The word “acne” immediately brings images of high school and puberty to mind, but adult acne is just as real -- and as frustrating -- as a pimpled teenage complexion. While products aimed squarely at teens line drugstore shelves, you'll find more success with products that cater to adult skin, which may be less supple than younger skin. Only you can determine which product is best for your needs, but expert opinions help you make an informed choice.
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Suggested Salicylic Cleansers
Salicylic acid controls acne by exfoliating the skin and dissolving dead skin cells, making it a prominent ingredient in adult-acne cleansers. "Family Circle" recommends Noxzema Clean Blemish Control Foaming Wash for acne-prone adults. This budget-priced option relies on oil-reducing salicylic acid, while its glycerin content prevents dryness. Similarly, “Fitness” magazine touts salicylic-acid-based Olay Acne Control Face Wash and Neutrogena Rapid Clear Foaming Scrub. "Cosmopolitan" likes L'Oreal Paris Go 360 Clean Anti-Breakout Facial Cleanser, which comes with a face-massaging “Scrublet” to slough off dead skin and bolster the cleanser's penetration.
Beat Acne with Benzoyl
Benzoyl peroxide serves as another prominent acne-killer, as it halts the production of pimple-causing bacteria and controls oil. Benzoyl-peroxide-based cleansers penetrate the skin particularly well when used in conjunction with exfoliating salicylic acid, according to Dr. Diane Berson of the Women's Dermatologic Society. “Fitness” names La Roche-Posay Effaclar Duo Dual Action Acne Treatment among the most effective adult-acne cleansers, as it features both acne-zapping ingredients.
Highly Rated Retinol
A pure form of vitamin A, retinol eases acne by exfoliating the skin. A boon for adults, it also packs anti-aging benefits, such as wrinkle reduction. "Elle" magazine recommends Coral Actives Retinol Exfoliating Cleanser, which reduces irritation-related discoloration, evens out the skin's texture and bolsters collagen production, in addition to fighting acne by promoting cell turnover and regeneration.
While benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid-based cleansers cater to daily use, deep-cleaning scrubs -- recommended for weekly washing -- accent your skincare regimen, helping to further exfoliate and draw out impurities. In this category, "Family Circle" suggests a weekly rinse with texturized St. Ives Naturally Clear Green Tea Scrub to unclog pores and prevent blemishes. "Cosmopolitan" champions Biore Warming Anti-Blackhead Cream Cleanser, which clears pores of dirt and oil with a mineral-clay blend.
As some cosmetics may contain potentially toxic ingredients, personal and environmental safety also come into play when considering cleansers. The EPA-endorsed GoodGuide rates hygiene products based on the safety of their chemical contents and eco-friendliness. As of 2014, Aveeno's Acne Cleansing Bar topped GoodGuide's list with a perfect 10 rating in the personal health category. Runners-up include the Acne-Aid Cleansing Bar and Neutrogena Oil Free Acne Wash Foam Cleanser, both of which score an 8.0 for personal health. Nontoxic cleansers aren't just green -- they serve as a gentle option for sensitive adult skin.