Are you currently battling acne scars and looking to achieve a more even complexion? Here are our recommendations for the best drugstore face washes for acne scars. 

Do Face Washes Help with Acne Scars?

A face wash on its own won’t help treat acne scars. While some face washes contain ingredients that are known to help with acne scars, since you don’t leave a face wash on, it won’t make a major difference in the appearance of these scars. That being said, a great face wash is still crucial for maintaining skin health and preventing future breakouts that may lead to more acne scars. The recommendations below are appropriate for acne-prone skin and are particularly great for those currently dealing with acne scars. 

If you’re looking for a more proactive way to treat acne scars, consider adding other topical products to your routine that are formulated with ingredients that promote a more even skin tone and texture. You’ll find plenty of excellent product recommendations (including options you can find at the drugstore) on our acne scars page.

Our Recommendations

1. Effaclar Medicated Acne Face Wash

La Roche Posay Effaclar Medicated Acne Face Wash

La Roche-Posay Face Wash for Acne and Daily Cleansing

La Roche-Posay Effaclar Medicated Acne Face Wash

The 2% concentration of salicylic acid in this medicated cleanser helps remove excess oil and clear current breakouts.

Skin types: Normal, Oily and Combination
Best for: Acne and Daily Cleansing
Tested on animals: Yes
How to use: Wet your face with lukewarm water, and then gently massage the cleanser into your skin. Rinse with lukewarm water.
See on Amazon

This cleanser contains a 2% concentration of the chemical exfoliator salicylic acid, a beta hydroxy acid (BHA). Salicylic acid is able to shed excess skin cells and decongest pores to fight current breakouts, as well as prevent future breakouts from happening.

Pros

  • Fragrance-free
  • Oil-free
  • Dermatologist tested
  • Non-comedogenic

Cons

  • May be drying

This award-winning cleanser has been dermatologist tested, and is suitable for sensitive skin. It is also non-comedogenic, meaning it doesn’t contain ingredients known to clog pores.

2% Salicylic Acid, water, sodium laureth sulfate, decyl glucoside, glycerin, sodium chloride, coco-betaine, PEG-150 pentaerythrityl tetrastearate, hexylene glycol, sodium hydroxide, PEG-6 caprylic/capric glycerides, zinc gluconate, tetrasodium EDTA, polyquaternium-47, menthol, capryloyl salicylic acid, citric acid.

  1. National Center for Biotechnology Information. "Over-the-counter Acne Treatments"

    Accessed Aug. 16, 2021.

2. Daily Face Cleanser

Cetaphil Daily Face Cleanser

Cetaphil Face Wash for Daily Cleansing

Cetaphil Daily Face Cleanser

For those with normal to oily skin, this is one of the best cleansers from Cetaphil. The gel to foam formula is clinically proven to deeply cleanse the skin, but is still gentle enough to not strip it of its natural oils.

Skin types: Normal, Oily, Combination and Sensitive
Best for: Daily Cleansing
Tested on animals: Yes
How to use: Wet your face with lukewarm water, and then gently massage the cleanser into your skin. Rinse with lukewarm water.
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This is an excellent cleanser for daily use, particularly for those with normal to oily skin. It cleanses without irritating or drying out the skin and contains vitamins B3 and B5, as well as glycerin, which hydrate and nourish the skin.

Pros

  • Non-comedogenic
  • Hypoallergenic
  • Gentle

Cons

  • Contains fragrance

The mild and low lather formula is dermatologist tested, and shown to be gentle on sensitive skin. Since it is also non-comedogenic, it won’t clog pores, making it a suitable choice for those with acne-prone skin.

Water, Glycerin, Peg-200 Hydrogenated Glyceryl Palmate, Butylene Glycol, Sodium Lauroyl Sarcosinate, Acrylates/Steareth-20 Methacrylate Copolymer, Peg-7 Glyceryl Cocoate, Sodium Laureth Sulfate, Phenoxyethanol, Masking Fragrance, Panthenol, Peg-60 Hydrogenated Castor Oil, Disodium Edta, Methylparaben

  1. Sage Journals. "Safety Assessment of Glycerin as Used in Cosmetics"

    Accessed Aug. 24, 2021.
  2. National Center for Biotechnology Information. "Skin moisturizing effects of panthenol-based formulations"

    Accessed Aug. 24, 2021.

3. Salicylic Acid Daily Gentle Cleanser

COSRX Salicylic Acid Daily Gentle Cleanser

COSRX Face Wash for Acne and Daily Cleansing

COSRX Salicylic Acid Daily Gentle Cleanser

This gentle foaming cleanser removes excess oils and helps unclog pores without drying out the skin.

Skin types: Normal, Oily and Combination
Best for: Acne and Daily Cleansing
Tested on animals: No
How to use: Dispense the cleanser into your palms, and then gently massage it into wet skin. Rinse with lukewarm water.
See on Amazon

If you’re acne-prone, you need a daily cleanser that will remove excess oils and impurities without further irritating breakouts or drying out the skin. This cleanser contains a 0.5% concentration of salicylic acid, a beta-hydroxy acid (BHA) that helps gently unclog pores to minimize breakouts.

Pros

  • Gentle
  • Vegan and cruelty-free

Cons

  • Contains fragrance

In addition to the salicylic acid, this cleanser contains willow bark water, tea tree oil, evening primrose extract, and other soothing skincare ingredients.

Water, Glycerin, Myristic Acid, Stearic Acid, Potassium Hydroxide, Lauric Acid, Butylene Glycol, Glycol Distearate, Polysorbate 80, Sodium Methyl Cocoyl Taurate, Salicylic Acid, Cocamidopropyl Betaine, PEG-60 Hydrogenated Castor Oil, Fragrance, Sodium Chloride, Melaleuca Alternigolia (Tea Tree) Leaf Oil, Caprylyl Glycol, Ethylhexylglycerin, Salix Alba (Willow) Bark Water, Saccharomyces Ferment, Cryptomeria Japonica Leaf Extract, Nelumbo Nucifera Leaf Extract, Pinus Palustris Leaf Extract, Ulmus Davidiana Root Extract, Oenothera Biennis (Evening Primrose) Flower Extract, Pueraria Lobata Root Extract, 1,2-Hexanediol, Ethyl Hexanediol, Citric Acid, Disodium EDTA

  1. National Center for Biotechnology Information. "Over-the-counter Acne Treatments"

    Accessed Aug. 24, 2021.

4. Foaming Facial Cleanser

CeraVe Foaming Facial Cleanser

CeraVe Face Wash for Daily Cleansing

CeraVe Foaming Facial Cleanser

This foaming cleanser is gentle and non-irritating on the skin, but still effectively removes dirt, debris, and excess oil without stripping it.

Skin types: Normal, Oily and Combination
Best for: Daily Cleansing
Tested on animals: Yes
How to use: Wet the skin with lukewarm water, and then gently massage the cleanser into the skin. Rinse with lukewarm water.
See on Amazon

This cleanser is one of the best CeraVe products for oilier skin types, because it cleanses the skin without stripping it of its natural moisture. Maintaining the skin’s moisture is vital, as products that dry out the skin can actually trigger the skin to produce more oil. This cleanser allows you to protect your skin while still cleansing away excess oil, dirt, and debris.

Pros

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

Cons

  • None

This daily foaming gel cleanser contains hyaluronic acid, niacinamide, and three essential ceramides. These ingredients help ensure the cleanser doesn’t strip the skin of its natural moisture. They also help calm and soothe the skin.

Aqua / Water / Eau, Cocamidopropyl Hydroxysultaine, Glycerin, Sodium Lauroyl Sarcosinate, Peg-150 Pentaerythrityl Tetrastearate, Niacinamide, Peg-6 Caprylic/Capric Glycerides, Sodium Methyl Cocoyl, Taurate, Propylene Glycol, Ceramide Np, Ceramide Ap, Ceramide Eop, Carbomer, Methylparaben, Sodium Chloride, Sodium Lauroyl Lactylate, Cholesterol, Disodium Edta, Propylparaben, Citric Acid, Tetrasodium Edta, Hydrolyzed Hyaluronic Acid, Phytosphingosine, Xanthan Gum

  1. American Academy of Dermatology. "How to control oily skin"

    Accessed Aug. 24, 2021.

5. Clear Pore Normalizing Cleanser

Paula’s Choice Clear Pore Normalizing Cleanser

Paula's Choice Face Wash for Daily Cleansing

Paula’s Choice Clear Pore Normalizing Cleanser

This salicylic acid cleanser is one of the best Paula’s Choice cleansers for acne. It removes excess oil and pore-clogging debris without drying out the skin or causing any redness.

Skin types: Normal, Oily and Combination
Best for: Daily Cleansing
Tested on animals: No
How to use: First, wet the skin with lukewarm water. Dispense the cleanser into your palms, and then gently massage into the skin. Rinse with lukewarm water.
See on Amazon

This gel cleanser contains the chemical exfoliator salicylic acid, which is a beta-hydroxy acid (or BHA). Salicylic acid sheds excess skin cells and decongests pores to fight acne and blackheads, leading to a clearer complexion.

Pros

  • Fragrance-free
  • Non-drying

Cons

  • May irritate sensitive skin

This cleanser has a 0.5% concentration of salicylic acid. The low concentration helps clear the skin of excess oil and debris without irritating it.

Salicylic Acid 0.5% (anti-acne), Water (Aqua), Sodium Lauroyl Sarcosinate (cleansing agent), Acrylates/Steareth-20 Methacrylate Copolymer (texture enhancer), Glycerin (skin-replenishing), PEG-200 Hydrogenated Glyceryl Palmate (cleansing agent/solubilizer), Sodium Laureth Sulfate (cleansing agent), Arginine (amino acid/skin-softening), Butylene Glycol (hydration/slip agent), PEG-7 Glyceryl Cocoate (emollient/emulsifier), Panthenol (vitamin B5/hydration), Disodium EDTA (chelating agent), Citric Acid (pH adjuster), PEG-60 Hydrogenated Castor Oil (cleansing agent/solubilizer), Sodium Citrate (chelating agent), Phenoxyethanol (preservative), Caprylyl Glycol (preservative), Chlorphenesin (preservative).

  1. National Center for Biotechnology Information. "Over-the-counter Acne Treatments"

    Accessed Aug. 5, 2021.

6. Acne Foaming Wash 10% Maximum Strength

PanOxyl Acne Foaming Wash 10% Maximum Strength

PanOxyl Face Wash for Acne

PanOxyl Acne Foaming Wash 10% Maximum Strength

This foaming benzoyl peroxide cleanser is excellent for fighting acne on both the face and body.

Skin types: All Skin Types
Best for: Acne
Tested on animals: Yes
How to use: Gently massage the cleanser into the face, as well as any other areas of the body that are prone to acne (like the back or chest). Rinse with lukewarm water.
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This foaming cleanser contains a 10% concentration of benzoyl peroxide. This high concentration helps kill acne-causing bacteria on the skin while also unclogging pores to treat current breakouts and prevent new blemishes from forming.

Pros

  • Fragrance-free
  • Non-comedogenic

Cons

  • May irritate the skin

For the best results, this cleanser should be used on a regular basis as part of an effective skincare routine to keep breakouts at bay.

Active Ingredient: Benzoyl Peroxide (10%) Inactive Ingredients: Carbomer Homopolymer Type C, Carbomer Interpolymer Type A, Decyl Glucoside, Dimethicone, Dioctyl Sodium Sulfosuccinate, Glycerin, Palmitic Acid, Polyacrylate Crosspolymer-6, Polyoxyl 40 Stearate, Propanediol, Purified Water, Silica, Sodium Chloride, Sodium Citrate, Sodium Hydroxide, Sodium Laurylglucosides Hydroxypropylsulfonate, Sorbitan Stearate, Stearic Acid, t-Butyl Alcohol, Xanthan Gum

  1. National Center for Biotechnology Information. "Benzoyl Peroxide"

    Accessed Sep. 1, 2021.

7. Pigmentclar Brightening Deep Cleanser

La Roche-Posay Pigmentclar Brightening Deep Cleanser

La Roche-Posay Face Wash for Daily Cleansing

La Roche-Posay Pigmentclar Brightening Deep Cleanser

This foaming cream cleanser contains exfoliating lipo-hydroxy acid, which works to remove impurities from the skin and brighten overall skin tone.

Skin types: All Skin Types
Best for: Daily Cleansing
Tested on animals: Yes
How to use: Wet your face with lukewarm water, and then gently massage the cleanser into your skin. Rinse with lukewarm water.
See on Amazon

Lipo-hydroxy acid (which is a derivative of salicylic acid) is a gentle chemical exfoliator that is well-tolerated by most, and great for acne-prone skin and acne scars. It is exfoliating and known to stimulate collagen and elastin production (which is great for anti-aging and evening out skin tone and texture), and also has anti-acne properties. While this acid will be most effective when applied as a leave-on treatment, this cleanser can still contribute towards lightening post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation.

Pros

  • Oil-free
  • Dermatologist tested

Cons

  • Contains fragrance

In addition to the lipo-hydroxy acid, this cleanser contains glycerin, which helps keep the skin moisturized.

Aqua / Water, Glycerin, Myristic Acid, Potassium Hydroxide, Glyceryl Stearate Se, Stearic Acid, Lauric Acid, Palmitic Acid, Coco-Glucoside, Parfum / Fragrance, Tetrasodium Edta, Capryloyl Salicylic Acid

  1. National Center for Biotechnology Information. "The Use of Lipohydroxy Acid in Skin Care and Acne Treatment"

    Accessed Jul. 30, 2021.

FAQs

Is vitamin C good for acne scars?

Yes, vitamin C can be a helpful ingredient for treating acne scars. It is particularly well-suited for fading post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation, AKA the dark and untextured marks that are left behind after blemishes heal. Vitamin C promotes the production of collagen, brightens the complexion, and has been proven to treat dark marks and improve the appearance of uneven skin tone. This ingredient may also help minimize the appearance of raised or pitted acne scars, but these types of scars are typically harder to completely diminish without the help of professional treatments.

Will acne scars go away on their own?

This depends on the type of scar you’re dealing with and its severity. Typically, post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation (which isn’t actually an acne scar, but is often grouped together with acne scars) will fade on its own in anywhere from three to 24 months. You can speed up this process by using targeted skincare products and wearing sunscreen daily. Raised and pitted acne scars are a bit harder to treat, and typically won’t go away on their own. Topical products may help, but in order to fully get rid of these scars, a professional treatment (such as a chemical peel or laser treatment) may be necessary.

What clears acne scarring?

There are a variety of topical products you can use in order to target acne scarring for a more even skin tone and texture. Serums, chemical exfoliants, and treatments containing ingredients like retinol, vitamin C, alpha hydroxy acids (like glycolic acid, lactic acid, and mandelic acid), and azelaic acid are particularly effective when it comes to treating acne scars. While these ingredients are best for post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation, they may help with raised and pitted scars. For more severe scarring (or scarring that doesn’t completely respond to topical products), professional treatments may be needed – talk to a dermatologist to determine what works best for your needs. Common treatment options include chemical peels, laser treatments, and dermabrasion.

The Bottom Line

While a face wash on its own won’t help treat acne scars, it is an essential part of a healthy skincare routine. Consider using one of our recommended face washes as you work towards achieving a smoother and more even toned complexion.