The Best Face Wash for Acne for Every Stage in Life

Updated: Apr. 21, 2020

Daily cleansing is the cornerstone of your skin-care routine, especially for those who have acne. Here are the dermatologist-recommended cleansers for every decade of your adult life.

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What acne face wash should I use?

Acne could be a problem during any stage of life. It’s the most common skin condition in the United States, affecting up to 50 million people per year, according to the American Academy of Dermatology. One of the first steps in getting your acne under control is using the right products—starting with your face wash. Here’s what experts recommend for every decade.

PanOxyl Acne face wash for teans

In your teens


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Fluctuating hormones can lead to an overproduction of sebum, which can trap dead skin cells in the pores and make them clogged. Then, along with bacteria, particularly P. acnes, it can lead to acne with its swelling, redness, and inflammation. Look for cleansers with benzoyl peroxide; it’s antibacterial, meaning it reduces the number of bacteria on your skin, and it’s the first-line treatment option recommended by the American Academy of Dermatology for mild acne in adolescents and young adults. It’s also a powerful ingredient that treats all sorts of acne lesions, from blackheads to whiteheads to pimples. As an added bonus, benzoyl peroxide works quickly, improving acne as soon as five days after you start using it. PanOxyl’s Acne Cream Wash is one of the best face washes for acne to target spots that have already broken out. Check out everything you need to know about hormonal acne.

glytone acne face wash for people in their 20s

In your 20s


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“It’s a myth that acne is something that only teenagers deal with,” says Joyce Imahiyerobo-Ip, MD, board-certified dermatologist. “In fact, the number one skin complaint of my 20-something year patients is acne.” She often sees patients with one of two problems that inadvertently worsen their acne: They use overly harsh products that strip the skin of natural oils, or they use prescription acne medications inconsistently. Another commons issue? Even for those whose hormonal acne has died down, many are left with hyperpigmentation spots. Fortunately, salicylic acid serves as a double whammy for both acne and acne scars, by gently exfoliating dead skin cells. At higher concentrations, it works as a chemical peel for instantly brighter and clearer skin. GLYTONE’s Acne Self- Foaming Cleanser is one of the best face washes for acne that won’t strip your skin of moisture.

acne face wash for people in their 30s

In your 30s


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Even if you have taken great care of your skin, you may begin to notice subtle signs of aging including fine lines, wrinkles, hyperpigmentation, and melasma, as you enter your 30s, along with breakouts. The good news is that some anti-acne products are also potent anti-agers. Dr. Imahiyerobo-Ip recommends incorporating retinoic acid cleansers into your daily skin-care routine. “Derived from Vitamin A, retinoic acid is an anti-aging powerhouse. It improves skin cell turnover and provides benefits of increased collagen production, clean pores, and more even skin tone,” she notes. If your skin is overly sensitive to retinoids, glycolic acid (an alpha hydroxy acid) is an equally effective alternative that helps to loosen the bonds that hold the dead skin cells together. If you are new to acids, start with products with lower glycolic acid percentages, such as NeoStrata’s Foaming Glycolic Wash (5 percent). This is the retinoid rule dermatologists are urging everyone to follow.

Vi Derm acne face wash for people in their 40s

In your 40s


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As women enter perimenopause, usually in their 40s, the level of estrogen—the main female hormone—fluctuates, which can lead to more sebum production and acne flare-ups. At the same time, sun damage in the forms of wrinkles, brown age spots, and dull skin tone can also begin to crop up on the face. Dr. Imahiyerobo-Ip recommends products containing ascorbic acid (the synthetic version of vitamin C), which has major antioxidant benefits, brightens skin, and stimulates collagen production. It also soothes redness, (especially inflammation related to acne). Two of her favorite cleansers with ascorbic acid are Vi Derm Cleanser and InstaNatural Vitamin C Facial Cleanser.

hydropeptide face cleanser for people in their 50s and up

In your 50s (and beyond)


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Although menopause marks the end of your menstrual cycle, it can also mean a wave of irregular hormones. In addition, chances are your skin is now experiencing regular dryness on top of the acne. An additional challenge in treating mature skin with breakouts is that women in their 50s often develop more sensitivities to skin-care ingredients; that’s why it’s important to opt for more gentle, hydrating products. Your solution lies in lactic acid, a gentle, yet effective exfoliator that softens lines and prevents pores from getting clogged. The HydroPeptide Cleansing Gel is gentle enough for daily use. Find out more game-changing, anti-aging ingredients that dermatologists recommend.