There are few skin conditions more frustrating than acne. Teenagers are especially prone to breakouts, thanks to their rapidly changing hormones; but this condition affects adults too, and should be treated with the same care no matter what your age.
Because many skin care products marketed for blemish-prone skin contain ingredients that can also cause drying, choosing the right acne cleanser for your skin needs balance those two concerns. Your cleanser should be gentle enough to use frequently -- if not daily -- but still strong enough to deal with any breakouts. Some users opt to alternate between a strong acne face wash and a moisturizing cleanser to counteract the stronger cleanser's drying effects.
Dedicated acne face washes don't seem to be as prevalent as they once were, but there is one clear favorite in the acne department, Neutrogena Oil-Free Acne Wash (Est. $20/ pack of 3), which costs about $2.20 per ounce. It gets a tip of the hat from About.com's beauty expert, Julyne Derrick, who says her readers love it for the aloe and chamomile that help soothe some of the salicylic acid's drying effects. Still, we see many user reviews saying that this cleanser can dry your skin out, and it also contains artificial fragrance (a detergent-like scent) and sodium C14-16 olefin sulfonate, which has the potential to dry or irritate your skin.
The solution, for many, is alternating the strength of Neutrogena Oil-Free Acne Wash with a gentler cleanser, such as our best-reviewed sensitive-skin product, CeraVe Hydrating Cleanser (Est. $6 for 12 oz.), which we review in our section on Facial Cleansers for Sensitive Skin.
Overall, the reviews for the Neutrogena Oil-Free Acne Wash are a mixed bag; the experts say it'll dry existing blemishes, while some users insist that it only helps prevent future blemishes. But if you suffer from acne that other skin cleansers won't keep in check, it's worth a try.
Motorized skin brushes serve quadruple duty: deep-cleaning pores, exfoliating dead skin cells to give your skin a healthy glow, helping serums and moisturizers better penetrate your skin, and giving you a soothing facial massage at the same time. The jury's out on how well they serve to reduce breakouts. Many users say they're ultimately helpful, but some say they go through a period of about a month where the breakouts are worse until their skin adapts to the new treatment, so this definitely isn't for everybody.
Clarisonic skin brushes own the elephant's share of buzz from users who stuck it out and found themselves enjoying glowing, clear skin. One of the most common compliments these brushes get is that they feel more like a vibration on your skin, as opposed to a rotating "scouring" that you might get from the competitors. Interestingly, it's the single-speed Clarisonic Mia (Est. $100) that comes out on top, with the three-speed Clarisonic Mia3 (Est. $200) coming in a fairly close second. (Those extra two speeds are supposed to help you fine-tune the cleaning treatment to suit your skin type and sensitivity.)
Still, having a single speed doesn't bother the hundreds of users who weigh in to report their love for the Mia, which is sometimes also listed as the Mia 1. They say it's easy to use and, at about half the cost of the Mia3, it's a great value. A few even say they originally purchased the two- or three-speed versions, but found they didn't use those additional speeds at all.
Although a few say they got immediate results and clearer skin from adding a facial washing brush to their skincare routine, usually they had to go through that short customization period -- about a month, especially if you have acne -- and in fact, many were about to give up on the brush before they turned the corner and found themselves enjoying markedly softer, smoother skin. Most say the Mia helps reduce blackheads and diminishes pore size, giving you luminous skin and soothing away acne breakouts for almost all users who may be prone to them.
A few users say they've noticed that they have to avoid particularly delicate parts of their faces while using the Mia. This may be a particular issue if you have an extreme case of combination skin (multiple skin types on different parts of your face).
The Clarisonic Mia brush comes with a cleanser that users don't love as much as they love the brush itself; usually, they end up pairing it with one of the other cleansers that we've mentioned in this report. Some users with acne find that simply using a gentle cleanser like our best-reviewed CeraVe Hydrating Cleanser (Est. $6 for 12 oz.) is enough to keep their acne in check although, again, your results may differ. If you do give it a try, make sure you give yourself about a month for your skin to adapt. Also, try to use a proven facial cleanser that you already know won't irritate your skin, so that if you do experience any irritation you know it's from the brush, not the sudden change in cleanser.
Elsewhere in this report: