6 Best Face Washes (& Cleansers) for Your Whiteheads [2021]

6 Best Face Washes (& Cleansers) for Your Whiteheads

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best face wash whiteheads

In a hurry? Here are our top picks:


ZELEN Life Cleanser


Boscia Clear Complexion Cleanser

Whiteheads or closed comedones affect everyone. Given that the environment is polluted, hormones are always in flux, stress is prevalent, and our diets vary. All these factors play havoc on our skin.

The development of whiteheads and acne can be the result. The best face wash and cleanser for whiteheads will not just cleanse your skin. It will also prevent whiteheads from happening in the first place.

That’s why we have put together a comprehensive list of the top face washes and cleansers that help banish blemishes and put a stop to future breakouts.

Read on to find a detailed review of 6 excellent face washes for your whiteheads. For each option, we will highlight its best features, who its most suitable for, along with their pros and cons.

Quick summary

bb2-table__imageZELEN Life Cleanser
  • Organic formula, jojoba and aloe vera reduce whiteheads
  • Powerful yet gentle deep-cleanse
  • Antibacterial and anti-inflammatory, reduces scarring
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bb2-table__imageBoscia Clear Complexion Cleanser
  • Unclogs pores and purifies without irritation
  • Regulates oil-production
  • Provides exfoliating acton
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bb2-table__imageJuice Beauty Blemish Clearing Cleanser
  • Antioxidant-rich formula
  • Deep-cleansing action
  • Clarifying effect clears blemishes
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bb2-table__imageMurad Anti-Aging Acne Time Release Acne Cleanser
  • Salicylic acid continues to work after use
  • Anti-aging properties
  • Exfoliates and also enhances moisture
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bb2-table__imageMario Badescu Acne Facial Cleanser
  • Prevents pore congestion to reduce whiteheads
  • Evens skin tone, improving hyperpigmentation
  • Excellent budget option
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bb2-table__imageDermalogica Clear Start Breakout Clearing Foaming Wash
  • Antibacterial and anti-inflammatory
  • Foaming action
  • Does not strip out moisture, soothing effect
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Before you buy: 7 Things to consider when purchasing a face wash for whiteheads

Before you run out and buy a face wash or cleanser for your whiteheads, there are a few things you must consider.

Not all face washes are made the same. There’s no one size fits all here. Two people with the exact skin condition may react very differently to the same face wash. This is because the skin is a very large defense organ, and people’s immune response is different.

So here are a few things you need to take into account before you purchase the cleanser for your whiteheads.

1. Skincare routine

Many of us live by a routine. A skincare routine? Perhaps not as many.

Some of us are guilty of underestimating the importance of using a face wash to cleanse our skin. Those of us who do are more likely to make compromises in their skincare routine as they think that buying a face wash is not an essential purchase.

For example, we all know somebody who would use a high pH body soap also on their face.

Here’s the thing:

Your skins’ pH sits at around 5.5 or lower. You want to use a face wash that is somewhere in that range. Soap is too harsh. And if you used a soaked cotton pad after your soap with essential oil or micellar water, you’d be surprised at how dirty the face is even after soap. So you need a cleanser.

Moreover, if you’re looking to delay aging, repair skin damage, and prevent whiteheads, you need an entire skincare routine—cleanser, toner, serum, and moisturizer.

2. Skin types

Your skin type decides the type of face wash you must buy. While all of us would happily use a foaming cleanser since it makes our skin feel extra clean and tight, it may be the absolute worst choice for someone with dry skin. For those with dry skin types, it makes no sense to choose it.

For dry skin, a more hydrating gel-like face wash or one that contains oils to moisturize the skin might be much better. The first thing to consider while choosing your cleanser is your skin type. Do you know if you have dry, sensitive, combination, or oily skin?

3. Whiteheads or milia

First of all, do you have whiteheads? Or is it milia or sun damage? You have to make sure you have whiteheads. These white or yellow-headed bulbs on the skin may sometimes be milia. These are smaller papules that clear naturally. Whiteheads occur due to clogged pores that are layered with debris.

4. Frequency of whiteheads

In women, a cyclical menstrual breakout may not require a whitehead clearing face wash; however, if you notice that your whiteheads are getting infected by bacteria over time. Or if you find that a whitehead turns red and soon becomes a pustule. Or if several appear at once and then merge to become a colony of pustules.

Your cleansing routine, if you have one, is failing, and you need a new one that is specific to clearing and preventing future whiteheads.

It would also be sensible to consult a dermatologist, particularly if you find your whiteheads are developing into more severe acne or if it has progressed onto your back and non-face areas.

5. Look for antibacterial ingredients

To treat and prevent whiteheads, especially if they often progress to cystic acne, look for ingredients that have antibacterial properties. These ingredients are wide-ranging and could be anything from hydroxy acids to essential oils, flavonoids, phenols, and fruit acids.

These have microbicidal activity. They will kill the bacteria currently residing in your pores. And they will prevent their multiplication any further as you do your daily cleanse.

6. Look for exfoliants

An essential step in cleansing is also exfoliating. Often, dead cells layer up in a pore and close it. These may not just come off with an ordinary face wash. For those dealing with a chronic whitehead problem, you will need an exfoliating face wash or cleanser.

This will contain fruit peels, seeds, bark, or stems meant to remove and dislodge the debris gently. They will unclog these pores and clear the impurities.

7. Additional properties to look for

Face washes and cleansers have dual and triple actions today. Formulations target multiple skin conditions, so you’re not using a product for each issue.

Many face washes formulated for clearing whiteheads are also created to reduce redness, inflammation, dark spots, blemishes, fine lines, wrinkles, improve skin elasticity, decrease scarring, and improve skin tone. These are just some of their other actions.


Some formulas contain antioxidants; others have emollients, some others improve circulation or stimulate tissue growth and facilitate repair. It’s up to you to know what your skin needs. Identify the problem areas of your skin and then look for these additional properties in your face wash.

Whiteheads rarely resolve without causing after effects. You need to choose a face wash that also deals with and prevents any consequential damage from your whiteheads.

The 6 best face washes and cleansers for whiteheads

Now you know what to consider before you buy a face wash or cleanser for your whiteheads. Let’s move onto our top 6 recommendations.

There’s something for everyone on this list that covers every skin type and condition.

1. ZELEN Life Cleanser

ZELEN Life Cleanser Image

Best features:

  • Reduces scarring
  • Antibacterial to fight active acne
  • Powerful yet gentle organic formula

The best face wash/cleanser for:

Those with sensitive skin and whiteheads that leave scars.


The ZELEN Life Cleanser’s key ingredients are aloe vera, sunflower, and jojoba. They work together to remove dirt, oil, and impurities while leaving your skin with a fresh, hydrated look that lasts all day. They improve your skin’s overall health in many ways.

Aloe vera restores the skin’s natural pH balance. It helps to reduce scarring, regenerate skin cells, and promotes cell development. Additionally, it has antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties. So it doesn’t cause itching and accelerates the healing process of any wounds or breakouts.

Sunflower serves many purposes. The most important of which is to retain moisture and to keep the skin hydrated for a more extended period. It absorbs quickly and helps make skin less sensitive – and reduces redness – while neutralizing free radicals and the damage they may cause.

It doesn’t leave behind a residue as its compounds are light and non-greasy. Sunflower has been used for millennia to treat skin conditions through traditional “folk” medicine.

It’s now becoming mainstream as studies have shown that sunflower oleodistillate (SOD), which is produced through a molecular distillation process without using solvents, increases the epidermal key lipid synthesis and reduces inflammation. This is very important as it controls the oil production in the skin.

It has also been shown in preliminary studies to stimulate keratinocyte differentiation, improve barrier function, and enhance lipid metabolism in the skin.[1]

Jojoba has many benefits, too. It fights wrinkles, speeds up the skin’s healing process, prevents the build-up of natural oil or sebum on the surface.

This cleanser has a moisturizing effect that boosts hydration, which is excellent for those with dry skin. It unclogs blocked pores without removing the necessary moisture and oils that keep your skin refreshed and invigorated.

Didn’t we say?

It calms and soothes irritated skin.

The ZELEN Life Cleanser offers everything that you need to keep your face free of dirt, oil, and grime while boosting the skin’s overall health. It leaves you with a healthy glow and complexion while clearing out debris that is responsible for the creation of whiteheads.

The good:

  • Clears skin leaving a healthy glow
  • Reduces fine lines and wrinkles
  • Reduces scarring
  • Oil control with the dryness

Things to think about:

  • Contains a small percentage of essential oils in the formula

Bottom line:

This is an excellent face wash for those who want to control breakouts without irritating the skin and whose whiteheads leave behind acne scars.

2. Boscia Clear Complexion Cleanser

Best features:

  • Exfoliates the skin
  • Contains BHAs
  • Reduces dark spots

The best face wash/cleanser for:

Those with large pores and aging skin.


Boscia’s Clear Complexion Cleanser is a cleansing gel that gently and effectively exfoliates to unclog and purify pores without irritation. It is formulated specifically for blemish-prone skin but has multiple other benefits. It promotes and maintains a clear-looking complexion with this ultra-refreshing cleansing gel.

It is formulated with willow bark extract, a natural salicylic acid that gently and effectively exfoliates to unclog and purify pores, as well as minimizing blemishes without irritation. The willow bark works as a natural Beta Hydroxy Acid (salicylic acid) that refines the appearance of pores. This extract also minimizes dark spots from previous breakouts.

The other ingredient, rosemary leaf extract, aids in circulation and acts as a natural, effective antioxidant and anti-inflammatory ingredient. The geranium extract boosts circulation, balances the production of sebum, and helps improve skin elasticity.

It is gentle enough for daily use, and this foaming cleanser does its job thoroughly without causing irritation or stripping skin of moisture. It also contains jojoba seed extract and willowherb extract.

The good:

  • Controls oil production
  • Minimizes pores
  • Contains a natural salicylic acid

Things to think about:

  • Has a scent

Bottom line:

This is an excellent foaming face wash for those looking to improve skin elasticity and tighten pores.

3. Juice Beauty Blemish Clearing Cleanser

Best features:

  • Contains AHAs
  • A deep cleanser for whiteheads
  • Antioxidant-rich

The best face wash/cleanser for:

A good cleanser for whiteheads with redness and blemishes.


Juice Beauty’s Cleanser deeply cleanses and removes impurities with a clarifying blemish clearing action. It does not just clear but hydrates also. It contains certified organic sage, lemon balm, cherry, and dandelion botanicals, which purify and detoxify the skin. It hydrates with algae and aloe juices.

The sage leaf has potent antioxidant properties that can effectively cleanse the skin. Lemon is rich in vitamins, lycopene, phytonutrients, flavonoids, and alpha-hydroxy citric acids. It also has powerful antioxidant benefits to help clarify and improve skin tone and texture.

The sweet cherry is rich in phytonutrients, phenolics, and vitamins. It provides powerful antioxidant benefits that can help promote healthy, glowing skin.

It is suitable to use as a cleanse morning and evening by massaging onto damp skin in a circular motion, then rinse well. It is mostly for oily, combination, and blemish-prone skin types as it contains coconut cleansers.


Another good thing about it is its new opaque bottle is made from recycled plastics. These recycled plastics (up to 25%) comes from North American recycling, with many plastics coming from California recycling.

The good:

  • Clears blemishes
  • Organic ingredients
  • Eco-friendly

Things to think about:

  • Has an odor that some might not like
  • Does not foam up

Bottom line:

This is an effective cleanser for those dealing with redness, inflammation, and blemishes. Extra marks for it being an environmentally sustainable product.

4. Murad Anti-Aging Acne Time Release Acne Cleanser

Best features:

  • Anti-aging cleanser
  • Moisturizes dry skin
  • Free of harmful chemicals

The best face wash/cleanser for:

Those with dry skin looking for a moisturizing cleanser.


Murad’s Anti-Aging Acne Time Release Acne Cleanser contains encapsulated salicylic acid of 0.5%. It gently exfoliates to reduce pore-clogging debris.

The encapsulated salicylic acid adheres to the skin, providing continuous treatment for hours, even after rinsing. The face wash also contains amino acids and hyaluronic acid.

This helps bind moisture to the skin to keep it hydrated. Studies have shown that hyaluronic acid regulates the repair of skin, healing of wounds, and tissue regeneration. It is anti-inflammatory and an immunomodulatory.[2]

This face wash is formulated without parabens, sulfates, phthalates, gluten, mineral oil, formaldehyde, oxybenzone, and petrolatum/petroleum.

The good:

  • Clears out whiteheads within two weeks of use
  • Has an emollient effect, so is suitable for dry skin
  • Time-released continues to work after use

Things to think about:

  • Not for sensitive skin, can cause breakouts
  • Texture is oily

Bottom line:

This is an ideal face wash for those with dry skin and who want to target whiteheads around the clock.

5. Mario Badescu Acne Facial Cleanser

Best features:

  • Evens out skin tone
  • Contains BHA
  • Gel-based, does not foam

The best face wash/cleanser for:

Those with whiteheads that get pigmented and leave dark spots as they heal.


Mario Badescu’s Acne Facial Cleanser prevents and heals existing acne. It’s a gel-like cleanser that exfoliates and cleanses. This face wash is formulated with acne-fighting salicylic acid.

It also contains aloe vera and chamomile, two natural ingredients that calm and soothes acne-inflamed skin. Chamomile has multiple properties. It can encourage healing, reduce oxidation, and free radicals, and it can also reduce inflammation due to the flavonoid compounds.[3]

Thyme and salicylic acid are the other two main ingredients of this face wash. It also prevents pore congestion and gently cleanses oil and makeup.

Various studies have shown that thyme’s thymol is one of the most potent essential oils against P. acnes and S. epidermidis.[4] These are the bacteria that are responsible for causing whiteheads and acne.

Since this is a gel cleanser, it won’t foam up.

The good:

  • Corrects hyperpigmentation
  • Gives the skin a healthy glow
  • Very cost-effective

Things to think about:

  • It is not for deep-seated whiteheads

Bottom line:

This is a good gel face wash for those with blemishes and hyperpigmentation.

6. Dermalogica Clear Start Breakout Clearing Foaming Wash

Best features:

  • Contains BHA
  • Eliminates bacteria
  • Great for preteen skin

The best face wash/cleanser for:

Those with frequent, hormonal cystic acne and who are looking a foaming cleanser.


The Dermalogica Clear Start Breakout Clearing Foaming Wash is an acne cleanser with foaming action. It clears away dead skin cells and excess oils that cause breakouts and whiteheads.

Thanks to the tea tree oil, it soothes irritated skin without stripping it off its natural moisture.

You can use it by lathering a small amount in damp hands, then rubbing it over the face and neck. It can be used twice a day, in the morning and night.

The best part:

This foaming wash is formulated with salicylic acid, which is a beta-hydroxy acid (BHA). Studies have found that salicylic acid can decrease skin lipids produced by sebocytes, and it possesses anti-inflammatory properties.[5] 

This foaming wash also contains extracts of balm mint, eucalyptus, and tea tree that help to remove impurities, eliminate bacteria, and calm inflammation. Tea tree oil has been studied, and experiments show that it can reduce histamine-induced skin inflammation.[6]

The good:

  • Since it contains BHA’s it can be used as a treatment for acne
  • Reduces inflammation
  • Antibacterial

Things to think about:

  • Can feel dehydrating

Bottom line:

This foaming cleanser is suitable for those with cystic acne.

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How we chose these products

We considered many things before drawing up our final list of the top 6 face washes and cleansers for whiteheads. Whiteheads are pesky blemishes that can progress into stubborn acne if the skin is not cleaned appropriately.

So the first thing we considered: does the face wash/cleanser clear whiteheads. And if it does, how?

Most of the face washes for whiteheads contain antioxidants, AHAs, or BHAs to tackle the bacteria. All the products on our list have some antibacterial activity. Whether that’s through aloe or essential oils, they fight free radicals and kill bacteria.

We also made a group of selections that covered every skin type. From dry to combination skin, there’s a product suitable for every skin type on the list.

Our team looked at whether the product had dual actions. Did they deal with the problems that come from having whiteheads? These include blemishes, scarring, peeling, redness, and irritation. Many of the products on our list have multiple actions since they’re filled with organic ingredients.

Which brings us to the next thing: ingredients. What went into making these face washes. We’ve highlighted the main ingredients of each face wash so that you know if the product is organic or not.

Our spotlight on the ingredients also includes the other potent actions; antioxidant, moisturizers, sebum control, and the list goes on. This can help you narrow down your search further, as many products do have similar effects, so it can be difficult to make that final choice. We even went one step further to highlight products whose packaging was environmentally friendly and recycled.


We covered something for every budget. A cleanser or a face wash is a consumable product and often a repeat purchase over the year, especially if you’ve been dealing with persistent whiteheads. So with this in mind, we picked something that suited every budget.

Frequently asked questions

What are whiteheads?

Whiteheads are closed comedones. These comedones in the skin get clogged and look pale like yellow-headed bulbs. Whiteheads have a white or yellow head giving them a white appearance. This is characteristically different from blackheads. As oil and sebum build-up, there’s a likelihood that bacteria will multiply, resulting in inflammatory acne.

What are comedones?

Comedones are skin-colored, small papules often found on the forehead, nose, and chin. A single lesion is known as a comedo. Open comedones are blackheads due to the surface pigment, melanin, and not dirt. Closed comedones are whiteheads where the follicle is completely blocked.

Why do whiteheads occur?

Due to the androgen hormones, the human body produces more oil. The oil produced in the skin is called sebum. It is made and released by glands called sebaceous glands. This oil or sebum protects the skin and keeps it moisturized.

However, with time and without cleansing, dead cells layer up and block the opening of a pore. The sebum accumulates inside the pore. It builds up in the sebaceous gland, resulting in a blackhead or whitehead.

If this becomes inflamed, it progresses into acne. For this reason, you find acne develops in areas with more sebaceous glands, like the face, chest, back, and shoulders.

Can I prevent whiteheads?

Yes, you can prevent whiteheads from developing with a solid skincare routine. The first step is cleansing the skin with a face wash, a cleanser, or micellar water to clean the skin.

For those who wear makeup, you should prevent any build-up of dead skin and cells by using makeup sparingly and exfoliating regularly.

Always keep the shampoo off your face while you shower, as those chemicals can also sit in your pores and inflame them. For whiteheads on the body, make sure to wear loose clothing.

How often should cleansing be done?

Ideally, its best to cleanse the skin twice a day. If you feel you have too much oil build-up, you can go ahead and do it during midday. Be careful not to overdo your cleansing routine as doing that will strip the moisture from your skin.

How long before I start seeing effects from cleansing?

It takes somewhere between 4-6 weeks for the deepest layers of the epidermis to come to the surface. In the meantime, cleansers may reveal many whiteheads, debris, and dirt that was unseen but remained hidden in the pores.

If it’s not an allergy, using a cleanser at least twice a day should make a difference to your skin. Understand that it takes time. Some cleansers claim to see an overall brightening effect or softer skin, but skin healing does take time. There are no quick fixes.

Should I pop whiteheads?

It’s not advised to pop whiteheads as they can cause scarring. If done under unhygienic conditions, it may cause the bacteria to spread and further cause acne. It is generally advised to visit a dermatologist or skincare expert where a whitehead can be gently opened using steam and then extracted using a comedone extractor.

Can whiteheads be treated?

Yes, there are various treatments for whiteheads. If, after a trial of cleansing routines and exfoliations do not work in clearing them, then a dermatologist may consider treatment.

In this event, topical applications such as retinoids, antibiotics, beta hydroxy acids (BHAs) like salicylic acid, or systemic retinoids, antibiotics, and hormonal medications may be prescribed.

Also, alternative procedures such as comedone extraction, cryoslush therapy, cryotherapy, electrocauterization, intralesional corticosteroids, and optical treatments with blue light can be used.[7]

When should I seek medical help?

If you’re developing whiteheads frequently and have multiple cystic lesions despite a good skincare routine, you must seek medical help. Alternatively, if you don’t have frequent breakouts, but the whiteheads leave behind scars, pigmentation, or keloid formation, you need to see a dermatologist.

How long do whiteheads take to clear?

It all depends on the size and depth of the whitehead. Some clear on their own within a week. Others may get infected and go on to become pustules. The debris inside and the presence of bacteria influence the healing of whiteheads.

Is it better to wet shave or dry shave with whiteheads?

There are no scientific studies on which type of shave is better for those with whiteheads. Any injury to whitehead prone skin will further scar and exacerbate the condition. So the kind of shave is not as important, just a careful shave that doesn’t injure the epidermis.


The best face wash and cleanser for your whiteheads are out there and available to you. You may have just started searching, or you may have already found “the one.”

Perhaps you purchased one from our “best of” list? What are your experiences?

Tell us in the comments section below. What’s your best cleanser for whiteheads? We’d like to know!

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  1. Eichenfield LF, McCollum A, Msika P. The benefits of sunflower oleodistillate (SOD) in pediatric dermatology. Pediatr Dermatol. 2009;26(6):669-675. doi:10.1111/j.1525-1470.2009.01042.x
  2. Bukhari SNA, Roswandi NL, Waqas M, et al. Hyaluronic acid, a promising skin rejuvenating biomedicine: A review of recent updates and pre-clinical and clinical investigations on cosmetic and nutricosmetic effects. Int J Biol Macromol. 2018;120(Pt B):1682-1695. doi:10.1016/j.ijbiomac.2018.09.188
  3. Miraj S, Alesaeidi S. A systematic review study of therapeutic effects of Matricaria recuitta chamomile (chamomile). Electron Physician. 2016;8(9):3024-3031. Published 2016 Sep 20. doi:10.19082/3024
  4. Taleb MH, Abdeltawab NF, Shamma RN, et al. Origanum vulgare L. Essential Oil as a Potential Anti-Acne Topical Nanoemulsion-In Vitro and In Vivo Study. Molecules. 2018;23(9):2164. Published 2018 Aug 28. doi:10.3390/molecules23092164
  5. Lu J, Cong T, Wen X, et al. Salicylic acid treats acne vulgaris by suppressing AMPK/SREBP1 pathway in sebocytes. Exp Dermatol. 2019;28(7):786-794. doi:10.1111/exd.13934
  6. Koh KJ, Pearce AL, Marshman G, Finlay-Jones JJ, Hart PH. Tea tree oil reduces histamine-induced skin inflammation. Br J Dermatol. 2002;147(6):1212-1217. doi:10.1046/j.1365-2133.2002.05034.x
  7. Fox L, Csongradi C, Aucamp M, du Plessis J, Gerber M. Treatment Modalities for Acne. Molecules. 2016;21(8):1063. Published 2016 Aug 13. doi:10.3390/molecules21081063

About The Author

Dr. Pamela Q. Fernandes
Dr. Pamela Q. Fernandes

Doctor and Seasoned Medical Writer

Pamela Q. Fernandes is a doctor and medical writer. Born and raised in Kuwait, she graduated from Angeles University College of Medicine, Philippines in 2007. Soon after that, she started her career as a medical writer and physician. Pamela is an advocate of preventive health, rural medicine, women’s health and tele-medicine having been active in these roles for the majority of her decade long career in medicine. As a seasoned medical writer, she has worked with many medical publishing houses and doctors, as well as pharmaceuticals, hospitals and practices. She specializes in training material for doctors and patient education material. As an academic writer, she is a qualified writer of articles for medical journals, case reports and medical presentations.

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