6 Best Face Washes (& Cleansers) for Your Whiteheads

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6 Best Face Washes (& Cleansers) for Your Whiteheads

In a hurry? Here are our top picks:

BEST FOR CLEAN SKINCARE

ZELEN Life 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 it’s most suitable for, along with their pros and cons.

Quick summary

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 our 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.

Also:

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 recommendations. There’s something for everyone on this list.

ZELEN Life Cleanser (Best for clean skincare)

ZELEN Life Cleanser


Analysis:

MoisturizingMoisturizing
Drying Drying
Moisturizing Moisturizing
Balanced

FormulaFormula
Artifical Artifical
Natural Natural
Balanced

SensitivitySensitivity
Non-Sensitive Non-Sensitive
Sensitive Sensitive
Balanced

ThicknessThickness
Lightweight Lightweight
Thick Thick
Balanced

GreasinessGreasiness
Non-Greasy Non-Greasy
Greasy Greasy
Balanced

ScentScent
Unscented Unscented
Strong Strong
Balanced

PackagingPackaging
Basic Basic
Premium Premium
Balanced

PricePrice
Low Low
High High
Balanced

Paraben-free
Paraben-free
Hypoallergenic
Hypoallergenic
Non-Comedogenic
Non-Comedogenic
Cruelty-free
Cruelty-free
Vegan
Vegan
SPF
SPF

Unique features:

  • Made by hand
  • Blend of organic botanicals
  • Matte silver airless pump bottle

The best face wash/cleanser for:

Clean skincare lovers. It is suitable for men and women of all skin types, particularly sensitive skin.

Notable ingredients:

Jojoba, aloe vera, sunflower

Overview:

If you are looking for a clean and natural approach to controlling pesky whiteheads, then look no further than the ZELEN Life Cleanser.

It is handmade with an organic blend of botanicals that work together to remove dirt, oil, and impurities from deep in the pores. Additionally, it has antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties that can prevent breakouts and reduce their severity when they do happen. Perhaps the most impressive thing is its ability to balance sebum, so the sebaceous glands do not overproduce it and block the pores. All of this is done while hydrating the skin.

It all sounds great in theory. But let’s see how it does this in practice:

The cleanser’s key ingredients are aloe vera, sunflower, and jojoba. They improve your skin’s overall health in many ways. Jojoba mimics the structure of the skin by having a similar structure to human sebum. When applied, it sends a signal to your sebaceous glands that your skin doesn’t need any more sebum for hydration. It also soothes, moisturizes, and helps to dissolve excess sebum that’s clogging pores.

Aloe vera restores the skin’s natural pH balance. It helps to reduce scarring and accelerate 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 while neutralizing the damage caused by free radicals.

This is a light yet creamy cleanser. It gentle on the skin and doesn’t leave behind a greasy residue. The botanical blend does not target whiteheads in an aggressive way. It focuses on regulation and hydration, which I believe provides a long-term sustainable solution to managing breakouts. Due to this, it does not contain any drying agents, which makes it the most moisturizing cleanser on our list. It is suitable for all skin types, but if you have dry or sensitive skin then this cleanser is particularly good for you.

However, if you have very oily skin and you do not mind using a more aggressive product (that may cause drying). Then there are several cleansers on our list that contain salicylic acid. Such as, Murad, Mario Badescu and Dermalogica. Or, if you are looking for something in-between, consider boscia’s Cleanser which uses willow bark extract–a natural salicylic acid. I will cover more about the pros and cons of salicylic acid when analyzing these products.

What I admire about this cleanser is its ability to calm redness and soothe irritated skin. In my opinion, an aggressive formula can sometimes do more harm than good.

Visually, I like the matte-silver pump bottle. Not only does it look great, but it also has practical benefits too. This is because it is an airless pump. The majority of us will be aware that bacterial overgrowth plays a role in the development of acne. However, a lot of us won’t be aware that bacteria can easily get into our skincare products. An airless pump can help prevent contamination and the growth of bacteria in the product.

If however, you are looking for a comparable natural cleanser with more discreet packaging, then consider Juice Beauty’s Cleanser on our list. The bottle is not as high quality but it is made from 25% recycled materials. Do note, it has a stronger scent compared to ZELEN Life’s citrus undertone.

The good:

  • Powerful yet gentle
  • Oil control without the dryness
  • Reduces scarring, fine lines, and wrinkles
  • Natural antibacterial to fight active acne

Things to think about:

  • Contains a small percentage of essential oils in the formula

Bottom line:

The ZELEN Life Cleanser is an excellent plant-based face wash for those who want to control breakouts without irritating the skin and whose whiteheads leave behind acne scars.

  • Performance
  • Ingredients
  • Value for money
4.5 Overall Score

boscia Clear Complexion Cleanser (Best for exfoliation)

boscia Clear Complexion Cleanser


Analysis:

MoisturizingMoisturizing
Drying Drying
Moisturizing Moisturizing
Balanced

FormulaFormula
Artifical Artifical
Natural Natural
Balanced

SensitivitySensitivity
Non-Sensitive Non-Sensitive
Sensitive Sensitive
Balanced

ThicknessThickness
Lightweight Lightweight
Thick Thick
Balanced

GreasinessGreasiness
Non-Greasy Non-Greasy
Greasy Greasy
Balanced

ScentScent
Unscented Unscented
Strong Strong
Balanced

PackagingPackaging
Basic Basic
Premium Premium
Balanced

PricePrice
Low Low
High High
Balanced

Paraben-free
Paraben-free
Hypoallergenic
Hypoallergenic
Non-Comedogenic
Non-Comedogenic
Cruelty-free
Cruelty-free
Vegan
Vegan
SPF
SPF

Unique features:

  • Made with a natural salicylic acid (willow bark extract)
  • Oil balancing
  • Reduces dark spots

The best face wash/cleanser for:

Exfoliation. It is most suitable for those with oily skin and large pores.

Notable ingredients:

Willow bark extract, jojoba, geranium

Overview:

Made specifically for blemish-prone skin, boscia’s Clear Complexion Cleanser is a cleansing gel that tackles acne aggressively but with a natural twist.

I personally like the feature of willow bark extract. It 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 is an effective antioxidant and anti-inflammatory agent. Jojoba and geranium extract boosts circulation, balances the production of sebum, and helps improve skin elasticity.

My thoughts:

For whiteheads and keeping control of occasional breakouts, this cleanser is just the ticket! As you would expect, the gel-based foam texture is very refreshing. But I particularly like that organic ingredients have been used to ensure the skin remains well hydrated. Because of this, I would not hesitate to combine this face wash with more aggressive acne therapies, such as a benzoyl peroxide cream. However, it is not as moisturizing as the ZELEN Life Cleanser.

Scent?

If you were expecting a deep smell of nature that reflects its organic formula, then you’ll be left disappointed. This cleanser doesn’t really have any distinct smell to report. As mentioned above, if you are looking for that raw organic undertone, then consider Juice Beauty’s Cleanser.

The user reviews of this product are extremely positive and I can see why. One described it as “worth its weight in gold” which I think is very appropriate. Others mention that it is light and foamy, doesn’t leave a residue, and combines well with acne medicine. I would have to agree with these sentiments. I do believe this is a well-rounded cleanser that keeps the occasional blemishes at bay.

It is also worth noting that boscia is a chemical-free, cruelty-free, and vegan-friendly brand.

The good:

  • Minimizes pores
  • Pore-cleansing without being drying
  • Can complement a medicated acne treatment
  • Natural antioxidant ingredients

Things to think about:

  • Despite being natural it may still irritate very dry and sensitive skin types

Bottom line:

boscia’s Clear Complexion Cleanser is an excellent foaming face wash for those looking to improve dark spots and tighten pores while tackling their whiteheads.

  • Performance
  • Ingredients
  • Value for money
4.0 Overall Score

Juice Beauty Blemish Clearing Cleanser (Best for a detox)

Juice Beauty Blemish Clearing Cleanser


Analysis:

MoisturizingMoisturizing
Drying Drying
Moisturizing Moisturizing
Balanced

FormulaFormula
Artifical Artifical
Natural Natural
Balanced

SensitivitySensitivity
Non-Sensitive Non-Sensitive
Sensitive Sensitive
Balanced

ThicknessThickness
Lightweight Lightweight
Thick Thick
Balanced

GreasinessGreasiness
Non-Greasy Non-Greasy
Greasy Greasy
Balanced

ScentScent
Unscented Unscented
Strong Strong
Balanced

PackagingPackaging
Basic Basic
Premium Premium
Balanced

PricePrice
Low Low
High High
Balanced

Paraben-free
Paraben-free
Hypoallergenic
Hypoallergenic
Non-Comedogenic
Non-Comedogenic
Cruelty-free
Cruelty-free
Vegan
Vegan
SPF
SPF

Unique features:

  • A deep cleanser for whiteheads
  • Raw organic smell
  • Packaging is made from recycled plastic

The best face wash/cleanser for:

Detoxifying your skin. It is most suitable for combination skin.

Notable ingredients:

Lemon, aloe, sweet cherry

Overview:

This blemish clearing cleanser by Juice Beauty tackles whiteheads by detoxifying the skin and extracting the impurities from deep. It is also an effective cleanser for those dealing with redness and inflammation.

Let’s consider how it can help whiteheads:

Sage leaf is a natural anti-inflammatory that helps to prevent whiteheads from developing into larger lesions. It is blessed with an abundance of vitamin A and antioxidants (ferulic acid), which can help repair damaged skin and scars caused by pimples. Lemon also helps fight against inflammatory acne and improves redness. Its citric acid content can help reduce sebum and thus, prevent its overproduction. It is also a natural antiseptic that can fight p.acnes bacteria.

Sweet cherry is a surprising inclusion. It wouldn’t be at the top of my list when I think of blemish banishers. However, it is packed with vitamins and antioxidants that can enhance one’s skin.

So, does this face wash actually clear blemishes?

Yes, it does. But like any detoxifying product, patience and resilience are crucial. It is possible that your skin will have an initial breakout and get worse before it gets better. This is to be expected when your skin is subject to the detoxification process. Impurities are being drawn out from deep and pulled to the surface. Therefore, the development of whiteheads is accelerated during this phase. It is important to trust the process and stick with it.

I really like Juice Beauty’s ethical approach. Not only is the product made with organic ingredients, but it is also cruelty-free and vegan. Even though the packaging is pretty basic, I am impressed by their commitment to being environmentally friendly. The bottles are made from recycled plastic, which is a big plus in my book.

On the other hand, a slight drawback of this product is it can feel a little drying. I think this is mostly due to the citric acid content. Juice Beauty claims this product is hydrating, and it does contain algae and aloe juices which help with this. But I can’t say it’s the most hydrating face wash for whiteheads on our list. If you have dry skin, then consider the ZELEN Life Cleanser as it is suitable for all skin types. If however you want to attack your whiteheads aggressively and are not perturbed by the risk of dryness, we have numerous products on our list that contain salicylic acid.

The scent is very organic. I quite like that smell of nature, but it might not be to everyone’s liking.

The good:

  • Diverse organic formula
  • Extracts impurities to prevent future whiteheads
  • Eco-friendly

Things to think about:

  • Has an scent that some might not like
  • Does not foam up
  • Takes time to see results

Bottom line:

This Blemish Clearing Cleanser by Juice Beauty detoxes the skin to help redness, inflammation, and blemishes. Extra marks for it being an environmentally sustainable product.

  • Performance
  • Ingredients
  • Value for money
4.5 Overall Score

Murad Anti-Aging Acne Time Release Acne Cleanser (Best for anti-aging)

Murad Anti-Aging Acne Time Release Acne Cleanser


Analysis:

MoisturizingMoisturizing
Drying Drying
Moisturizing Moisturizing
Balanced

FormulaFormula
Artifical Artifical
Natural Natural
Balanced

SensitivitySensitivity
Non-Sensitive Non-Sensitive
Sensitive Sensitive
Balanced

ThicknessThickness
Lightweight Lightweight
Thick Thick
Balanced

GreasinessGreasiness
Non-Greasy Non-Greasy
Greasy Greasy
Balanced

ScentScent
Unscented Unscented
Strong Strong
Balanced

PackagingPackaging
Basic Basic
Premium Premium
Balanced

PricePrice
Low Low
High High
Balanced

Paraben-free
Paraben-free
Hypoallergenic
Hypoallergenic
Non-Comedogenic
Non-Comedogenic
Cruelty-free
Cruelty-free
Vegan
Vegan
SPF
SPF

Unique features:

  • Anti-aging cleanser
  • Moisturizes dry skin
  • Time-released continues to work after use

The best face wash/cleanser for:

Those with mature skin, and who are prone to adult acne.

Notable ingredients:

Salicylic acid, amino acids, hyaluronic acid

Overview:

If you are wondering what Murad’s Anti-Aging Acne Time Release Acne Cleanser does, then the hint is in the name.

Before we consider whether it’s an effective cleanser for both acne-prone and aging skin, let’s first look at the ingredients.

In this review, you are going to become familiar with salicylic acid, as it is a useful ingredient for preventing mild acne (whiteheads and blackheads). Well, encapsulated salicylic acid is at the forefront of this product’s formula. Salicylic acid is a beta-hydroxy acid (BHA) that reduces the development of acne lesions. It does this by dissolving skin debris that blocks the pores. Whatsmore, it acts as an exfoliant that breaks down the ‘glue’ that bonds skin cells together.

This face wash also contains amino acids and hyaluronic acid, which are useful inclusions to keep the skin hydrated. Studies have shown that hyaluronic acid is an effective anti-inflammatory that regulates the repair of skin, healing of wounds, and tissue regeneration.[2]

It is not the most natural formula I have seen. But it is missing the nastiest chemicals too.

So, is this cleanser up to the job?

As mentioned, salicylic acid is a proven anti-acne ingredient. Also, its exfoliative properties can help diminish fine lines and wrinkles. However, you should not expect seismic results when it comes to anti-aging. To be a potent anti-aging product, I’d like to see something rich in vitamin A or C in the formula. For example, rosehip oil. But if you are looking for a cleanser that controls whiteheads with the added bonus of smoothing out fine lines, then yes it’s definitely worth considering.

Since salicylic acid encourages exfoliation and quick cellular turnover, it can have a drying effect on the skin. This is a common drawback, but this cleanser was not so bad in this area. It only contains 0.5% salicylic acid, which is a low amount compared to more aggressive products. Also, as it is encapsulated salicylic acid, Murad claims it “adheres to skin”. I think it is this encapsulation that helps to keep the skin calm as the salicylic acid is released slowly over time. I also like the inclusion of hyaluronic acid to provide moisture and counteract any risks of dryness.

The good:

  • Tackles whiteheads hard while being moisturizing
  • Has an emollient effect, so is suitable for those with dry skin
  • Can help smooth out fine lines

Things to think about:

  • Still a risk of being drying in some individuals
  • Oily texture

Bottom line:

Murad’s Acne Cleanser is a good moisturizing gel cream that targets whiteheads (and wrinkles!) around the clock.

  • Performance
  • Ingredients
  • Value for money
4.0 Overall Score

Mario Badescu Acne Facial Cleanser (Best for on a budget)

Mario Badescu Acne Facial Cleanser


Analysis:

MoisturizingMoisturizing
Drying Drying
Moisturizing Moisturizing
Balanced

FormulaFormula
Artifical Artifical
Natural Natural
Balanced

SensitivitySensitivity
Non-Sensitive Non-Sensitive
Sensitive Sensitive
Balanced

ThicknessThickness
Lightweight Lightweight
Thick Thick
Balanced

GreasinessGreasiness
Non-Greasy Non-Greasy
Greasy Greasy
Balanced

ScentScent
Unscented Unscented
Strong Strong
Balanced

PackagingPackaging
Basic Basic
Premium Premium
Balanced

PricePrice
Low Low
High High
Balanced

Paraben-free
Paraben-free
Hypoallergenic
Hypoallergenic
Non-Comedogenic
Non-Comedogenic
Cruelty-free
Cruelty-free
Vegan
Vegan
SPF
SPF

Unique features:

  • Gel-based–does not foam
  • Thyme extract
  • Contains healing botanicals

The best face wash/cleanser for:

Those with oily skin and who are looking for a budget pick.

Notable ingredients:

Salicylic acid, aloe vera, chamomile

Overview:

Mario Badescu’s Acne Facial Cleanser is another gel-like face wash formulated with acne-fighting salicylic acid that exfoliates and cleanses.

Whereas Murad’s (above) included hyaluronic acid as its calming moisturizing agent. Mario Badescu has opted for aloe vera and chamomile.

Chamomile contains flavonoid compounds that reduce inflammation, encourages healing, and nullifies the oxidative stress on the skin caused by free radicals.[3] Aloe vera has an array of skin benefits. It is a natural antibacterial and anti-inflammatory. It is also rich in antioxidants that boost skin healing and protect the skin, which enhances its ability to retain moisture.

The inclusion of thyme into this formula is an interesting choice. 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. It should be noted that this product has a very noticeable smell of thyme.

What I like:

I like that since this is a gel cleanser, it doesn’t foam up. I have a mixed relationship with foaming products no matter what ingredients are used. I find that they always make my skin feel clean and clear. However, this feeling turns to dry and tight shortly after. If however, you get on well with foam then boscia’s Clear Complexion Cleanser or Dermalogica’s Clear Start are better options. Alternatively, if you prefer an all-out cream-based cleanser, consider the ZELEN Life Cleanser instead.

The low price tag is always a plus. If you are looking to reduce whiteheads on a budget then this one is for you. At a size of 6 fl oz / 177 ml you are getting good value for money, but note that the packaging is pretty basic.

The botanical blend also helps to improve skin tone and texture, which will help fade pigmented and dark spots caused by healing whiteheads.

Where it falls down:

Despite the soothing ingredients, I still think it can be a bit skin-irritating for dry skin types. For oily skin, I think it strikes the right balance. Those with combination skin may also find it tolerable. I was interested to read user reviews of this product to see if my opinion is supported by others. The common consensus is that it is has a gentle action, however, it should be used sparingly if you have dry or sensitive skin. I would have to agree.

Pro tip:

I would avoid using this product for daily use, but once every two days might be enough to control whiteheads while not over-drying the skin.

The good:

  • Thyme aroma (like it or loathe it!)
  • Very cost-effective
  • Can help pigmentation and dark spots caused by whiteheads as they heal
  • Vegan

Things to think about:

  • It is not for deep-seated whiteheads
  • Not suitable for daily use if your skin is prone to dryness

Bottom line:

The Mario Badescu Acne Facial Cleanser is an affordable gel face wash for those superficial whiteheads that are gone as quickly as they arrive. Remember to use sparingly.

  • Performance
  • Ingredients
  • Value for money
4.0 Overall Score

Dermalogica Clear Start Breakout Clearing Foaming Wash (Best for teens)

Dermalogica Breakout Clearing Foaming Wash


Analysis:

MoisturizingMoisturizing
Drying Drying
Moisturizing Moisturizing
Balanced

FormulaFormula
Artifical Artifical
Natural Natural
Balanced

SensitivitySensitivity
Non-Sensitive Non-Sensitive
Sensitive Sensitive
Balanced

ThicknessThickness
Lightweight Lightweight
Thick Thick
Balanced

GreasinessGreasiness
Non-Greasy Non-Greasy
Greasy Greasy
Balanced

ScentScent
Unscented Unscented
Strong Strong
Balanced

PackagingPackaging
Basic Basic
Premium Premium
Balanced

PricePrice
Low Low
High High
Balanced

Paraben-free
Paraben-free
Hypoallergenic
Hypoallergenic
Non-Comedogenic
Non-Comedogenic
Cruelty-free
Cruelty-free
Vegan
Vegan
SPF
SPF

Unique features:

  • Lathers easily
  • Leaves skin feeling ‘squeaky clean’
  • Appeals to teens and tweens

The best face wash/cleanser for:

Youthful skin–teens and tweens.

Notable ingredients:

Salicylic acid

Overview:

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.

This is yet another option that contains salicylic acid. Noticing the trend here? We’ve covered the benefits that this beta-hydroxy acid (BHA) can have on acne, but here’s a quick reminder. Salicylic acid helps mild acne by exfoliating the skin and keeping the pores free of blockages that cause blackheads and whiteheads. Studies have found that it possesses anti-inflammatory properties.[5]

Thanks to the inclusion of tea tree, balm mint, and eucalyptus, this foaming wash removes impurities, eliminates bacteria, and soothes irritated skin without stripping it off its natural moisture. Tea tree oil has been studied, and experiments show that it can reduce skin inflammation.[6]

So far, so good. But let’s dig deeper:

If you like a sudsy/foamy wash then this is a good option for you. It really does lather up well and only a small amount is needed. Apply a pea-sized amount to damp hands and apply to your face. It goes on really smoothly and effortlessly. I also like the smell of this product as you rub it in.

I have had my fair share of whiteheads (and blackheads) in the past. If you suffer from these pesky comedones, I am sure you will agree that skin can feel dirty most of the time. This can be due to having an oilier skin type, but it can also sometimes be psychological. If this sounds like you, this foaming wash will certainly give you that clean sensation afterward. If you find that it is a bit drying (which is always possible), remember to follow up with a moisturizer right away.

Packaging-wise this is not the most beautiful product to look at. To put it bluntly, it’s very basic. In my opinion, this face wash is better suited to the younger generation. If you have adult acne and are looking for a comparable product, you are probably better suited to Murad’s Anti-Aging Acne Cleanser on our list. I think its formula and minimal packaging are more geared to mature users than this product. But then again, it is a higher price point.

As I advised previously–If a foaming face wash is not for you, then consider a plant-based cream like the ZELEN Life Cleanser. Or, if you like the sound of plant-based ingredients but you are a fan of foam, think about boscia’s Cleanser. This is made with willow bark extract, a more natural version of salicylic acid.

The good:

  • Since it contains BHA’s it can be used as a treatment for whiteheads
  • Reduces inflammation
  • Antibacterial properties
  • Not overpriced

Things to think about:

  • Can feel dehydrating – don’t forget the moisturizer!

Bottom line:

Dermalogica’s Clear Start is a convenient, sudsy wash that appeals to the younger generation of whitehead sufferers.

  • Performance
  • Ingredients
  • Value for money
3.5 Overall Score

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.

This 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; antioxidants, 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.

Lastly:

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 small skin-colored papules that commonly appear on the forehead, nose, and chin. A single clogged pore is known as comedo and can be open or closed. When comedones are open they are called blackheads. The pore follicle stays open, and they appear black due to the surface pigment (also known as melanin). On the other hand, closed comedones are called whiteheads. The pore gets blocked by bacteria or dead skin cells (similar to blackheads), but the follicle stays closed.

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, it’s 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 were 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.

Conclusion

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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References

  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
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About The Author

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Doctor and Seasoned Medical Writer

Doctor of Medicine MD (Angeles University College of Medicine)

United States

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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