15 Best Salicylic Acid Cleansers

Written by Shiboli Chakraborti , Certified Skin Care Coach
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If you are dealing with acne and breakouts, you must be familiar with salicylic acid. This beta hydroxy acid exfoliates dead skin cells, decreases oil and sebum in the pores, and reduces inflammation. The easiest way to reap its benefits is by using a cleanser containing this holy-grail ingredient. There are a number of salicylic acid cleansers available on the market. To help you choose the one that suits your skin best, we have compiled a list of 15 bestselling salicylic acid cleansers. Scroll down and check them out!

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CeraVe Renewing SA Cleanser
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La Roche-Posay Effaclar Medicated Gel Cleanser
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Neutrogena Naturals Purifying Facial Cleanser
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Murad Clarifying Cleanser
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Paula's Choice Clear Pore Normalizing Cleanser
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Bioré Blemish Fighting Ice Cleanser
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Neutralyze Breakout Clearing Facial Cleanser
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Cosrx Salicylic Acid Daily Gentle Cleanser
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The Inkey List Salicylic Acid Cleanser
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Derma E Acne Deep Pore Cleansing Wash
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15 Best Salicylic Acid Cleansers

1. CeraVe Renewing SA Cleanser

The foaming SA cleanser from CeraVe contains salicylic acid that gently gets rid of dead skin cells and imparts radiance. It is fortified with hyaluronic acid and ceramides to hydrate and maintain the skin’s natural moisture barrier. This cleanser gently cleanses the skin of dirt and grime while exfoliating it and leaves it soft and smooth. It is also enriched with vitamins B3 and D that protect the skin from free radicals and premature aging and improve its appearance. This daily-use cleanser balances oil production and reduces irritation and redness.

Pros

  • Gentle
  • Non-irritating
  • Non-comedogenic
  • Lightweight
  • Fragrance-free

Cons

  • Drying
  • Not suitable for sensitive skin.

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2. La Roche-Posay Effaclar Medicated Gel Cleanser

This oil-free gel cleanser from La Roche-Posay is formulated with 2% salicylic acid to minimize acne breakouts and reduce oil production. It is enriched with micro-exfoliating lipo-hydroxy acid to gently remove dead skin cells and cleanse the skin of dirt and grime. This medicated cleanser smoothens rough and dry patches while maintaining the moisture balance of the facial skin. It is suitable for combination, acne-prone, and sensitive skin types and tackles blackheads, whiteheads, and large pores.

Pros

  • Non-comedogenic
  • Oil-free
  • Fragrance-free
  • Paraben-free
  • Dermatologist-tested
  • Allergy-tested
  • Suitable for sensitive skin

Cons

  • Drying

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3. Neutrogena Naturals Purifying Facial Cleanser

This cleanser from Neutrogena is enriched with natural salicylic acid from willow bark, which deeply penetrates into the skin to cleanse it of oil, dirt, and makeup residues. It is formulated with 90% natural ingredients and is free of harsh chemicals and skin irritants. This pore-tightening cleanser helps keep the skin fresh and clear of acne and blemishes by detoxifying and controlling sebum production. It is suitable for acne-prone skin and can be used daily to keep it healthy and clean.

Pros

  • Hypoallergenic
  • Non-comedogenic
  • Sulfate-free
  • Paraben-free
  • Phthalate-free
  • Dye-free
  • Petrolatum-free

Cons

  • Strong fragrance

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4. Murad Clarifying Cleanser

The acne-fighting formula of the Murad Clarifying Cleanser is enriched with salicylic acid and green tea. It is formulated with two types of salicylic acid to prevent breakouts – one starts working immediately, and the other has lasting effects even after rinsing off. The green tea extracts have skin calming properties to keep irritation and redness at bay. The glycolic acid in the formula polishes the skin to give it a smooth and soft texture. It controls oil production and reduces the occurrence of new breakouts. This gel-based formula cleanses clogged pores to leave the skin brighter and healthier.

Pros

  • Paraben-free
  • Sulfate-free
  • Phthalate-free
  • Gluten-free
  • Vegan
  • Mineral oil-free
  • Formaldehyde-free
  • Petrolatum-free
  • Cruelty-free

Cons

  • Dries the skin.

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5. Paula’s Choice Clear Pore Normalizing Cleanser

This gentle and effective cleanser from Paula’s Choice is formulated with 0.5% salicylic acid that provides exfoliating and cleansing benefits without drying out the skin. It is enriched with arginine to soothe irritation and reduce redness. The provitamin B5 in the formula conditions the skin and keeps it soft and smooth. This non-irritating cleanser minimizes open pores, blackheads, and acne breakouts while maintaining an even skin tone. It removes excess oil and leaves the skin feeling refreshed and clean.

Pros

  • Gentle
  • Lightweight
  • Suitable for sensitive skin
  • Paraben-free
  • Fragrance-free
  • Cruelty-free

Cons

  • May cause irritation.

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6. Bioré Blemish Fighting Ice Cleanser

The Blemish Fighting Ice Cleanser from Bioré uses salicylic acid to effectively protect the skin from acne and blemishes by cleansing oil, dirt, and grime. It gently purifies the skin to leave it revitalized and refreshed. This cooling gel cleanser boosts circulation and tightens open pores to even out the skin tone. It helps control blackheads and has a gentle formula for daily use.

Pros

  • Gentle
  • Lathers well
  • Oil-free
  • Cruelty-free
  • Vegan

Cons

  • May dry the skin.

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7. Neutralyze Breakout Clearing Facial Cleanser

The combination of salicylic acid and mandelic acid in the Neutralyze Facial Cleanser combats acne-producing bacteria and prevents future breakouts. It has nitric oxide to promote the healing process, reduce redness, and renew damaged skin cells to reveal a youthful complexion. This anti-aging formula fades away dark spots, reduces fine lines, and smoothens the skin tone. It gently exfoliates dead skin cells and relieves various skin concerns like eczema, rosacea, psoriasis, and cystic acne.

Pros

  • Non-comedogenic
  • Fragrance-free
  • Paraben-free
  • Sulfate-free
  • Cruelty-free

Cons

  • Not suitable for dry skin.

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8. Cosrx Salicylic Acid Daily Gentle Cleanser

The natural salicylic acid in the Cosrx cleanser sloughs away dead skin cells and controls the production of sebum. It gently removes dirt and impurities from open pores to effectively combat acne and blemishes and leaves the skin smooth and supple. This foaming cleanser has a creamy texture that keeps the skin hydrated and refreshed. It deeply penetrates the pores to prevent the formation of whiteheads and blackheads.

Pros

  • Gentle
  • A little goes a long way
  • Hypoallergenic
  • Cruelty-free

Cons

  • May dry the skin.

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9. The Inkey List Salicylic Acid Cleanser

The Inkey List Salicylic Acid Cleanser is powered by zinc that has anti-inflammatory properties and keeps the oil production of the skin under control. It works in tandem with salicylic acid to unclog pores, reduce blackheads, and minimize breakouts while gently exfoliating the skin. The formula is enriched with allantoin to soothe irritation and keep the skin hydrated. This light foaming cleanser removes dirt and makeup residue to clarify the skin tone and leave the face refreshed and clean.

Pros

  • Non-drying
  • Gentle
  • A little goes a long way

Cons

  • Not suitable for dry and very sensitive skin.

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10. Derma E Acne Deep Pore Cleansing Wash

This Derma E cleanser uses salicylic acid to remove dirt, bacteria, and oil buildup from the pores to unclog them and prevent breakouts. It is enriched with ingredients like tea tree oil and chamomile, which has anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties, and willow bark extract, which minimizes pores and treats eczema, psoriasis, and rosacea. This gentle cleanser balances sebum production to maintain natural moisture levels and keep the skin healthy. It also removes dead skin cells to give the skin a vibrant glow.

Pros

  • Vegan
  • Cruelty-free
  • Paraben-free
  • Sulfate-free
  • Mineral oil-free
  • Lanolin-free
  • Gluten-free

Cons

  • Strong fragrance

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11. Perfect Image Salicylic Deep Gel Cleanser

The blend of salicylic and glycolic acids makes the Perfect Image Cleanser a unique formulation to cleanse all impurities, oil, and dirt from the inner layers of the skin. This foaming gel face cleanser exfoliates dead cells from the skin’s surface and unclogs pores. It harnesses the benefits of tea tree oil and green tea extract to reduce irritation and inflammation and fight free radicals that cause premature aging. It can also be used in between peels to increase the benefits of the skin peel treatment.

Pros

  • Paraben-free
  • Phthalate-free
  • SLS-free
  • Gluten-free
  • Cruelty-free

Cons

  • Not suitable for sensitive skin.

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12. Obagi Medical Clenziderm Daily Care Foaming Cleanser

The lightweight foaming cleanser from Obagi Medical is formulated with a 2% salicylic acid to slough away dead skin cells and cleanse the skin of impurities. It is infused with cooling menthol leaves to refresh, calm, and soothe the skin. This foaming cleanser helps unclog blocked pores and prevent new breakouts. It controls sebum production and maintains the natural balance of the skin to reveal a healthier skin tone.

Pros

  • Gentle
  • Moisturizing
  • Lightweight
  • Value for money

Cons

  • Expensive

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13. Honest Beauty Clearing Cleanser

The Honest Beauty cleanser is packed with plant-based ingredients that reduce and prevent acne without drying out the skin. It contains wintergreen-derived salicylic acid that has antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties to deeply cleanse the skin of impurities. The alpha-hydroxy acids in this face wash clarify open pores and leave the skin soft and smooth. This cleanser gets rid of oil and makeup residue to reveal a healthy skin tone.

Pros

  • Natural ingredients
  • Cruelty-free
  • Synthetic fragrance-free
  • Mineral oil-free
  • Synthetic dye-free
  • PEG-free

Cons

  • Does not lather well.

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14. Caudalie Vinopure Purifying Gel Cleanser

The natural salicylic acid in the Caudalie Gel Cleanser helps reduce blemishes, tighten pores, and control oil production. The lightweight formula contains grape seed polyphenols, grape water, and essential oils. The grapeseed polyphenols have antioxidant properties that protect the skin from free radical damage and prevent premature aging. The rose water in the formula has antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties, while the grape water reduces redness. The essential oils promote skin health and help maintain a natural glow. This gentle face cleanser moisturizes and soothes the skin to promote an even skin tone. It diminishes the appearance of blackheads by unclogging blocked pores.

Pros

  • Non-comedogenic
  • Sulfate-free
  • Paraben-free
  • Synthetic fragrance-free
  • Alcohol-free
  • Soap-free
  • Phthalate-free
  • Mineral oils-free

Cons

  • Strong fragrance

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15. Cosrx Calming Foam Cleanser

This cleanser from Cosrx has CentellAC-RX complex, which is made of madecassic acid, asiaticoside, asiatic acid that fortify the skin’s natural barrier, soothe irritated skin, and impart a translucent pearly glow. The salicylic acid in the formula controls oil production, exfoliates dead skin cells, and clarifies the pores. This gentle daily cleanser combats acne breakouts and heals damaged skin. It helps maintain the natural pH balance of the skin and leaves it soft and smooth.

Pros

  • Hypoallergenic
  • Paraben-free
  • Cruelty-free
  • pH-balancing
  • Dermatologist-tested

Cons

  • Drying
  • Overwhelming scent

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Before going ahead with a salicylic acid cleanser, there are certain factors to keep in mind.

Things To Consider Before Buying A Salicylic Acid Cleanser

  • Concentration: Generally, salicylic acid cleansers contain 2% concentration, which is the standard recommended amount. Higher percentages may cause irritation, while lower concentrations may work better for sensitive skin types. Hence, choose the concentration based on your skin type.
  • Additional Exfoliators: The efficacy of salicylic acid increases when used in combination with other exfoliators like glycolic acid or lactic acid.
  • Other Ingredients: Oil and hydrators can potentially increase the strength of the salicylic acid by trapping it under the skin cells, which may lead to adverse reactions.
  • Texture: Salicylic acid cleansers come in a variety of textures, from gel, foam to creamy. Usually, a gel texture suits most skin types.

Acne-prone skin requires a little extra care, and the cleansers listed above can help you in the process. Keep the points mentioned in the buying guide in mind and choose the best one for your skin type.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I use a salicylic acid cleanser every day?

It is recommended to start using a salicylic acid cleanser a few times a week and then build it up to every day once your skin gets accustomed to it. Cleansers with lower concentrations of salicylic acid can be used twice a day.

Can I use 2% salicylic acid every day?

Salicylic acid treatments with 0.5% concentration are safe to use every day and 2% concentration is safe once you know your skin can tolerate it by letting it adjust to it slowly over a couple of weeks.

Should I use a salicylic acid cleanser in the morning or night?

A salicylic acid cleanser can be used in the morning and at night but always remember to follow up with sunscreen in the morning.

How long can I leave salicylic acid on my face?

To get the maximum benefits from your cleansing routine, leave the salicylic acid wash on your face for 30 seconds to a minute.

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