day at work and watch as it melts all the oil, dirt, and makeup from your face to reveal clean and healthy skin. The refreshing cucumber fragrance and the fact that it doesn’t leave any greasy residue make it an A+ product for anyone with acne-prone skin.

Pros

  •  Contains antioxidants
  •  Refreshing fragrance•
  •  Doesn’t leave a greasy residue
  •  Deep cleanses pores
  •  Fights and prevents acne
  •  Gently exfoliates
  •  Vegan
  •  Paraben-free
  •  Cruelty-free

Cons

  •  Some may find the consistency thick
Price at the time of publication: $9.99

5. Best Creamy Formula:Murad Acne Control Clarifying Cleanser

4.6
Murad Acne Control Clarifying Cleanser Image: Murad

Suppose you are looking for a cleanser that is gentle and has little to no fragrance. In that case, we suggest you pick the Murad Acne Control Clarifying Cleanser. The packaging is pretty efficient and easy to use; it dispenses a creamy formula that contains salicylic acid that does a great job at keeping your skin clean and preventing acne. This cleanser is gentle, so it won’t irritate your skin or cause any reactions or tiny bumps on your skin. Still, it is powerful enough to eliminate blackheads, increase cell turnover, and keep your skin hydrated with every wash. It’s perfect for people experiencing adult acne because it won’t dry out your skin much and will keep your skin feeling supple all through the day.

Pros

  •  Creamy formula
  •  Moisturizing
  •  Eliminates blackheads
  •  Enhances skin cell turnover
  •  Easy to use

Cons

  •  It may not be non-comedogenic
Price at the time of publication: $13

6. Best For Pore Cleansing:Proactiv Deep Cleansing Acne Body Wash

If you suffer from facial and body acne, especially the dreaded chest or back acne, this Acne Body Wash is the best addition to your daily shower routine. The gentle formula contains 2% salicylic acid and smooth exfoliating beads that help remove dead skin cells while unclogging pores. Consistent use of this body wash ensures that the skin doesn’t produce excess sebum. As a result, the pores are not clogged with dirt. In addition, it prevents future breakouts from occurring. The Proactive skincare range is specially formulated for acne-prone skin; the medicated cleansers destroy acne-causing bacteria and stop new breakouts from erupting on your skin. This is suitable for teenagers and young adults experiencing severe bouts of hormonal acne.

Pros

  •  Exfoliating
  •  Deep cleans your pores
  •  Suitable for hormonal acne
  •  Prevents breakouts and blackheads
  •  Suitable for fighting body acne
  •  It can be used daily

Cons

  •  Some may find the scent overpowering
Pro Tip
Sensitive skin has a weaker skin barrier, which is frequently triggered by exfoliation. So, use it only twice a week in the beginning and increase the frequency as required.
Price at the time of publication: $36

7. Best Anti-Inflammation:Touch KP Exfoliating Wash

4.2

This is a great drugstore cleanser if you look for something that will battle body and face acne. The formula is sulfate-free and creates a generous lather; it also includes 15% glycolic acid and 2% salicylic acid, which gently exfoliates the skin and cleanses your pores as well. The pH is kept at 3.5, which is great because it allows the free acids to work on your skin. The combination of AHA and BHA acids ensures that your skin texture is smooth and even, so you won’t have to worry about dry, patchy skin after every wash. The body also had skin-soothing ingredients like aloe vera and cica extract, which prevent inflammation and stimulate the skin’s collagen production. Lastly, it has humectants like hyaluronic acid that keep your skin hydrated and plump; so, you don’t have to worry about your skin feeling parched after every wash.

Pros

  •  Exfoliating
  •  Prevents inflammation
  •  Enhances collagen production
  •  Retains skin moisture
  •  Sulfate-free
  •  Suitable for fighting face and body acne

Cons

  •  May not be suitable for cystic acne
Price at the time of publication: $29.95

8. Best For Fungal Acne:The INKEY List Salicylic Acid Cleanser

Say goodbye to acne and blackheads with this powerful drugstore cleanser for oily skin. The potent formula has 2% salicylic acid and zinc compounds, which help reduce excess sebum production, prevent blackheads, smoothen skin texture, and even out your complexion. It also has hyaluronic acid, which hydrates your skin after you rinse off the product. We suggest that you use the cleanser twice a day and follow it up with a good toner and moisturizer to get the best results. You must remember that a little goes a long way, so all you need is a coin-sized amount to create a gorgeous lather and apply it all over your face. The salicylic acid will work its magic and clean out all the gunk from your pores, leaving you with squeaky clean skin..

Pros

  •  Contains 2% salicylic acid
  •  Mildly exfoliating
  •  Hydrating
  •  Deep cleans pores
  •  Suitable for fighting fungal acne
  •  Smoothes skin texture
  •  Evens skin tone

Cons

  •  It may be strong for normal or dry skin
Price at the time of publication: $15.99

9. Best For Skin Cell Turnover:Cosrx Salicylic Acid Daily Gentle Cleanser

Cosrx is a popular drugstore brand from South Korea, and now it has taken the world by storm thanks to its effective skincare products. One of the crowd favorites has to be their salicylic acid cleanser because it works for people of all ages. The acne-fighting formula contains salicylic acid and tea tree leaf oil, preventing inflammation and enhancing skin cell turnover. It also has a micro creamy soap system that provides the perfect cleansing experience by ensuring that the pores are deep cleaned, and the active breakouts are healed. Once you apply the cleanser and wash it off, you won’t feel that your skin is stretchy or tight because the formula is mild and safe to use on sensitive skin.

Pros

  •  Enhances skin cell turnover
  •  Exfoliates and removes dead skin cells
  •  Reduces and prevents inflammation
  •  Creamy consistency
  •  Suitable for all ages
  •  Safe to use on sensitive skin

Cons

  •  People with severe acne may find the face wash too mild
Price at the time of publication: $13

10. Best Anti-Aging Benefits:Eva Naturals Anti-Aging Glycolic Acid Facial Cleanser

If you are looking for a good natural drugstore product that prevents early signs of aging and fights acne, then this one will check all those boxes. It contains ingredients like rosemary and grapefruit extract, which help tone and firm the skin to prevent any sagging, along with glycolic acid that helps reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. Also, it contains salicylic acid and horsetail, which, when paired together, makes a stellar acne-fighting combination that reduces uneven skin tone and hyperpigmentation. The lavender and orange peel extract also ensure that blackheads are kept away, and you don’t experience any inflammation. You don’t have to worry about itchy and dry skin after you rinse off the product because the formula has jojoba and olive oils which will keep your skin soft and plump after every use.

Pros

  •  Hydrating
  •  Prevents inflammation and blackheads
  •  Tones and moisturizes
  •  Natural ingredients
  •  Fights active breakouts
  •  Reduces the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles

Cons

  •  Some may find the formula gritty

11. Best For Cystic Acne:Perfect Image Salicylic Deep Gel Cleanser

4.4
Salicylic Acid Deep Exfoliating Gel Based Cleanser Image: Perfect Image

Made with salicylic acid, glycolic acid, and green tea extract, this drugstore facial cleanser is great for fighting active acne, exfoliating your skin from any dead skin, and reducing inflammation. It also contains benzoyl peroxide and tea tree oil, which are key components responsible for destroying acne-causing bacteria, especially if they reside deep within your pores. In addition, the potent combination of AHA and BHA acids ensures that your skin feels smooth and clean after every use. This face wash is perfect for combination skin types because it will keep the T-zone oil-free without drying out the cheeks.

Pros

  •  Removes dead skin cells
  •  Prevents cystic acne
  •  Kills acne-causing bacteria
  •  Reduces inflammation
  •  Smoothes skin texture
  •  Evens complexion

Cons

  •  It may be quite harsh on sensitive skin
Price at the time of publication: $19.95

Now that you know about the top drugstore face washes with salicylic acid, you must know what to look for when selecting one that meets all your needs. Keep reading our buying guide to know more!

Buying Guide To Choosing The Best Drugstore Salicylic Acid Cleanser

  •  Ingredients

It can be pretty tricky to navigate the right ingredients that will work with your skin when it comes to breakouts, especially if you have combination or sensitive skin. Look for natural ingredients that have antibacterial properties and moisturize your skin as well. Tea-tree oil, green tea extract, vitamin E, and vitamin A are ideal ingredients. Also, hyaluronic and glycolic acid are excellent components as they will keep your skin exfoliated and moisturized as well.

  •  Safety

Always discuss the safety of the skincare products with your dermatologist before you decide on the product. Talk about the results you want, and discuss the skincare routine to know what will work for you and what will not. For example, it’s best to choose facewashes with 2% salicylic acid, as that is a safe amount that works on most skin types.

  •  Formula

By formula, we mean the type of cleanser you are looking for, which can range from gel, cream, or lotion-based. For sensitive skin that gets easily triggered, we highly recommend that you go for water-based cleansers with a gel formula; typically, these formulas are oil and fragrance-free.

Acne is a skin condition caused due to triggering of various factors like excessive sebum production, dandruff, pollution, and other hormonal changes. They start at puberty and last even in adulthood for a few years. These drugstore salicylic acid cleansing products help control sebum production and cleanse the acne-causing bacteria present inside the pores from the skin’s surface. In addition, they exfoliate the skin and help in dealing with complex skin problems like blackheads and acne spots, and strengthen the skin’s natural barrier. These products penetrate deep into the skin, hydrate the dehydrated skin cells, and prevent acne breakouts. Salicylic acid cleansers are gentle, paraben-free, and sulfate-free. Do a patch test to avoid irritation. The buying guide will help you pick the best salicylic acid products that suit your skin type.

Why Trust StyleCraze?

The author of this article, Kirtana Divakar, is a skincare enthusiast and stays updated when it comes to skincare products. To help her readers buy the best drugstore salicylic acid cleansers, she made a list of them with the help of extensive research. These items in the list can help you prevent acne scars, clogged pores, blackheads, and the like.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is it okay to use a salicylic acid cleanser every day?

Yes, you can use it every day. However, it’s recommended that you use the cleanser twice a day to see the best results.

How effective is a salicylic acid cleanser?

It’s quite effective when used consistently and when you select ingredients that will work well with your skin type.

Should you use salicylic acid in the morning or night?

You can use it in the morning and at night; this way, you will see results faster, and you will notice healthy-looking skin as well.

Can you use a salicylic acid cleanser during pregnancy?

Yes, you can use salicylic acid cleanser during pregnancy. It does not pose any risk if the formula contains less than 2% of the ingredient.

Is salicylic acid in a cleanser effective?

Yes, salicylic acid is an effective ingredient in a cleanser as it treats blackheads and whiteheads while dissolving dirt and oil from clogged pores. You can use salicylic acid cleansers once a day to remove pesky spots.

Are salicylic acid cleansers good for removing makeup?

Yes, salicylic acid cleansers are good for removing makeup. They effectively remove makeup and dirt from clogged pores and reduce the appearance of acne or inflammations.

Should you moisturize after using a salicylic acid cleanser?

Yes, definitely. Salicylic acid is pH dependent and acts as an exfoliator, which is why it should be coupled with a good moisturizer. The moisturizer will hydrate and repair your skin after gentle exfoliation.

What should you not use with salicylic acid cleanser?

You should not use products containing vitamin C with a salicylic acid cleanser. As vitamin C is acid too, the pH balance will be unstable if both the acids are paired together in your skin care routine.

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