8 Powerful Ingredients the Best Face Wash for Acne Prone Skin Should Contain

Are you looking for the best face wash for acne prone skin?

If yes, you should look for the ingredients discussed below when you plan to buy your next face wash for acne prone skin.

But first let’s see, what happens to your skin when you have acne.

Human skin contains oil glands (sebaceous glands) which produce a secretion called sebum. Normally, sebum is transported from the glands to the surface of skin without any hindrance. If you have acne, the pathway that allows oil to reach the surface of skin is obstructed. A pimple is formed due to this obstruction. Due to prolonged obstruction, the oil and the dead cells contained therein become infected. Once infected, the inflammation starts. The redness and itching that you experience is the result of this inflammation.

If treated, the inflammation subsides, but if left untreated, the inflammation progresses to involve deeper layers of your skin.

The result?

Nodules and cysts are formed that leave your face scarred.

So, what do you do to prevent that from happening?

You use various medications and preparations to prevent that from happening. One of them is the face wash!

Face washes come in a variety of formulations, but are all ingredients in your face wash equally useful for your acne?

A simple answer is ‘No’.

So, the next time you go searching for the best face wash for acne prone skin, try looking for the following ingredients for best results.

1 - Benzoyl peroxide

This ingredient in your face wash for acne prone skin has four-fold activity[1] :

1st – It has antimicrobial properties, which work to diminish growth of P. acnes (Propionibacterium acnes). When bacterial growth is reduced, acne progression diminishes.

2nd – It has anti-inflammatory properties. Hence, the redness, swelling, itching and tenderness go away.

3rd – It limits sebum (oil) production.

4th – It breaks down comedones (comedolytic) since it has the ability to break down keratin. Once sebum drainage becomes a possibility, acne severity is reduced.

2 - Glycolic acid

Glycolic acid is water soluble and influences your skin in two ways[2] : First, it works to loosen dead skin cells by eliminating the bonds between them. This promotes shedding of skin cells thereby making room for new healthier cells to come to the surface of skin. Second, glycolic acid enhances collagen production, which works to invigorate your skin.

3 - Lactic acid

Lactic acid is also water soluble. Naturally found in milk, this ingredient in your face wash for acne prone skin promotes cell shedding by breaking the bonds that exist between cells. Consequently, new cells rise to the surface of skin. Any accumulations of skin cells (plugs) are destroyed, allowing the underlying healthier skin to surface.

Lactic acid confers one additional benefit: it helps retain moisture in your skin. So, if your present face wash leaves your skin dry after its use, you should get one that contains lactic acid.

Additional benefits of lactic acid include its ability to minimize blemishes (pigmentation) and wrinkles.

4 - Salicylic acid

Salicylic acid is oil-soluble which explains its better penetration through the lipid layers of the skin. It has the ability to penetrate skin pores and unclog them, which is the main problem in acne prone skin[3]. Since pores are unclogged, blackheads and whiteheads are easily gone.

In addition to this deeper action, salicylic acid also exerts its influence on superficial skin layer. It breaks down the bonds between skin cells and therefore ‘exfoliates’ the skin.

But what’s negative about salicylic acid?

Salicylic acid causes dryness and therefore skin irritation can possibly occur. So if you are prone to these issues, you should limit your use of face washes that contain salicylic acid.

5 - Sulfur

Sulfur can work fairly well in milder forms of acne in which it dries out skin surface. Sulfur reduces sebum production and therefore prevents frequent acne breakouts[4].

Additionally, it helps remove dead skin layer on top of the skin, which allows fresh underlying skin cells to surface.

Sulfur also stops bacterial growth, which is one main factor in acne worsening.

6 - Sodium Sulfacetamide

This ingredient in a face wash for acne prone skin has a bacteriostatic effect (halts bacterial growth) on the bacteria that cause acne i.e. P. acnes. In many formulations that are commercially available, it is used in combination with sulfur[5].

Sodium sulfacetamide penetrates and absorbs easily, for which reason it demonstrates excellent drying and antibacterial actions on the skin. As a result, comedones and other inflamed acne lesions subside when it is used regularly. Most experts recommend a twice daily use of this ingredient.

7 - Tea-tree oil

This ingredient in a face wash for acne prone skin has a two-fold action[6] : First, it is anti-inflammatory in nature and it works to reduce inflammation in acne lesions.

Second, it has antibacterial properties. Since acne lesions contain the bacteria P. acnes, tea tree oil functions to limit bacterial growth and therefore provide treatment benefit.

Tea tree oil reduces redness, tenderness and swelling – all signs of inflammation.

8 - Witch hazel

Witch hazel’s high tannin content bestows natural astringent properties to this ingredient. As a result, skin pores shrink. It also has anti-inflammatory properties which help to reduce inflammation in acne lesions.

But the long term use of this ingredient is considered problematic. So, if you are planning to buy a face wash that contains this ingredient, make sure you don’t use it long term.

Take Home Message

Ideally speaking, the best face wash for acne prone skin should contain all of the above ingredients, but this is of course not a possibility. Every face wash is designed to suit a particular type of skin and so its ingredients are chosen accordingly. But the good news is, since now you are aware of the functions of important ingredients; you are one step closer to choosing the best face wash for acne prone skin. So, go ahead and choose the best face wash for acne prone skin with confidence; Good Luck!


1 - Sagransky, Matt, Brad A. Yentzer, and Steven R. Feldman. "Benzoyl peroxide: a review of its current use in the treatment of acne vulgaris." Expert opinion on pharmacotherapy 10, no. 15 (2009): 2555-2562.

2 - Garg, Vijay Kumar, Surabhi Sinha, and Rashmi Sarkar. "Glycolic acid peels versus salicylic–mandelic acid peels in active acne vulgaris and post‐acne scarring and hyperpigmentation: a comparative study." Dermatologic Surgery 35, no. 1 (2009): 59-65.

3 - Decker, Ashley, and Emmy M. Graber. "Over-the-counter acne treatments: a review." The Journal of clinical and aesthetic dermatology 5, no. 5 (2012): 32.

4 - Gupta, Aditya K., and Karin Nicol. "The use of sulfur in dermatology." Journal of drugs in dermatology: JDD 3, no. 4 (2004): 427-431.

5 - Keri, Jonette, and Michael Shiman. "An update on the management of acne vulgaris." Clinical, cosmetic and investigational dermatology: CCID 2 (2009): 105.

6 - Pazyar, Nader, Reza Yaghoobi, Nooshin Bagherani, and Afshin Kazerouni. "A review of applications of tea tree oil in dermatology." International Journal of Dermatology 52, no. 7 (2013): 784-790.

[6] Nader Pazyar, Reza Yaghoobi, Nooshin Bagherani, and Afshin Kazerouni. "A review of applications of tea tree oil in dermatology." International Journal of Dermatology 52, no. 7 (2013): 784-790.


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