And why a salicylic acid cleanser is a must-have for acne-prone or oily skin.
If you have acne-prone or oily skin, one of the most important skincare products to have on standby is a salicylic acid cleanser. Salicylic acid is a powerhouse ingredient for oily, acne-prone skin types, as it can help to fight inflammation while keeping your pores clear of dead skin cells and excess oil.
What is salicylic acid?
Salicylic acid is a beta hydroxy acid—closely related to to alpha hydroxy acids such as lactic acid and citric acid. Both acid families are powerful exfoliants that can help your skin to shed dead skin cells. However, while alpha hydroxy acids are water-soluble (meaning that they dissolve in water), beta hydroxy acids like salicylic acid are oil-soluble. This makes them especially effective when it comes to fighting oiliness.
The exfoliating properties of salicylic acid make it extremely beneficial for acne-prone skin. Acne is triggered when excessive amounts of sebum (your skin’s natural oil) build up in your pores, clogging them. These clogged pores can appear on the surface of your skin as blackheads and whiteheads, and can transform into more serious, inflammatory forms of acne if the pores become colonized by bacteria.
Salicylic acid helps to get rid of dead skin cells on the surface of your skin, keeping your pores free of debris and excess oil, and thereby preventing future breakouts. Meanwhile, this hard-working ingredient fights bacteria and inflammation in your skin tissue, reducing the severity of existing breakouts and calming down your complexion. The exfoliating powers of salicylic acid can also help to brighten your skin tone and stimulate cell regeneration, helping your skin to recover from the damage left behind by previous breakouts.
Natural salicylic acid
However, the salicylic acid found in conventional skincare products is often produced synthetically. But did you know that Salicylic acid can be naturally derived from plant ingredients such as willow bark, ylang ylang, and wintergreen? In natural skin care products, you can usually find willow bark as a source of salicylic acid. If formulated by a trustworthy brand with high quality ingredients, plant-derived salicylic acid is still gentle on skin while reducing clogged pores, treating acne, and lowering risk of inflammation or irritation. It’s best to use a salicylic acid cleanser, so that you’re massaging the formula into your skin, working it into your pores, and rinsing away the debris afterwards.
Best salicylic acid cleansers
Tea Tree & Willow Acne Clear Cleanser by 100% Pure
Cruelty-free, vegan, gluten-free
This clarifying facial cleanser by 100% Pure harnesses the power of willow bark to keep your pores clean and clear. The formula also includes a range of other acne-fighting ingredients, from tea tree oil (which has antimicrobial properties) to parsley (which calms down skin and evens out redness). It’s an ideal morning and night cleanser for oily and combination skin types.
Clarifying Cleanser by Tata Harper
This acne face wash helps to balance your skin’s oil production while it cleanses, supporting long-term skin health and clarity. Along with willow bark and wintergreen, which contain naturally occurring salicylic acid, this formula includes lactic acid and citric acid to help gently exfoliate your skin. It also features arnica, an ingredient that helps to fight redness and inflammation, and leaves skin feeling soothed. It’s suitable for AM and PM use.
Certified Organic Balancing Cleansing Gel by Mukti Organics
Cruelty-free, vegan, gluten-free
This gel cleanser is a gentle option for acne-prone, oily, and combination skin. It contains willow bark to clear pores of excess oil, citrus extracts to exfoliate and brighten, rose to replenish and restore, and a blend of calming botanicals to soothe irritation. An excellent option for sensitive skin or irritated skin, this cleanser is sure to benefit anyone who’s looking for a soothing cleanser for oily, inflamed skin.
No. 1 Belle Frais Facial Cleansing Milk by Edible Beauty Australia
This cleanser by Edible Beauty Australia helps to hydrate and tone your skin while it removes impurities. It contains wintergreen (a natural source of salicylic acid) to remove dead skin cells and purify your pores, as well as coconut oil to hydrate and soothe your skin, and a blend of fruit extracts to help exfoliate, brighten, and tone. If you have acne-prone skin that also tends toward dryness, this cleanser might be the perfect option for you.
Clear Skin Probiotic Cleanser by Eminence Organic Skin Care
Acne sufferers might not realize that a big part of their skin woes is caused by a bacterial imbalance. When acne-causing bacteria run rampant in your skin tissue, they can exacerbate breakouts and crowd out beneficial bacteria. This cleanser works overtime to restore your skin’s bacterial balance. Not only does it remove dead skin cells using willow bark and lactic acid. It also neutralizes harmful bacteria using tea tree oil, and tones and soothes your skin using cucumber juice.
Facial Cleanser for Acne Treatment by Teava Skincare
The salicylic acid in this acne treatment is derived from white willow bark and other natural ingredients, making it a gentler alternative to conventional acne treatments. This cleanser also features tea tree oil to fight acne-causing bacteria, antioxidant-rich green tea to tone and brighten your skin, and aloe vera to hydrate without clogging pores. Better yet, this product is pH-balanced, so it’ll be gentle on your skin’s protective lipid barrier.
Facial Cleanser: Australian Wild Plum & Willow by Pangea Organics
This cleanser helps to actively balance your skin’s oil production, preventing future breakouts while it reduces the severity of current ones. Along with exfoliating willow bark, it contains argan oil to hydrate and balance, wild plum extract to plump and revitalize, and clary sage essential oil to balance your skin’s oil production, preventing your pores from becoming clogged in the long term. Ideal for normal and oily skin, this cleanser helps to restore balance and promote a healthy glow.
4-in-1 Essential Face Tonic by Ursa Major
This multitasking cleanser cleans, exfoliates, soothes, and hydrates, all in one go, making it a great option for busy beauty lovers who don’t have time for a complicated skincare routine. It contains willow bark to clear your pores of oil and debris, green tea to tone and brighten your complexion, and aloe to heal and soothe your skin.
How to use a salicylic acid cleanser
While plant-based salicylic acid tends to be fairly gentle, it’s important to avoid overprocessing your skin. We recommend using salicylic acid cleanser on your skin no more than twice per day: once in the morning, and once at night (after removing any makeup and sunscreen). If you exercise vigorously during the day, make sure to cleanse your skin afterward, preferably with a gentle, antibacterial cleanser. After deep cleansing we recommend following up with a toner, serum, and moisturizer to keep your skin healthy and hydrated. Your skin will be perfectly prepped to receive these follow-up skin care products, as your pores will be clear and ready to absorb the beneficial ingredients.
The right salicylic acid cleanser can have dramatic benefits for oily, acne-prone skin, especially when used in conjunction with other natural ingredients that fight bacteria and inflammation. If you’re interested in using natural ingredients to treat acne, check out our post on 4 Easy Ways to Use Green Tea for Acne. If you’d like to learn more about the safest ways to exfoliate acne-prone skin, you can read up about it on our How Often Should You Exfoliate Your Face for Your Skin Type post.
As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.