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8 Effective Salicylic Acid Cleansers that Won’t Dry Out Your Skin

And why a salicylic acid cleanser is a must-have for acne-prone or oily skin.

Salicylic Acid CleanserIf you have acne-prone or oily skin, one of the most important skin care products to have on standby is a salicylic acid cleanser. Salicylic acid is a powerhouse ingredient for oily, acne-prone skin types. 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 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.

Benefits of salicylic acid for acne

The exfoliating properties of salicylic acid make it extremely beneficial for acne-prone skin. Acne is formed when excessive amounts of sebum build up in your pores, clogging them. These clogged pores can appear on the surface of your skin as blackheads and whiteheads. They 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. This helps keep your pores free of debris and excess oil, thereby preventing future breakouts. Meanwhile, this hard-working ingredient fights bacteria and inflammation, reducing the severity of existing breakouts. The exfoliating powers of salicylic acid can also help to brighten your skin and stimulate cell regeneration. This helps your skin to recover from the damage left behind by previous breakouts.

Willow BarkNatural 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, you can usually find willow bark as a source of salicylic acid. If formulated by a trustworthy brand, plant-derived salicylic acid is still gentle on skin while reducing clogged pores and treating acne. It’s best to use face washes with salicylic acid, so that you’re rinsing away the debris afterwards. Remember to use a salicylic acid cleanser with other natural plant-based products to avoid further irritation and best results.

Best salicylic acid cleansers Tree & Willow Acne Clear Cleanser by 100% Pure
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 antimicrobial tea tree oil 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 CleanserClarifying CleanserClarifying Cleanser by Tata Harper
This acne face wash helps to balance your skin’s oil production while it cleanses, supporting clearer, healthy skin long-term. Along with willow bark and wintergreen that naturally contain 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
This gel cleanser is a gentle option for acne-prone, oily, and combination skin. It contains willow bark to clear pores, citrus extracts to exfoliate and brighten, and a blend of botanicals to soothe irritation. 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. Coconut oil hydrates and soothes your skin, while a blend of fruit extracts helps exfoliate, brighten, and tone. If you have acne-prone skin that also tends toward dryness, this cleanser might be the perfect option for you.

Eminence Organic Skin CareEminence Organic Skin CareClear 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, and hydrating aloe. Better yet, this product is pH-balanced, so it’ll be gentle on your skin’s protective lipid barrier.


Facial Cleanser: Australian Wild Plum & WillowFacial Cleanser: Australian Wild Plum & WillowFacial Cleanser: Australian Wild Plum & Willow by Pangea Organics
This cleanser helps to actively balance your skin’s oil production, preventing future breakouts. Along with exfoliating willow bark, it contains moisturizing and plumping wild plum extract. Clary sage essential oil helps balance your skin’s oil production, preventing your pores from becoming clogged in the long term. 

4-in-1 Essential Face Tonic4-in-1 Essential Face Tonic4-in-1 Essential Face Tonic by Ursa Major
This multitasking cleanser cleans, exfoliates, soothes, and hydrates, all in one go. That makes it a great option for busy beauty lovers who don’t have time for a complicated skin care routine. It contains willow bark to unclog pores of oil and debris, as well as green tea to tone and brighten. Your stressed out skin will love the aloe vera that soothes skin while it hydrates.

How to use a salicylic acid cleanser

While plant-based salicylic acid tends to be fairly gentle, it’s important to avoid over-processing your skin. We recommend using it on your skin no more than twice per day. Remember to work the cleanser into your pores by massaging for a good minute, then rinsing completely off afterwards.

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, thanks to your clearer pores.

Acne treatments don’t always have to be harsh. With the right active ingredients and gentle formulas, you can help encourage your skin to achieve its balance and recover from those literally scarring experiences. Keep up with your sleeping schedule, exercise, and balanced diet, and you’ll be seeing clearer skin in the long run.

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