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The best cleansers for oily or acne-prone skin won't dry your skin

Teenagers are especially prone to acne, 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.

Many skin care products marketed for blemish-prone skin contain skin-tingling alcohol, witch hazel, menthol or camphor, despite the fact that these compounds can dry and irritate your skin -- a cycle which can then trigger more acne.

Nevertheless, many consumers prefer these products because they equate that tingling sensation with a deeper clean; and often, they say that the harshest products are also the most effective at clearing blemishes. Choosing the right acne cleanser for your skin becomes a balancing act of choosing something gentle enough to use frequently -- if not daily -- but still strong enough to deal with any breakouts; a gentle, non-comedogenic skin moisturizer may help protect your skin from drying and irritation.

Of the acne-fighting products we evaluated, Phisoderm's Anti-Blemish Gel Cleanser (Est. $4.50 for 6 oz.) offers the best balance of effectiveness and gentleness. It's free of soaps, alcohol and dyes, and most users say they can use it daily despite the presence of artificial fragrance and the detergent-based cleanser sodium C14-16 olefin sulfonate, which skin care expert Paula Begoun warns can irritate all skin types.

Acne cleansers like Phisoderm Anti-Blemish Gel Facial Wash usually aren't the best choice for users with dry or very sensitive skin because they're too harsh -- but if you have oily or acne-prone skin, Phisoderm is one of your best choices. Users say its fragrance is light and pleasant, and the product has a light, gel-like consistency that feels good on your skin. It also does a good job of removing makeup, saving you an extra step in your skin care regimen.

If the Phisoderm wash isn't strong enough, you can try Neutrogena's Oil-Free Acne Wash (Est. $6 for 6 oz.). It also has artificial fragrance and sodium C14-16 olefin sulfonate, and users indicate it's stronger and more drying than the Phisoderm product; some are able to use it only occasionally. It also has a detergent-like scent that users don't really love -- but they're willing to put up with it because it keeps their acne in check. If this cleanser is too strong for your skin, though, it may actually make your acne worse.

If your skin is sensitive or dry, you might be better off with a simple, gentle cleanser like Purpose Gentle Cleansing Wash (Est. $6 for 6 oz.). Although it's not specifically designed for fighting acne, many users say it helps keep their complexions clear and clean; and for those with truly delicate skin, CeraVe's Hydrating Cleanser has proven to be the best overall cleanser for sensitive skin.

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Purpose Gentle Cleansing Wash 6 fl oz (180 ml)
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pHisoderm pH Anti-Blemish Gel Facial Wash, pH Balanced, 6 fl oz (177 ml) (Pack of 4)
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Neutrogena Oil-Free Acne Wash, 6 Ounce
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