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Acne Prevention: Know Your Face Wash Ingredients

Learn about the most popular ingredients in face wash.

Learn about the most popular ingredients in face wash.

What's in a Face Wash?

Preventing acne often calls for a delicate balance of moisturizing and oil control, exfoliation, and cell renewal. And a staple in any skincare regimen, acne or otherwise, involves washing your face twice per day—once in the morning and once at night. This helps to clear away debris, bacteria, and sebum that clog pores and cause the skin to look cloudy or to develop pimples.

But how do you know which face wash to use? Which wash is best for acne? Some fight pimples. Some prevent acne while diminishing lines and wrinkles. Some are designed to do nothing but simply cleanse the skin. It is especially important for those battling acne breakouts to choose products based on the active ingredients and the additives mixed in. Becoming familiar with your face wash ingredients will be a huge help in navigating your skin health. You'll learn what works for you based on what's used in various face washes, rather than jumping blindly from brand to brand based on clever marketing.

Seven Common Ingredients in Acne Face Wash

Start by learning about the following seven ingredients frequently found in face washes (and some other personal care products). Whenever you plan to try a new product, research it first. Check the label and educate yourself about what your skincare products are made of and whether they're meeting your needs. There may be something better out there for you.

1. Salicylic Acid

This beta-hydroxy acid is a go-to for products geared toward acne-prone skin. Usually found in 2% concentrations, it dissolves sebum build-up and dirt to fight blackheads and whiteheads. This active ingredient can be extremely drying to the skin when overused, so a good moisturizer must always follow.

2. Glycolic Acid

This alpha-hydroxy is derived from fruits. It helps promote quicker skin cell turnover by sloughing off dead cells. This keeps the skin appearing even-toned and fresh, and also prevents dead skin from clogging pores and causing pimples. Glycolic acid additionally stimulates collagen and elastin production, which is helpful as an anti-aging treatment.


3. Allantoin

5-ureidohydantoin and glyoxyldiureide are a couple of other names for allantoin. This chemical compound is used in face washes and other products in concentrations from .5% to 2%, as permitted by the FDA. Allantoin is a conditioner and skin protectant that alleviates flakiness, dryness, and irritation.

4. Glycerin

Glycerin is a sugar alcohol used in numerous personal care products, including facial cleansers. You may also see it labeled as glycerol. This ingredient's main purpose is to act as a lubricant and a humectant in order to hydrate the skin and enhance smoothness. It also acts similarly to allantoin in the way it relieves irritation and dryness, which is essential for acne prevention.

5. Sodium Laureth (Lauryl) Sulfate

This widespread ingredient is an additive that behaves like soap. It is a detergent and surfactant added to washes and shampoos in order to create foaming. Though it's considered a cleanser and skin softener, it has become scrutinized for having potential carcinogenic properties. Companies and organizations advocating safe and organic skin care have labeled sodium laureth sulfate an irritant and an element in 1,4 dioxide—a carcinogen. Some would recommend keeping this ingredient out of your skincare regimen.

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6. Triethanolamine

The Cosmetic Ingredient Review says products with 5% triethanolamine are safe to use. This additive is an emulsifier and surfactant added to products to balance their acidity level and to enable blending of water-soluble and oil-soluble ingredients.

7. Propylene Glycol

Propylene glycol is used in many face washes and acne cleansers to seal moisture into the skin and promote hydration. This organic alcohol is considered safe in up to 50% concentrations.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.


Sheyenne on May 21, 2017:

Try proxicide it works very well!

Deepa from USA on September 02, 2013:

Best is clean and clear face wash for your acne skin . I am using always clean and clear face wash

stacytm from London on May 31, 2013:

Good stuff, will have that information in mind when I next get spots!

Eric Prado from Denton, Texas on May 30, 2013:

Very good hub. Voted up, interesting, and useful.

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