10 Best Drugstore Salicylic Acid Cleansers for Soft and Clear Skin

Brand courtesy / CeraVe Skincare
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Salicylic acid is always on the stage when it comes to controlling skin oiliness and fighting breakouts. Since it’s oil-soluble, meaning it penetrates the lipid barrier, it works excellent to slough off impurities and dead skin cells that often clog the pores and cause acne. Not only that, but salicylic acid also reduces excess sebum, minimizes pores look, and makes your skin less oily. Hence, fewer chances to get breakouts. And the best part is that you can reap all these benefits using a drugstore salicylic acid cleanser.

Most experts, including us, agree that at some point, everyone dealing with oily or acne-prone skin should use a salicylic acid-infused product. However, like any other beta-hydroxy acid (BHA), salicylic acid comes with a few downsides. Its exfoliating effects may feel too harsh and could lead to dryness or irritations. Therefore, if your skin hasn’t yet get used to this acne-fighter, it’s best to start with a drugstore salicylic acid cleanser. Drugstore face washes containing salicylic acid carry out the same benefits as the expensive ones and are great to build your tolerance towards salicylic acid without spending a fortune

The best drugstore salicylic acid cleansers of 2021

Luckily, there are dozens of amazing drugstore cleansers with salicylic acid out there, which work wonders in maintaining skin clarity, reducing acne, and balancing sebum levels. We did the job and found them all! So if you are looking for the best drugstore salicylic acid cleansers, you are in the right spot. Take a peep below.

Best Drugstore Cleanser with Salicylic Acid

La Roche-Posay Effaclar Facial Cleanser with Salicylic Acid

La Roche-Posay Effaclar is one of my favorite drugstore salicylic acid cleansers because it includes lipo-hydroxy acid, a derivate of salicylic acid with skin-renewing, exfoliating, and acne-fighting properties. This gel cleanser works at the skin surface to remove excess oil and impurities, helping clear breakouts and prevent their further apparition. It’s non-comedogenic — so it won’t ever clog your pores — and oil-free, which makes it very appealing for oily skin types. As it’s also paraben- and fragrance-free, even sensitive skin can easily tolerate it.

Mario Badescu Acne Facial Cleanser

Mario Badescu Acne Facial Cleanser

Mario Badescu Acne Facial Cleanser is definitely something you’d want if your skin is easily reactive to salicylic acid. If you choose this one, expect a gentle exfoliating cleansing process that whisks away impurities and excess sebum, and leaves you with a balanced, clean, and healthy complexion. Since it also contains soothing and moisturizing ingredients such as glycerin, aloe vera, hyaluronic acid, and chamomile, it’s unlikely to harm your skin but rather to pamper it by giving a hydration boost. 

CeraVe SA Cleanser

CeraVe Salicylic Acid Cleanser

One of the best parts about drugstore salicylic acid face washes is that they come with effective formulas yet are super-affordable. Take this CeraVe product for example. It’s a gentle cleanser containing salicylic acid that helps exfoliate and balance the skin by eliminating oil, dirt, and dead cells, which may as well result in fewer breakouts. In addition to salicylic acid, this drugstore cleanser also contains skin-loving ingredients such as niacinamideceramides, and hyaluronic acid, which have the main role in consolidating the protective barrier and softening rough skin. And it’s no more than nine bucks. 

Neutrogena Drugstore Salicylic Acid Facial Cleanser

Neutrogena Pore Refining Exfoliating Facial Cleanser

You can’t name a list of the best drugstore salicylic acid cleansers without including Neutrogena’s products. Whether you want to keep oil at bay, minimize breakouts risks, reduce pores’ appearance, or smooth rough skin patches, this drugstore cleanser definitely comes in handy. It has glycolic acid right next to salicylic acid on the ingredients list, which means it delivers an even more intense exfoliation for smoother and healthy-looking skin. This acids combo is known for its pore-refining properties as well as clearing impurities and improving skin texture. But people with sensitive skin may find it difficult to tolerate, just so you know.

Vichy Normaderm Daily Acne Treatment Face Wash

Vichy Normaderm Daily Acne Treatment Face Wash

Vichy formulated this cleanser with oily and acne-prone skin types in mind. As it contains 0.5% salicylic acid, it effectively clears blackheads and acne blemishes without causing sensitivities or drying the skin — which is perfect for beginners who want to build skin tolerance. On top of that, it has zinc, which helps reduce swelling and redness thanks to its anti-inflammatory properties, plus an in-house complex of 15 minerals to replenish the skin’s moisture barrier.

Eucerin DermoPure Cleansing Gel

Eucerin DermoPure Cleansing Gel

If you find foaming cleansers too drying or aggressive, you should try a cleansing gel instead, like this one! A gel cleanser is most powerful in eradicating surface oil and acne-causing bacteria, especially if it’s formulated with salicylic acid. Eucerin DermoPure does exactly that, working to eliminate excess sebum, fade blemishes, and get rid of acne once forever. It’s non-comedogenic, alcohol- and fragrance-free, which makes it ideal for oily skin types.

Olay Regenerist Regenerating Cream Face Cleanser

Olay Regenerist Regenerating Cream Face Cleanser

For those looking for a drugstore salicylic acid-containing face wash with anti-aging properties, stop right here. Olay Regenerist Cleanser is exactly what you are after for. As you have probably already guessed, this particular cleanser’s main target is not acne but actually skin cell renewing and protection. Thanks to carnosine, vitamins B5, C, and E, it accelerates the skin’s natural regeneration process while increasing the antioxidant defense against environmental damage. This diminishes wrinkles appearance, as well as fine lines and dark spots. At the same time, salicylic acid breaks down the buildup of dead cells and fight dullness to reveal more radiant and youthful-looking skin.

Burt's Bees Natural Purifying Gel Cleanse

Burt’s Bees Natural Purifying Gel Cleanse

Have you ever thought of a drugstore organic cleanser with salicylic acid? Then you should give Burt’s Bees Purifying Cleanse a try. It’s a gel cleanser made with 99% natural ingredients, among which salicylic acid — sourced from willow bark extract — and Centella asiatica take the first spots. Centella asiatica, often called cica, is a popular herb in K-beauty used to soothe skin irritations, redness, and inflammation. It does a great job of alleviating the exfoliating effects of salicylic acid, which btw is found in 1% concentration. 

Salicylic Acid Drugstore Cleanser

Cetaphil Gentle Clear Clarifying Cleanser

This salicylic acid cleanser is among the best in the drugstore category, ideal for those with problematic skin looking for more concentrated products. Although it contains 2% salicylic acid, it’s gentle enough not to cause irritations in sensitive skin yet powerful to clear acne and banish excess oil. The secret lies in the hydrating and soothing ingredients added to the product’s formula, namely white tea, and aloe vera.

Bliss Clear Genius Clarifying Gel Cleanser

Bliss Clear Genius Clarifying Gel Cleanser

This drugstore salicylic acid cleanser has all you need to keep your skin balanced, soft, and healthy. It addresses large pores, oily and acne-prone skin with a cocktail of oil-balancing and acne-fighting ingredients. First, it contains salicylic acid, which clears out the pores, and witch hazel water, with the role of shrinking the pores. Then zinc is added to regulate oil production while niacinamide lowers sebum levels and increases skin protection. Finally, Centella asiatica, the K-beauty ingredient I mentioned earlier, calms and pampers your skin so that it won’t over-dry.


  1. 10 Best Salicylic Acid Toners
  2. 12 Salicylic Acid Alternatives with Acne-Eradicating Properties
  3. Benzoyl Peroxide vs. Salicylic Acid for Acne
  4. 13 Best Salicylic Acid Moisturizers for Fighting Acne
  5. Glycolic Acid vs. Salicylic Acid: What’s Better for Me?
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