Best Soap for Acne

(Last Updated On: August 3, 2018)

Cetaphil Deep Cleansing Face & Body Bar

Healthy skin is attractive, and it shows how healthy we are inside. Healthy skin glows, it is soft and smooth, and never tight, dry, or overly oily. Healthy skin is well looked after with a good skin care routine and good daily habits including protecting it from the sun, avoiding smoking, and eating a healthy diet. Unhealthy skin can make us self-conscious. It looks dull, dry, oily, or it is full of blemishes. But whether our skin is healthy or not is not always under our control.

What Is Acne?


Acne is a common condition which presents as blackheads, whiteheads, and pus-filled spots on the skin. It often starts in puberty, and appears on the face, back, neck, and chest. The condition varies in severity from mild to severe, where permanent scarring can occur. For most people, acne resolves as they get older.

What Causes Acne?

Symptoms of a Skin Infection

There are oil glands in the skin, that produce oils that hydrate the skin and make it waterproof. In people with acne, these glands are over sensitive to hormones, and they end up producing too much oil. Dead skin cells and grime clog up the hair follicles and this results in breakouts.

A bacterium called P. acnes lives on everyone’s skin and it usually doesn’t cause problems. But in people with overactive oil glands, the excess oil makes the bacteria multiply, which causes inflammation and spots.

Acne can also be caused by steroids, and other health conditions such as polycystic ovaries.

How Is Acne Treated?

Avène Antirougeurs Fort Relief Concentrate

There is currently no cure for acne, but there are effective treatments to prevent spots and reduce inflammation in the skin. Most treatments take between 2-4 months to work, and they fit into a few different categories; oral antibiotics, oral contraceptives, and topical treatments.

Topical Treatments

These are usually best for mild to moderate acne. Topical treatments usually contain anti-acne agents like benzoyl peroxide, and they should be applied to the skin every night or twice per day. Use the treatment on a small area of the skin when you first start using it, as they can cause irritation. Build up usage gradually.

Oral Antibiotics

Antibiotics that kill the bacteria that cause acne, such as erythromycin or tetracycline, can be taken, often alongside a topical treatment. Tablets can take up to 2 months to work.

Oral Contraceptives

Some types of contraceptives can help with acne, as they block the effects of androgenic hormones which cause the skin to produce more oil. The pill might take 3 months or more to have an effect on the skin.


This is an effective treatment for acne however it can cause side effects. Women who are pregnant or likely to become pregnant should not use the treatment as it can harm an unborn baby. The treatment is usually taken for 4 months, and the skin can become dry during this time.

Other Treatments for Acne

Light and laser treatment can help, especially if it is used to resurface the skin in cases where there is substantial scarring of the skin.

Self-Care for Acne

Self-Care for Acne

  • Don’t pick at or squeeze spots as this can cause scarring and inflammation
  • Seek treatment for your acne as soon as possible
  • Use treatments for at least 2 months to give them a chance to work
  • Some topical treatments can cause skin irritation, so start using small amounts and build up gradually
  • If you must wear makeup, choose products that are labelled non comedogenic and oil free, so they don’t clog your pores
  • Cleanse your skin with a gentle cleanser, and don’t scrub skin too hard as this can cause further irritation
  • Eat a balanced diet, full of skin-loving antioxidants

How to Prevent Acne

The Grand Old Acne Fighter

Keep your skin clean: When you have acne, it’s especially important to wash your face every day to remove grime, dead skin cells, and excess oil. Use warm water and a mild cleanser and avoid using harsh products or soap as this can cause irritation. Don’t scrub your skin. Wash it with a gentle cloth or just your hands, then pat the skin dry.

Moisturise: Many topical treatments can dry the skin out, so using a moisturiser is really important. A gel formula is ideal for oily skin, a drier skin type responds better to a richer cream or motion, and combination skin might need a few products to treat oily and dry areas.

Try an over-the-counter treatment: Choose a product that contains benzoyl peroxide or salicylic, which are antibacterial and gently exfoliating. Use a small amount at first, then increase the amount you use, to reduce the chance of skin irritation. Benzoyl peroxide can cause redness and scaling of the skin, and it can also bleach your clothes.

Be cautious with makeup: If your acne flares up, avoid makeup. At other times, choose oil-free cosmetics without any harsh chemicals. Always wash it off at the end of the day with a gentle cleanser.

Take care with hair products: Avoid using oils or harsh products on your hair, which can drip on to the facial skin and block pores. Keep your hair off your face, as oils from the hair can also clog pores.

Don’t touch your face: If you touch your face often, germs from your hands can find their way onto your face and cause further breakouts and inflammation. Don’t pick at spots, even if it’s tempting, as this can cause inflammation and scarring.

Take caution with the sun: Some oral and topical medications can make the skin more sensitive to sunlight. If you must go out, wear a sunscreen with an SPF of at least 15, and reapply it every few hours. Look for a non-comedogenic product that won’t clog pores and cause more breakouts.

Eat a healthy balanced diet: Eat plenty of fruit and vegetables to boost your skin health, especially foods that are high in skin-loving vitamin A, like carrots, sweet potatoes, melon, apricots, kale, and spinach.

Stay active: Regular exercise is excellent for the skin. It boosts blood flow which carries oxygen and nutrients to the skin’s surface. However, when you exercise, don’t wear clothing that will trap sweat on the skin as this can cause spots and cause bacteria to multiply. Always shower or have a bath after you exercise.

Don’t stress: Your emotional state can affect your skin. Some studies have linked acne flare ups with stress. Work out what is stressing you out, and take action to tackle it. It can be as simple as just taking more time out for yourself and for things that you enjoy.

Is Soap Any Good for Acne?

Is Soap Any Good for Acne?

When we think of soap, it’s tempting to think that if there’s more lather, that it’s doing a better job at cleaning our skin. But lots of soap is the opposite of what acne prone skin needs. When soap gets into the skin’s pores, it dissolves the oil, but it can get trapped in the pores if the pores are too narrow.

A good cleanser for acne makes a creamy lather with small bubbles. Smaller bubbles don’t force soap into the pores, and make the cleanser easier to rinse off the skin.

How Can You Tell When the Soap You’re Using Is Wrong for Your Skin?

How Can You Tell When the Soap You're Using Is Wrong for Your Skin

When you wash your face with your soap, you should not:

Feel tightness in the skin on your face after you dry your skin. Tightness is caused by excessive evaporation of water from the skin.

See flakiness when your skin dries. Soaps that contain acetone, alcohols, or sulphates often have this effect.

See redness or irritation when your skin dries, this means that you have broken your skin barrier.

The longer you leave soap on your skin the more likely it is to cause irritation. The more alkaline your soap is, the more likely it is to irritate the skin. Most dermatologists now agree that an acidic soap, with the same pH as the skin (4 to 6.5) is the best product for clearing away acne causing bacteria.

The Best Soaps for Acne

Keep It Clean

Keeva Organics Tea Tree Soap

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This soap fights acne but it doesn’t contain harsh chemicals that might irritate your skin. This soap contains tea tree oil which fights acne causing bacteria, and it also contains ingredients such as aloe vera and coconut oil which soothe the skin. It’s suitable for all skin types.


  • The soap is full of natural ingredients, and free from harsh chemicals. This makes it an excellent choice for acne prone skin
  • It doesn’t dry skin out
  • It can reduce the appearance of more severe acne
  • It’s not tested on animals


  • The bar is not big, so it may not last too long

Exposed Body Wash for Acne

This soap is great for tackling stubborn acne, as it contains salicylic acid and glycolic acid. There’s also tea tree oil in the formula, which further boosts its bacteria killing effects.


  • Excellent for use on body acne
  • Salicylic acid penetrates clogged skin pores and eliminates excess oil
  • Glycolic acid buffs dead skin cells from your skin, while tea tree soothes
  • There’s a money back guarantee if the product doesn’t work for you


  • You can’t use it on your face, so you need 2 products

Cetaphil Gentle Cleansing Bar

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Cetaphil is recommended by many skin specialists, as it removes excess oil from the skin without being too drying, and it’s a very gentle product. This product is even gentle enough to be used on a baby’s skin and it’s very effective for dry and sensitive skin types. Its active ingredient is triclosan which is an effective antibacterial and antifungal agent.


  • It’s fragrance free
  • It leaves your skin soft and smooth
  • It can reduce itching


  • Doesn’t remove makeup well.
  • It has a thick consistency and doesn’t lather
  • The bar doesn’t last long

Grisi Sulfur Soap for Acne

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Sulfur is one of the most effective non-prescription acne treatments, and it’s most effective for oily and combination skins.

Sulfur is a mild anti-microbial agent which is known to stop the growth of acne causing bacteria.


  • The antiseptic and antibacterial properties of the soap clear the skin of excessive oils and grime
  • The soap has anti-fungal properties
  • Doesn’t have an unpleasant smell, despite using sulfur


  • Not appropriate for children under 12 years old
  • It can cause some skin peeling in some people, just use moisturiser of it has this effect on you

Neutrogena Transparent Facial Bars, Acne-Prone Skin Formula

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This is recommended by dermatologists as an effective non-medicated treatment for acne. It’s most effective for oily skin types but it can work for other types as well. There’s a long list of ingredients, which you may have never heard of, which includes Triethanolamine, TEA Stearate, Sodium Tallowate, and Glycerin.


  • Smell is pleasant
  • Clears the skin of all pore clogging residues and excessive oils.
  • Cleanses the skin very effectively and can easily remove makeup
  • Doesn’t dry the skin out too much but it can have this effect if you combine it with other ingredients


  • Size is small compared to other bars on the market
  • The formula contains glycerin which can clog pores
  • It can cause allergic reactions in some people
  • Pro-allergic – but in extremely rare cases.

Purpose Gentle Skin Cleansing Bar

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This soap is popular among skin experts, because it removes every trace of makeup and grime, and it treats acne while at the same time being gentle on your skin. It’s suitable for all skin types but it’s especially effective for oily skin.


  • It lathers well and cleanses very effectively
  • It removes dirt and oil without drying out the skin
  • It can be used as a full body cleanser and it helps to clear your back acne.


  • Scent is a bit strong for some people’s tastes
  • It can be quite drying on the skin in some people

Lemongrass & Tea Tree Soap by Nubian Heritage

This soap has disinfectant and soothing properties due to its tea tree oil content, and it’s suitable for all skin types.


  • Can help to reduce inflammation
  • All of the ingredients are natural
  • It can also help to get rid of pigmentation
  • The soap should last for 2 months based on twice daily use


  • Some users reported that the soap dried their skin out
  • It has quite a strong scent, which won’t be to everyone’s taste

Dudu-Osun African Black Soap by Tropical Naturals

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This soap is made in Nigeria and it is packed with skin-loving ingredients like shea butter and aloe vera. It’s suitable for all skin types except very dry and sensitive skins.


  • This soap can fade pigmentation and stretch marks
  • The soap lathers really well, you can rub your hands over the bar and you will have enough lather to wash your face.
  • It’s much cheaper than most similar products


  • Can be drying on the skin.
  • Can cause itchiness and irritation in some people

Clinique Acne Solutions Cleansing Bar

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Clinique products such as perfumes and creams are very popular, but did you know that they make soaps too? And what’s even better, they are tailored towards different skin types. The soaps are available in these formulations:

  • Extra Mild (For very dry to dry skin)
  • Mild Soap (For dry to combination skin)
  • Oily Skin Formula (For combination oily and oily skin)
  • And there’s a soap that suits all skin types.


  • There are separate soaps tailored to different skin types.
  • Each soap comes with a soap dish.
  • Very effective at removing makeup


  • Can be expensive

Defense Soap

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This soap contains tea tree ad eucalyptus oil and so it provides antifungal and antibacterial benefits. It gets rid of bacteria that causes acne and washes dirt and excess oils off the skin. It helps to balance the skin’s pH, but if you have dry or sensitive skin use it with caution as it may be a little too astringent for your needs. Use this with a sponge and use a gentle scrubbing motion.


  • While it is pricey, it does last for a long time, so it’s worth the investment
  • Doesn’t just work for acne but helps with skin rashes and fungal infections
  • This is effective for people who sweat a lot. The tea tree oil prevents fungal infections


  • It has a pungent smell due to the Tea Tree Oil and Eucalyptus Oil.
  • It probably won’t be suitable if you have eczema

Design your own.

Final thoughts

If you suffer from acne, soap is not a complete no no but you do have to choose the correct type of soap for your skin. There are some excellent soaps for acne on the market that combine natural ingredients with bacteria fighting ability to keep your skin happy and healthy. It might be trial and error but try a few and see which one leaves your skin glowing with health once again.

Written by Irina Radosevic MD
Irina graduated from the University of Belgrade, School of Medicine as a Doctor of Medicine (MD) and spent over 3 years working in the Clinical Hospital Center Zvezdara, in the Department of Emergency Medicine. She also undertook a postgraduate in Cardiology from the same University and had previously worked for over a year as a Physician and Nutritionist Dietitian for the Fitness club Green Zone. She eventually left her chaotic but fulfilling job in the ER to pursue her passion of writing, travelling and mountain climbing which has included writing a first aid course for the alpine club of Belgrade. Irina currently works as a VA for PintMedia focusing on medical and travel writing. Feel free to connect with Irina on LinkedIn and FaceBook. Her CV can be seen here.