Due to their changing hormones, teenagers are especially prone to acne but it afflicts people of all ages and should be treated with the same care. Unfortunately, it is incredibly difficult to find products that treat acne without drying skin out and irritating it further. 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 be exceptionally drying and irritating to the skin -- a cycle which can trigger more acne and do nothing to combat pimple-causing bacteria. Nevertheless, many consumers prefer these skin-tingling products because they equate the sensation with a deeper clean.
Overall, we found Purpose Gentle Cleansing Wash (*Est. $5.50 for 6 oz.) to be popular among reviews for blemish management. While Paula Begoun, skin-care expert and author of "Don't Go to the Cosmetics Counter Without Me," warns that its main cleansing agent, sodium C14-16 olefin sulfonate, is too irritating to skin, most users at Drugstore.com, MakeupAlley.com and Amazon.com disagree. They all give the cleanser high ratings, saying that it clears up acne without skin irritation.
Some say Phisoderm can be a bit drying; however, the majority says it is gentle and does an excellent job of removing makeup. Most consumers also appreciate the low price, although this brand is a bit harder to find in stores (it's available online at Drugstore.com). Testers for Real Simple magazine say Phisoderm is the best budget cleanser for oily or acne-prone skin due largely to the salicylic acid it contains, which helps to clarify the skin. Note: Most experts say salicylic acid is best when used in a leave-on product, because it stays in contact with skin for longer periods of time.
Julyne Derrick, beauty guide for About.com, praises Purpose Gentle Cleansing Wash (*Est. $5.50 for 6 oz.) for including a high level of acne-fighting salicylic acid, as well as aloe and chamomile for their soothing qualities. Paula Begoun says it -- as well as the grapefruit version -- uses the same drying detergent, namely sodium C14-16 olefin sulfonate, as Phisoderm. Users at MakeupAlley.com, TotalBeauty.com and Drugstore.com agree that the cleanser can be drying; some say it made their acne worse.
We ultimately chose to list Phisoderm as a Best Reviewed facial cleanser because it earns higher overall ratings from users, but a simple and gentle cleanser such as Purpose Gentle Cleansing Wash is also suitable for acne-prone skin. For more in-depth information on how to treat acne-prone skin, refer to our report on acne treatments.