You’re never too old for pimples, unfortunately. But if you’re dealing with acne on a regular basis, you need salicylic acid treatment. Salicylic acid fights inflammation and unclogs pores. The result is clearer skin with fewer blemishes. In this post, we’ll explain to you what Salicylic Acid is, how it works, and how it benefits acne-prone skin. Then you’ll find a shortlist of the best Salicylic Acid acne products available on the market today.

For those of you who can’t wait to get to the best products list, here’s a little sneak peek of the products that made our top 3 pick.



Top 3 – Editor’s Picks

If you’re in a rush, here’s our top pick for the best Salicylic Acid acne treatment.

#1 – Misumi Clear Skin Salicylic Cleanser

Great for all skin types

  • Helps to clear up acne fast
  • Removes impurities that clog up pores and cause acne
  • Results easily beats big brands and tough competition like Proactiv
  • 60-Day money back guarantee
5.0 stars out of 5

Read Review

#2 – Vichy Normaderm Daily Deep Cleansing Gel

Suitable for: Sensitive skin

  • It works surprisingly well
  • Light and refreshing cleanser for everyday use
  • It smells great
4.5 stars out of 5

Read Review

#3 – Paula’s Choice Clear Pore Normalizing Cleanser
Related image

Suitable for: Sensitive and dry skin

  • Very gentle formula
  • Only 0.5% Salicylic acid concentration
  • Does not dry skin out
4.5 stars out of 5

Read Review

What Is Salicylic Acid?

Salicylic acid is a natural compound originally derived from the bark and leaves of the willow tree. As a beta hydroxy acid, salicylic acid speeds up cell turnover rates. It exfoliates, helping your skin to shed dead cells more effectively. This, in turn, keeps them from building up within the pore.

Salicylic acid can be found in many over-the-counter products. It’s also very popular as a chemical peel at the salon, skin spa, or dermatology clinic.

Misumi’s Clear Skin Salicylic Cleanser is our top pick, based on thousands of reviews.


How does salicylic acid work on acne?

Salicylic acid dissolves in fat. When applied to the skin, it penetrates deep into openings of the oil glands, breaks down fatty compounds—such as the oily sebum —and unclogs pores, resulting in deep cleaning of the skin.  

Salicylic acid also has a mild exfoliating effect, increasing cell turnover and enhancing collagen production, ultimately providing a healthier glow to the skin. This exfoliation is achieved gently without damaging the protective layers of the skin or the risk of rupturing pores or breaking tiny blood vessels, which frequently occurs with physical exfoliating from scrubs of electric cleansing brushes. By removing melanin-containing dead skin cells from the upper surface of the skin, salicylic acid also helps fade post-acne dark spots (i.e. hyperpigmentation) gently over time.

Its ability to gently exfoliate the skin and clean the pores make salicylic acid a perfect treatment for comedones (blackheads and whiteheads) and mild to moderate acne. It’s also an anti-inflammatory, which can help calm inflamed acne.

How do Salicylic cleansers work?

Cleansers containing salicylic acid are the best option for people who have acne. The salicylic acid will get to work unclogging the pores and preparing the skin for acne treatment cream to better penetrate the skin. In contrast to harsher acne cleansers, a salicylic acid cleanser is mild, non-irritating and can suitable for even the most sensitive skin when used in the right concentration. For the best results, cleansers with salicylic acid should be massaged gently into the entire face (avoiding the eyes) creating a nice lather for around 20-seconds then rinsed off with tepid water.

Products with high salicylic acid concentrations are drying to sensitive skin. But the typical over-the-counter cleanser is safe to use as often as twice a day. That’s important, because it may take up to a month to get acne under control depending on the severity of the issue. And salicylic acid face wash is good for blackheads because it shrinks pores, too.

Top Salicylic Acid Face Washes & Cleansers

Following are reviews of the best salicylic acid face cleansers. At this time, there is no single face wash with salicylic acid and benzoyl peroxide together. But you may find that alternating these two treatments makes your acne disappear faster.

#1- Misumi Clear Skin Salicylic Cleanser

Picking the number 1 salicylic acne product was surprisingly not a hard choice. After trying over fifty of the best rated salicylic acid products, we’ve come to a conclusion that Misumi’s Clear Skin Salicylic Cleanser is by far the most powerful and effective salicylic treatment on the market. It easily beats out tough competitors like Murad, Curology, and Proactiv.

This breakthrough formula is a powerful blend of Glycolic acid, Lactic acid, and Salicylic acid, the three ‘miracle acne-fighting ingredients’. The trio work together to unclog and tighten pores, remove impurities that cause acne, and accelerate the skin’s natural healing process. It fights acne from the inside out, which ensures long-lasting results. The cleanser also incorporates Lavender which has antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties to reduce redness and swelling, while also preventing severe acne scars. All in all, this is our top choice. Misumi really checks all the boxes of everything we’re looking for Salicylic Acid acne product.

Check out the before and after photo of a real user. 

Best For: Oily, normal, combination, and acne-prone skin


  • Powerful combination of Lactic, Glycolic, and Salicylic acid
  • High concentration of premium quality ingredients
  • Calms breakouts and reduces redness and swelling
  • Naturally derived
  • 60 Day Money Back Guarantee


  • There are cheaper options out there

Pro tip: Choose a subscription plan (30 or 60 days) and get 20% savings on the cleanser. Easy cancellation anytime.

Check out this customer’s review of misumi clear Skin salicylic cleanser.

Best product ever

This stuff really works. We have tried everything on the market and to be honest this is the only thing that has worked for my son. I have it on automatic delivery and he will never go without.

Dean F

Verified Buyer



#2 – Vichy Normaderm Daily Deep Cleansing Gel Acne Face Wash with Salicylic Acid

Seventy-six women tested the Vichy Normaderm Deep Cleansing Gel for a month. Ninety percent of those women reported that their skin looked healthier. And over seventy percent said that their skin’s texture had also improved. That’s because this face wash contains three powerful but gentle exfoliants like salicylic acid, glycolic acid, and beta-lipohydroxy acid.

Together, these ingredients purify pores and remove excess oil. Also important, the formula does not contain parabens or alcohols. It’s safe to use both morning and night.



#3 – Paula’s Choice CLEAR Pore Normalizing Cleanser

If your face tends to react badly to face washes, try the CLEAR Pore Normalizing Cleanser from Paula’s Choice. It has a 0.5% concentration of salicylic acid. That’s a gentle formulation that won’t dry out sensitive skin. Plus, this silky gel is a pleasure to use.

Like other products from the same company, you also won’t have to worry about parabens or artificial fragrances.


#4 – La Roche-Posay Effaclar Medicated Gel Cleanser

The Effaclar Medicated Gel from La Roche-Posay won the Allure Best of Beauty Award in 2016. It’s a good choice for persons with oily skin. That’s because the 2% salicylic acid formula is strong enough to reduce the extra oil by almost half.

This cleanser is free of oils, parabens, and artificial fragrances. It contains glycerin to fight dryness, plus menthol to make it feel cool and soothing to skin.


#5 – Phisoderm Anti-Blemish Gel Cleanser

Phisoderm’s Anti-Blemish Cleanser is a favorite face wash among people with sensitive combination skin. Its pH-balanced formula is free from alcohol, dye, and soap. Plus, it has 2% salicylic acid for maximum cleaning power.


#6 – Replenix Acne Solutions Gly/Sal 5-2 Acne Cleanser

The Gly/Sal Acne Cleanser from Replevin contains 2% salicylic acid and 10% glycolic acid. Not only does it battle acne effectively, but it also helps heal keratosis pilaris.


#7 – Burt’s Bees Natural Acne Solutions Purifying Gel Cleanser

The Acne Solutions Cleanser from Burt’s Bees is 99.4% natural. It has naturally derived 1% salicylic acid from willow bark. But it also contains beetroot and evening primrose extracts that calm skin.


#8 – Mario Badescu Acne Facial Cleanser

Mario Badescu’s Acne Facial Cleanser is a gel with salicylic acid plus natural ingredients to soothe and clarify skin. The natural ingredients include aloe, chamomile, and thyme. And customers seem divided regarding this product. Some love it while others relay disappointment.


#9 – Dr. Brandt Pores No More Cleanser

The standout feature of the dr. brandt Pores No More Cleanser is that it contains tea tree oil. This component fights acne all on its own. But it’s also accompanied by salicylic acid derived from willow bark.


#10 – skyn ICELAND Glacial Face Wash

If you’re tired of the soreness, redness, and irritation of an acne breakout, you’ll like the skyn face wash. It’s made with pure glacial water from Iceland. And it cleanses your skin with willow bark, Icelandic kelp, and amino acids from oats. The cruelty-free formula is 100% vegan and free of sulfates, parabens, and silicones.


How to fight acne and win

Pimples, zits, acne…Whatever you call it, it’s annoying. Not only are those bumps unsightly, but they also hurt, too. So how can you fight acne and win?

Let’s be realistic. You’ve done your best to resist popping zits and touching your face. You remove your makeup before bed and change your pillowcase once a week. Maybe you’ve even changed your diet to drink more water and eat healthier. But you’re still breaking out. What gives?

Salicylic acid vs. scrubs with harsh exfoliators

The culprit could be your face wash. The reason why we recommend salicylic acid cleansers is because they exfoliate more gently than a scrub. It takes time, but they unclog pores and shrink them. Plus, salicylic acid reduces inflammation and prevents acne. If you’ve never tried a salicylic acid face wash, the time is now.

If you’re concerned that a 2% solution will be too harsh, try one with 0.5% and use it once a day. You can always work your way up to something stronger once your skin adjusts.

But there is a time for exfoliating with something stronger. You may find that using an exfoliating face mask or scrub once a week helps maintain healthy skin. Just don’t overdo it because damaging your skin will open it up to infection and more acne.

The method matters

Also, the way you wash your face matters. Plan on cleansing your skin just once in the morning and once at night. Use lukewarm or cool water and avoid extremes of temperature. This keeps your skin from overreacting and producing more oil.

Next, when beauty experts recommend patting your face dry, they mean it. Again, it’s all about reducing irritation.

After you’ve cleansed your face, always apply moisturizer. Get in the habit; make it a ritual. Happily, hydrated skin is less likely to develop blemishes.

It’s the hormones

There are three times in your life when you’re likely to have more acne: your teenage years, during pregnancy, and around the time of menopause. It’s even more aggravating during those periods because you’re likely to feel more sensitive about your appearance.

If hormones are giving you pimples, remind yourself that this trying time will pass. Try new skin care products and see how they work for you. Think of it as a chance to experiment with new things.


If you’re tired of acne, try one of the best salicylic acid face washes. They will cleanse your pores and get rid of inflammation and blackheads. These cleansers are one of the best ways to gently exfoliate your skin and improve its texture, too.